What One FinServ Marketer Gets About Print and Direct Mail

I was happy last week to see a brand new print magazine pop up in the mail from American Heritage Federal Credit Union.

Financial services can be complicated to contemplate. Well, for me at least. There are so many options available now – both from traditional institutions and all of the online disruptors — but who has the time to look at them all?

This is why I was happy last week to see a brand new print magazine pop up in the mail from American Heritage Federal Credit Union.

American Heritage is the 121st largest credit union in the country, with 800 sponsor companies and nearly 160,000 members (full disclosure: I’m one).

They call this The Patriot, and reading it has been really interesting. It’s a full 8-1/2”x11” with 24 pages of promotional copy and features, and lots of content.

Now, I don’t have to tell you guys about all of the studies out there talking about how our brains process digital information and print differently. There’s plenty of research to show that paper leads to better recall of messaging by consumers.

Print is tangible. When it’s done well, there’s real value holding a simple saddle stitched, high-quality paper magazine in your hands. It can stick around a while, too.

Inside the front cover, there’s a note from Bruce Foulke, American Heritage’s President & CEO. “We offer you the right financial solutions because you’re family,” he writes.

Because it’s a member-owned nonprofit, it can provide products and services that banks can’t. Smartly, they’re listed up front in the magazine.

The magazine runs through some of American Heritage’s history, as well as how it continues to be an important part of the community today.

I loved the 4 pages on recent fundraising events like the “Gelatin Olympics,” and its “Books for Kids” and Ronald McDonald House programs.

And a lot of the content is very helpful, with articles on raising your credit score, or tips for homebuyers.

But sometimes personal stories do a great job promoting a particular product or service.

This one relates how a family used a home equity line of credit to pay for a swimming pool, thanks to the credit union’s personal assistance.

Throughout the magazine, calls to action give members plenty of ways to engage with the credit union. Whether it’s live community seminars, or the website, the app, its offices … they all help build the brand. And to make sure I didn’t miss it, an email dropped on Wednesday that pointed me to the Issuu version embedded on American Heritage’s website.

It’s great to see such a strong affirmation for print as part of a multichannel mix in the financial services industry!



3 Examples of Purpose-Driven Brand Email

Who’s doing a good job at using email to develop and support their purpose-driven brand? Let’s quickly look at a few examples.

Email can be good for a lot of things, but with some exceptions, I never really thought of it as a way for brands to position themselves as agents of good.

But after looking at some campaigns that have made it to my inbox lately, I’ve changed my mind.

Jeanette McMurtry wrote about “The Purpose-Drive Brand” in a blog post for us. I strongly recommend checking it out because she identifies why some brands are changing how corporate social responsibility is exemplified.

“Consumers are not just expecting big business to define a social purpose for the brand,” she writes, “they are demanding it by how they are making purchasing and loyalty choices.”

Who’s doing a good job at using email to develop and support their purpose-driven brand? Let’s quickly look at a few examples.


GoldieBlox emailGoldieBlox originated on Kickstarter as a company that made and sold toys and building sets featuring a girl engineer, Goldie. Other products followed that likewise challenged gender stereotypes.

This email announces a GoFundMe campaign to put STEM Kits in K-3 classrooms. Because STEM resources are in short supply for those crucial grade levels, a matching campaign “will make a big difference.”

Chrome Industries

Chrome Industries emailChrome Industries makes “tough as nails” messenger bags, packs, and some apparel and footwear. “We make gear for people who want to grab life by the horns or the handlebars and hold on for the ride,” its website says.

Its email often talks about how much of its merchandise is manufactured in the United States. An effort that dropped yesterday included a video profiling the custom bag sewer at the company’s Seattle store. He loves to make products from start to finish, and then see them out in the community. Another section of the email highlights a collection of made in the USA items.

Nau Clothing

Nau emailNau, its website says, was “founded on the idea that there’s always an opportunity to make better.” It applies that concept by considering and advancing “every aspect in the life cycle of your clothing – before, during and after you own it.” It manufactures and sells clothing made from sustainable fabrics, often organic or recycled.

