Much like comedians tend to find the humorous side to any situation, creatives look for inspiration at every turn. Take, for instance, Carolyn Goodman, managing partner for San Rafael, Calif.-based direct marketing company Goodman Marketing Partners, who came up with an idea for a personalized T-shirt premium for her client, greater San Francisco/Bay area jazz radio station KCSM-FM, at her children's swim meet.
One engaging and prevalent device commonly used to promote diet and weight-loss products is the before-and-after image. For example, not convinced that product X will trim inches off of your waistline? Just look at the "before" shot of a frowning, overweight customer and then the "after" picture of a slim, smiling customer.
Everybody reads those quirky "What's In/What's Out" lists that reappear in the media each year. This got me thinking about direct mail. As you know, effective direct marketing is an ever-bubbling pursuit that continually erupts with new ideas and technologies. As direct marketers, we keep a close watch on what's working-and what's working even better-for nonprofit and for-profit clients in a range of industries. Some techniques that enjoyed IN status last year are definitely on their way OUT in 2009, simply because new approaches and new technologies are achieving better results. Here are a few examples:
The rise of social media and prevalence of online ratings and customer reviews on e-commerce sites tells us that today's consumer values the opinion of her peers over that of the marketer or company. This online phenomenon translates into direct mail in the form of customer testimonials, a direct mail fundamental.
Of the 220 categories in our Who's Mailing What! Archive, the world's greatest library of direct mail, 31 of them involve merchandise-and they all appear to be especially vulnerable categories when the economy slips. They include fashion, cosmetics, electronics, supplements, furniture, foods, wine clubs, pet supplies and sporting goods—all of which many Americans may be trying to cut down on since the U.S. recession began in December 2007.
For telecommunications companies, the most efficient and profitable way to make money is getting prospects to buy bundled services, such as the popular cable-phone-internet package. That means either upgrading current customers, getting people to switch over from rival companies or tap into a larger-than-expected market of prospects who don't even have cable. Of course, the undercurrent is the economic hard times that so many prospective customers are experiencing, so the direct mail approach must strike the right notes to succeed, including promising that this bundle will confer both great benefits and savings for households.
You have a first-class product that's proved itself on the market for 18 months. You've run some solid direct mail campaigns around, it and they've helped you capture 40 percent market share. Should you stand pat and send the same lead generation effort out again?
Renewal series add regular cash to your coffers and build loyal, long-term relationships. Yet many publishers ignore them or consider them an afterthought, lavishing money and creative capital on new acquisition packages instead. They leave easy money on the table, since it costs less to renew a subscriber than acquire one.
Free gifts remain an effective strategy for winning direct mail customers and prospects. Despite shape-based postal requirements, mailers continue to send both lumpy and flat freemiums along with their appeals, especially in the publications and nonprofit sectors. The highlighted freemium mailers below, collected from the Who’s Mailing What! Archive, all use the word “Free” on the outer envelope (one mailing did so five times!) to drive readers inside. Handy How-to Guides San Francisco–based Yoga Journal mailed its January 2008 effort in a four-color #10 outer, with a yogi striking a pose and the copy, “FREE INSIDE, TWO FREE GIFTS and a FREE ISSUE
Reply form. Order card. Action device. Whatever you call it, there’s no denying that little—or sometimes big—slip of paper carries a lot of weight. As Carol Worthington-Levy, partner, creative services, at consulting firm LENSER, asserts, “People will head right for the reply form first, and then they head for the letter. … There is a mind set and a cultural training that has us looking for the one piece in a mailing where it says what [we] need to do to learn more or get this product or service.” Case in point is the voucher format that has been dominating the publishing