True Confessions – That Dinosaur will Hunt

We recently hosted our quarterly Lunch & Learn, and as always, the speakers and topics provided a cornucopia of marketing morsels.  Titled True Confessions – Real Life Stories of Marketers in the Digital Age, it actually turned out to be more of a something old, something new, something borrowed & something blue– type event.

All in attendance seemed to be in agreement that marketing communications – the art of telling a story, promoting a product – is certainly an activity that is borrowed.  It’s nothing new really.  It’s just that now, there are so many more techniques available that allow us to be more effective in how we do it.

Brian Bush of Stephens Inc. opened the presentations with the discussion of something old.  And no, it had nothing to do with Brian himself.  Brian told the story of how Direct Mail, that dinosaur of direct marketing, is leading to success with his target market.  Here are some of the nuggets he shared:

  • Because of its strong brand awareness, Stephens has never really felt the need for a direct marketing campaign.  So this direct mail approach was certainly a new endeavor.
  • Along these same lines, because of the Stephens brand and image, Brian said that many investors believed that they did not possess the wealth necessary to be worthy of being a Stephens’ client.  Takeaway point: There is often a disconnect between how you perceive your brand, and how prospects perceive your brand.
  • Brian also shared that the first approach to the carefully selected database was a direct mail campaign that drive respondents to landing pages (pURL campaign).  While it did have some success, more respondents preferred to contact Brian via phone or email, rather than online. Takeaway point: Know your audience and learn how they prefer to communicate.  Today’s marketing tools allow you to do that quite effectively.
  • Because of the lack of response to the actual PURL campaign, that particular response mechanism was eliminated in future mailings.  Takeaway point: Measure your results, not only to repeat methods that are successful, but to eliminate those that are not.
  • Finally, Brian touched briefly on the design aspect of the marketing pieces.  While a flashy, engaging, even humorous approach was briefly considered, it was decided to use a more corporate conservative approach.  In today’s volatile stock market environment, an even-keeled, serious tone is more effective.

Or, to put it another way, Greg Henderson (@jgreghenderson), summarized this takeaway point best with a tweet:  Old rich guys do not like color on their mail.

So while some may consider direct mail to be a dinosaur of available marketing channels, for Brian Bush and Stephens Inc., it still is causing folks to take notice, and react.  And that is what good marketing does.

Up next in our True Confession series, we will learn how Jason Brown (@jbrown935) of The Communications Group used something new to attract attendees to its client’s trade show booth.


Paul Strack, CustomXM


How do I get folks to open the envelope?

While discussing a subscription renewal appeal for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Rep’s Director of Marketing, our good friend Angel Galloway (@angelmg) asked, “How do I get folks to open the envelope?” 

After getting over the excitement that Angel still considers direct mail a viable marketing channel. (Trust me, it is!), here are some of the tips we offered, as well as a few others: 

  • Make the piece relevant to the recipients. It the message is designed specifically for the recipients, it is more likely to be read.
  • Variable data helps make the message more relevant.  Using the information (database) you already know about your recipients, your message can be individually tailored to them.
  • The offer inside is king! In creating a highly effective direct mail campaign, your offer is 40% of the battle, the database is 40%, and the creative is 20%.
  • Focus on the offer, not necessarily the brand.  Respect the brand, but don’t make it the overriding element of a direct mail campaign.
  • Remember, the campaign is not about you, it’s about your recipient. Talk to them, keeping in mind the things they want to hear. 
  • Instead of “spray & pray”, target your audience and your message.  Don’t try to be too many things to too many people.  Main Street, USA is still where most of us live.
  • Try “lumpy” mail.  Include something in the envelope that creates an “I wonder what’s inside” feeling. (a pen, a keychain, etc.)
  • Make the offer obvious .  Make it evident what your recipient is supposed to do.
  • Color graphics capture attention and improve response rates. With improved digital printing technology, you can affordably add color and variable data printing to envelopes as well.
  • Where practical, include free samples – let your target audience give it a shot.  Let sampling campaigns prove the power of your product.  (In a recent USPS survey, 82% said they would try a product after receiving a sample)
  • Regardless of the channels used, be sure to incorporate ways  to track response rates – Business Reply, offer codes, QR codes, PURLS, specific 800 numbers, etc.

As consumers continued to be bombarded by email and more and more online advertising, now, more than ever, may create a situation where direct mail is more likely to be noticed.  Mail volume has decreased, this in turn may create more opportunity for your message to get noticed by this marketing channel. 

Want to try full color, targeted envelopes to see how it improves your open rates? Enter our Bucket O’ Swag Facebook giveaway to get 50 free prints along with other items. Or if you are ready take advantage of our 2 for 1 special going on right now.

What direct mail success techniques would you like to share?  We’d love to hear from you.

Paul Strack is the president of CustomXM. Paul has become a leader in the print industry for his integration of social marketing into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

How the iPad Changes the Print Industry

Now we enter the week after the big iPad announcement. There have been tons of talk about how the iPad will revolutionize the book and newspaper industry, but what does it do for the other side of print?

Here are 3 ways I think the iPad will change the print marketing industry for the better.