A recent email showcases summer clothes made from Tencel, a “renewable, responsibly sourced fiber that wicks moisture.” It then gets better by reminding the customer of Nau’s support for nonprofits that protect public lands. It’s become a big issue lately, and Nau donate’s 2% of each sale to the cause.

So how about it, marketers? What brands are defining their purpose in terms of social good they deliver to their communities?

4 Great Direct Mail Welcome Ideas

A direct mail welcome package can be one of the first few communications that your customer gets. Here’s a sampling of some I found.

Can direct mail make a red-hot customer even hotter?

That’s just one question some marketers may want to think about when acquiring a customer. They’ve paid their heard-earned money for your product or service, but why not get that new relationship off on the right foot with a solid welcome package?

There are some solid reasons for doing so. A direct mail welcome package can be one of the first few communications that your customer gets after getting an email confirmation of their order. It’s your chance to shine, to let them know that they’ve made the right decision. And it’s only polite to express your thanks, and put it in print.

So how can you say “Welcome”? I looked at a ton of mail from Who’s Mailing What! for some ideas. Here’s a sampling of what I found.

1. Make It Personal

Dell direct mailHere’s a direct mail piece I got when I bought my laptop. A simple 6”x8” 8-page booklet that has some personalization going on, and a nice image on the front panel. Inside, it welcomes me to the Dell family and recommends that I keep the booklet in a safe place in case the information it holds is ever needed.

What information? My purchase ID number is the big one. It also lists lots of tech support and customer service websites and phone numbers. Some of them came in handy when I spilled iced tea on my keyboard last summer.

2. Remind Them About Your Brand

New York Times direct mailThe New York Times likes booklets, too, mailing this one to a new subscriber. Its 24-pages include lots of copy about all of its online and print features as it helps readers along “your journey.” And, the perfed inside back cover smartly has customer service contact info in case you lose your access, or your Sunday Times doesn’t show up on your doorstep.

But the highlight to me are the images – of refugees, food, and dolphins – that appear on many of the even-numbered pages. They’re a great reminder to the reader of the quality photography that helps the Times tells its stories on paper and online.

3. Talk About Security

American Express direct mailThink of how data and identity security are constantly in the news. You need to make your new customer feel safe. So it makes sense not only to take precautions, but tell your customers what you’re doing to keep them and their information secure.

American Express onboards new cardholders with yes, another booklet. Here, it includes fraud alert protection in a rundown of features that are available in its app.

4. Take Further Action

National Audubon Society direct mailSo you’ve already thanked your customer for their purchase. Now what?

How about another purchase? This is the perfect opportunity to cross-sell or upsell other products or related services as well.

For non-profits, the direct mail welcome is a great time to really energize new donors when they’re most engaged and enthusiastic. The National Audubon Society, in its documentation, presents new members with an action plan “so that you can make the most of your ongoing membership.” Among the checked items: volunteering at an Audubon center, participating in citizen science programs, or making another donation.

You have nothing to lose by letting a new customer feel good about their decision, and spending their money with you.

By starting with a good welcome, you can help create a good experience for them, build a foundation for their future loyalty, and establish your brand at the same time.

What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

Summer is such a great time to slow down a bit and pick up a book. Here’s what’s made my list.

Have you read any good books lately?

Summer is such a great time to slow down a bit and pick up a book. There was a time when I’d head home from a visit to the Strand, New York’s great bookstore, with a dozen purchases. Not to mention house sales, yard sales, etc.

Last summer, I wrote about the books that were on my reading list.

Books and ebookThey were:

And I have two recommendations from the last few months:

21 Reasons Creativity Is Like Sex by Courtney Smith Kramer

Sure, the title’s provocative, to say nothing of some of the content. So you’ve been warned. But assuming you can get past that – and there’s a lot – this is a fun, leisurely read with lots of exercises, factoids, and little insights to help make new connections in the creative process, and so much more.

