Christen Gruebel

Christen Gruebel
Shine the Silver Lining

Imagine always being the bearer of bad news. Day in, day out, consistently reminding friendly clients that the worst is yet to come-accidents, floods, fires, even death. Insurance agents have it kind of rough.

Luckily, the nature of the beast means this sector is extremely open to products and services that make winning clients that much easier. Their wares might give new meaning to the term, "hard sell," but that doesn't mean their 9 to 5 has to be difficult, too.

Patriots of a Different Color

Politics, money—neither is high on the list of dinner-party conversation fodder. In fact, nothing can bring an exchange to a screeching halt faster. But, then again, not many would expect the likes of The Nation to tread lightly on subjects that leave slightly uncomfortable silences in their wake. And in its latest fundraising mailing, it’s those two mentions—the state of our government affairs and the extra funds a person might want to generously appropriate to a worthy cause—that this journal takes to task (Archive code #602-171640-0706). No, you did not read that wrong. As an invitation for readers to become members of the publication’s

UPDATE the Oldest Tricks in the MAILBOX

Asmart marketer needs good, satisfied customers the way human beings need oxygen. Without them, a once-lucrative business will be left gasping for air—in essence, happy buyers constitute the most basic need of a company. But that’s what prospects do for you. Now stop and think for a moment. What have you done for them lately? Using gifts to light the spark of interest in a mail piece is one of the oldest practices in the direct mail world. If your offer’s already good, nothing will make it more attractive than giving a customer a free item just for signing on. Or, if a freemium

Life Support

Bringing life into the world can be done in countless ways. Of course, the most obvious means of achieving this feat is through the propagation of the human race, but when taking into account the creative process, less concrete definitions of “conception” slowly begin to take shape. Take, for instance, the sheet of paper upon which this story is printed. Before Inside Direct Mail, it was clean, void, empty. But from it, a story was born—and from others just like it, the publication you’re now reading (and hopefully, enjoying). Much like a new parent, the creative professional faces a blank piece of paper with

10 Tips to Up Your Outer Potential

In his session, 34 Market-Tested Strategies for Revitalizing DM Performance, presented at last month’s DM Days New York Conference & Expo, Russell Kern—founder and CEO of The Kern Organization—revealed a few of his favorite copy and design secrets to help you get your package past the first line of defense. Consider the following tips as you contemplate your outer envelope strategy. • Use a near-perfect handwriting font. • Call out or show multimedia interactive devices—CDs, DVDs, etc. • Inform prospects they’re pre-approved. • Show the prospect that the package is from someone important and that he should not discard it. • Create involvement using

Keep the Glass Half Full for Seniors

It’s been in the steady rotation of childhood teachings since the beginning of time: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And it’s no coincidence that you most likely heard such a reproach from your grandmother. As it turns out, in terms of direct mail copy tenets that best reach the senior market, she had it right all along. “A lot of marketers start out by telling all the negative things that can happen if you don’t use ‘my product or my service.’ With the older market, you will get much further … by being positive and

Give Undeliverable Mail a Fighting Chance

It’s no surprise that one of the goals of the postal rate increase is to reduce the amount of mail that does not have high enough address quality to reach its destination. But be that as it may, “People make the assumption that they have got good, clean, updated databases,” says Mary Ann Bennett, president and CEO of mailing consultancy The Bennett Group. “Clearly they don’t, or the post office would not be forcing these requirements on people in an effort to reduce their undeliverable-as-addressed mail,” she adds. What mailers should be doing, according to Bennett, is evaluating their existing databases to determine their

Make the Golden Years Your Gold Mine

Breaking down the section of society that collectively has reached its golden years is no easy feat. While many know this group by one all-encompassing name—the 50-plus market—“There are a gazillion different segmentations,” laughs Kurt Medina, president of Medina Associates, a Rose Valley, Pa.–based consultancy that specializes in marketing to this niche. When considering these folks in the broadest sense, however, he narrows down the “gazillion” into three general categories: • Pre-retirees: These folks are of the baby boomer generation, around 52 to 62 years of age. • Active retirees: Those who have retired. But Medina notes that it doesn’t have to mean “retired,”