Accessibility for small business: I’ve worked in small and larger business. In marketing print large business has one key advantage, you can print the thing out, show it around, and get a feel for what the final product will look like. In small businesses you are typically running desktop quality printers that can’t even print clip art right much less high quality graphics.

The iPad is geared at reproducing print quality, which is why they are pitching books and magazines. The iPad gives you a chance to create an ad or a marketing piece, look at it on your iPad for a closer match than your desktop monitor or printer, move it over to your boss if needed for approval, and email it to the printer, all from the same device.

Move from print to web: I talked recently about how QR codes help move people from print to web. While the iPad does not have a camera for QR codes (a camera does not fit the iPad business model) it does provide one more easy to use device that can move people from print to web.

The iPad offers a much better keyboard (overcomes the lack of camera) and can enable an even better web experience than an iPhone.

Personalization: With HTML5 support, large touch screen, and potentially more (with iPhone OS 4) the possibilities are really limitless with how you can personalize your marketing experience to the customer.

Imagine they get a direct mail, go to their URL on their iPad, and suddenly they can be immersed in a full interactive experience.

Above all don’t believe the negative press the iPad is getting, remember the same things were said about this little worthless gadget called the iPod. The iPad has the opportunity to revolutionize all forms of print. Building it into your print marketing model has the potential to put you ahead in the changing marketing landscape.

Greg Henderson is marketing and social media professional with 8 years marketing and online experience. Greg has worked with several companies focusing on integrating online and offline marketing.

Market Smart in the Downturn

By 2010 I was hoping I would be done talking about the recession. Over the past year I’ve had several friends ask me about how and why to market in a down economy. The fact is that most successful companies grow through marketing in the latter half of a recession. Even more amazing is that a large percentage of Fortune 100 companies were actually formed during an economic downtown.

By marketing in a down economy you can put yourself ahead of the competition when the economy recovers. The trick to marketing in a downturn is to market smart. Any idiot can market in a booming economy, when people are willing to spend money all you have to do is show them how. In a bad economy though you have to market smart and show people why to spend money. I typically give out 5 tips to market smart in a down economy:

  1. Track – Analytics are key in marketing in a down economy. You have to make sure you get every dime out of your marketing dollars. Using marketing tools like personalized URLs help you measure response from each marketing piece to help you adjust and refine each time you market.
  2. Segment – In an upturn a shotgun approach works fine, you can typically get enough people to bite on a marketing piece to make it worthwhile. In a down economy you must appeal to them individually which means segmenting your database to deliver exactly the right piece to the right people. Sometimes this means sending multiple versions of one piece, by using targeting marketing you can easily run this all in one marketing push.
  3. Be Innovative and Eye Catching – More than likely your competition is going to be marketing as well during the downturn. So make your marketing stand out. Spend a little extra time with a graphic designer, use good photography, and add that special touch to set your marketing piece apart. Remember a marketing piece is only good if someone looks at it.
  4. Understand Your Market – Make sure you are keeping up with what your market wants. Follow your customers on twitter, create a facebook fan page and invite them to it, or buy them lunch sometime just to chat. In a recession you have to go to the customers, don’t expect them to come to you.
  5. Keep it Cheap – I’ve walked into marketing positions before to find dozens of boxes of marketing materials. The people before me must have ordered a million line cards at a time. Every single marketing handout was at least 5 years old and out of date. In a recession, you don’t have a lot to spend, so spend smart. Instead of running large offset print jobs, run smaller digital print on demand jobs. You can run just what you need without running the risk of having expensive out of date materials sitting around in a closet.

Let me know how you market smart in a down economy, drop me a comment below.


Real Integrated marketing with QR Codes

Integrated marketing is what most forward thinking companies strive to achieve with marketing efforts. However a large gap exists between print and web making integration difficult. The use of QR codes in print advertising and marketing can help bridge this gap.

A few years ago while working for a marketing agency the big buzz word was “integrated marketing”. Essentially this was creating marketing flow between your online and offline marketing. Back then this included things like creating targeted URLs to direct people who receive your print piece, creating cohesion between your web site and your print campaigns, and directing people to online signup forms through traditional media. A gap exists between the printed page and a website. This gap is big enough that many modern marketers have written off print advertising completely. People are just reluctant to get a direct mail piece, go to their computer, and type in a web address.

Real quick, look in your pocket or on your desk. Chances are you have a cell phone within reach. In addition chances are it is a smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, Pre…). The answer to bridging this gap lies right there, it is your constant connection to the world, but you are still not going to type in a web address.

QR codes are a way to help bridge the gap. Web browsing on cell phones is not at a very usable level. Using QR codes in your marketing allows potential customers to easily pick up their cell phone, scan in the QR code, and instantly be directed to the landing page for your ad. The New York Times recently did an article highlighting this very technique with advertising, looking at how various companies are starting a push toward advertising with QR and other 2d bar codes.

As technology and consumer awareness increases so will the integration of print and online marketing. Integrating technologies like QR codes into advertising takes very little effort, and no additional cost. This also adds a second layer of analytical data to marketing efforts, allowing you to better gauge ROI for a print piece. Take a look how Rob McBryde used this integration to move potential customers from his printed business card to his web site.

-Greg Henderson