Got Your Attention? by Sam Horn

This is a useful, concise handbook with many practical tactics for getting others to pay attention to you and your ideas. To be an effective communicator, you have to create “intrigue,” and she tells you how to do it.

For this summer? Here’s what’s made my list so far.

The King of Madison Avenue by Kenneth Roman

I wanted to include a biography this time, and who better to start with than David Ogilvy, the advertising legend? I read Ogilvy on Advertising years ago, so learning more about one of the great copywriters/mad men of all time should be a real treat.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

Even though I write every day, I’m not as good a writer as I’d like to be. I need a lot of help. Ann’s the  Head of Content for Marketing Profs, so I know she’ll have plenty of tips and recommendations.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

It’s been a while since I’ve read a really worthwhile business parable. So I want to check out their take about how success depends on helping others. As much as I think that’s what my job is all about, I’m certain there’s so much more I can learn.

So, how about it, marketers? What books can you recommend that have inspired and motivated you? Please share!

Can a Notebook Inspire Your Customers?

A direct mail piece that was sent by Intuit to a QuickBooks customer includes a notebook. How can you position a notebook to inspire our customers?

There’s nothing like the feel and look of a brand-new notebook.

I’ve gone to a bunch of conferences in the last few years, and at almost every one, attendees received a brand-new notepad or notebook of some kind.

Some of them were your basic legal pad with lined paper. Two were spiral-bound. And my favorite is more is a vinyl portfolio which has a USB flash drive strap. It’s no Trapper-Keeper, but then again, what is?

I loved them all. And I used them all. Workshops, keynotes, panels … I took notes everywhere.

It’s not like I haven’t tried anything else. But I fumbled a few times trying to use Evernote and other apps.

Putting ink on paper works very well for me. My recall of facts and key points is better, and that’s even with my awful, barely recognizable longhand scrawl. I’m not the only one; some studies back up this observation.

direct mailWhat prompted this post was a clever direct mail piece that was mailed by Intuit to a QuickBooks customer. The outer is plain enough, just a logo and a brief teaser: “A GIFT FOR YOU.”

But inside, Intuit includes, you guessed it – a notebook.

The letter accompanying the “Dare To Dream” notebook thanks the small business for being a customer. It presents it as a way to “celebrate your milestones.”

“It’s good to have a single place for all your most out-there dreaming and down-to-earth planning,” it says. To make those dreams and plans a reality, it continues, they can leverage your QuickBooks data to examine some financing options.

Dissolve , a Calgary-based stock photography and video company, used a similar approach in some of it mail. Sure, the notebooks are tiny compared to Intuit’s, and the pages are blank, not lined. But the intent is the same: providing a platform for the customer’s creativity.

“Plan your shots. List your props … Do the math” one of the books says. And then, it presumes, you’ll be ready to talk with Dissolve.

Think about ways to use a notebook to help your customers to think and dream big, aspire to greatness, solve a problem, and along the way, promote yourself as a solution and a partner.

Inspiration can be found on those pages, even if your handwriting skills aren’t the best.

What You Need to Know About USPS Informed Delivery

You probably don’t like spoilers for movies, but what about your direct mail?

The U.S. Postal Service has rolled out a new tracking feature called Informed Delivery in the last few months. And it has implications for how the customer, the mail service vendor, and marketing agencies operate in the mailstream.

You probably don’t like spoilers for movies, but how about for your direct mail?

The reason I’m asking is because the U.S. Postal Service has rolled out a new tracking feature called Informed Delivery in the last few months. And it has implications for how the customer, the mail service vendor, and marketers operate in the mailstream.

USPS LogoThe first time I heard of it was in September 2015, when I spoke at the National PCC Day event in New York.

In his remarks, USPS Chief Marketing Officer Jim Cochrane mentioned a service undergoing trials that would let people see their mail before it gets delivered.

I was intrigued, and still am, as Informed Delivery is being implemented this year.