Shorter Surveys Make the Grade

If the gurus behind childhood-education mainstay Schoolhouse Rock have anything to say about it, three is the quintessential magic number. However, for marketers looking for just the right amount of questions to include in a survey, the “magic number” requirements become considerably more business-savvy than the lyrics to a pop song. When enticing prospects to willingly provide information about themselves and/or their feelings on a product or brand, nothing turns a person off more than something that feels like homework. According to survey tests done by Bob Roberts, manager of marketing research for Babcox Publications, an Akron, Ohio–based B-to-B publisher, surveys with an exhaustive

Create Your Own Opportunities with a Unique Insert Media Program

It’s doffed its “alternative” moniker, taken its rightful place in the direct marketing mainstream and earned respect among professionals as a money-making option. But despite its reputation, there remain a few avenues of insert media left to be fully explored. For more than 15 years, Arlene Rosen, president of New York–based marketing firm ARA Media Solutions, has been leading the forward march, specializing in finding and creating unique insert media opportunities that meet the specific needs of her clients. To create a unique insert media program, Rosen seeks out companies without established insert programs but who have an affinity to a client’s product

The Bill’s in Your Court

Love can get you far in this world, but to reference an old lyrical pearl from Motown legend Barrett Strong: It don’t pay your bills. Your product or publication may have generated a loyal enough following to secure an enthusiastic prospect’s order, but until you secure her dollars, your ROI won’t be breaking records anytime soon. Accomplishing the troublesome task of getting customers to open their checkbooks is no easy feat, which is why, in the hierarchy of direct mail, a billing series exists in a class all of its own. Unlike traditional efforts that impel action through relationship-building tactics, bills arrive with one, laser-focused

Strengthen Your Billing Series from the Start

You’ll make them pay! You’ll make them all pay! OK, perhaps your billing series is so stellar that your forgetful customers actually will pay up … eventually. But before you cue the evil laugh, think about the ramifications that vow might have on your budget. How long is it reasonable for you to continue to follow up on delinquent customers? According to Kimberly Draves, director of renewals for Emmaus, Pa.–based publisher Rodale, “The number of bills to mail should be contingent upon the combination of the outstanding balance and the cost of billing.” She goes on to say that billing a $12 balance for

Three Teaser Tutorials

When it comes to creating responsible direct mail, every marketer worth his or her salt will say the same thing: “Deliver on what you promise.” And while this maxim typically refers to an offer strategy or product benefit list, the same also can hold true for another element: the teaser. Creatively, teasers long have been implemented to arouse a prospect’s interest in a mailing, spurring them to open the envelope and further explore its contents. But even more so, according to direct mail writer and consultant George Duncan, “[They] also provide a statement or promise that the reader can agree with. He or she

Theories of Evolution

For an organization that began peddling its namesake in 1934—back when peddling anything required door-to-door visitation and a whole lot of shoe leather—it’s amazing to think that, over 70 years later, the Easter Seals’ seal remains a mark of donor commitment. According to Chris Cleghorn, executive vice president of interactive and direct marketing for Easter Seals, “It’s always been a core part of how we acquire new donors and also one of the main campaigns that we use to renew donors.” Although the nonprofit’s annual donor drive has changed its spots numerous times since it first appeared in the mailstream, the overall theme has

Connecting With Your Best Customers: Past Practices are Present Perfect

Once upon a time, making the sale was an art—one that counted house calls, chummy inquiries about the wife and kids and a hearty handshake as the stuff deals were made of. While the product and offer were (and still are) the driving melodies behind the ol’ salesmanship rag, it was a decidedly different tune that struck a chord with prospects: the honest-to-goodness investment in satisfaction. The relationship-builders of yore, so integral in making customers for life, might be borderline hackneyed by today’s click-’em-and-leave-’em business environment. The nurtured segment that once was born out of such tactics, however, still is thriving. Who, now, is