I agree with Tom Glassman, Director of Data Services and Postal Affairs at Wilen Direct. He calls it “a great integration of digital and physical mail.”

So last week, I signed up for the program and waited to see what happened.

How It Works

Consumers can enroll online for a free, password-protected account that creates a digital mailbox for the direct mail they receive at their house. Before it’s even physically delivered, they can log in and see a grayscale image of the front of a common-sized mail piece, like a #10 envelope or folded self-mailer.

It’s not available yet for P.O. Box customers. And jumbo mailers, catalogs, and packages aren’t included in the mix at this time.

What Marketers Should Think About

So if you’re a marketer, you’re probably asking, “What’s in it for me?” What’s the ‘why’?” There are complex answers to these questions.

If this service were only about giving consumers a sneak preview of their mail, one more impression of an offer, well that’s not too bad.

But Informed Delivery is more than that.

Marketers can build campaigns using the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) to reach target audiences in the digital and physical worlds simultaneously. Under the program, marketers can enhance a physical mail piece when it’s scanned into the mailstream with a representative full color image, interactive content, and a click-through URL, with individual URLs coming this fall.

I’m not going to get into all of the technical details about campaign management and how to set up Informed Delivery. That discussion needs a much deeper dive, so it can wait for another time and place.

And I fully expect USPS to change features based on feedback from industry users and the public.

But I do have some recommendations.

First, consider how your direct mail – or at least some of it – can stand out in a grayscale image. This means paying special attention to your images, teaser copy, etc., and testing all of them

Second, think about all how your mail or your client’s mail can be enhanced with an Informed Delivery campaign. So off the top of my head, I can see uses for retailers, transpromo, insurance, utilities, and financial services.

Finally, there are some great resources to consult for more information about why and how to implement Informed Delivery.

One other thing. Remember the words of the late Mal Decker: “Rule No. 1, test everything; Rule No. 2, see Rule No. 1.”

3 Ideas for Father’s Day Email Marketing

So what do you get for the dad who has everything? This year, to get some different ideas, I went through my email inbox for some inspiration.

So what do you get for the dad who has everything?

I’ve asked myself that for years when Father’s Day rolls around.

My dad always claims not to want or need anything, so my usual go-to gift has been Omaha Steaks.

This year, to get some different ideas, I went through my email inbox for some inspiration.

A lot of the most recent emails offer “last chance” for special pricing and free shipping, etc. But I found some other tactics that I thought were pretty effective as well.

1. Tug The Heartstrings A Little
Public emailPUBLIC Bikes called this email “Father’s Day Giftspiration” in the subject line from this past Tuesday.

“Dads point us in the right direction, pick us up when the ride gets a little too rough, and give us that extra push when we need it,” it says. True. My dad bought me my first bike, and while his riding days are over, the copy and image here resonated with me

2. Promote the In-Store Pickup
Kohl's emailWhat a great way to reduce stress in your customers!

Not every retailer can swing this, of course. But if you can make it happen so close to the day, do it. Kohl’s put this option front and center in its email a few days ago.

Another one I liked: “FREE store pickup, ready in 1 hour!” says Office Depot at the top of a recent email.

3. There’s Always Gift Cards
AutoZone email
A ton of offers I received mentioned gift cards, and even give them some serious play. They click through to their websites to view all of the available options, and even offer bonuses with purchase.

But this one, from AutoZone, does more. It makes this option the focus of the entire offer. And it promotes a visit to one of their local stores. And while you’re there, who knows what else you’ll buy when you’re there?

So, marketers, how can you reach last-minute shoppers for this special day?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and to all the dads out there!

4 Old-School Direct Mail Tactics That Still Work

Some direct mail techniques have been around for decades. Here are four tried-and-true tactics and why they still drive response.

Here at Target Marketing, we talk a lot about how direct mail is coming back, thanks, in part to new technologies and print techniques that make it more personalized, relevant, and valuable to the customer than ever before.

I’m a big believer in all of these developments. I’m convinced that they are critical to engaging newer, younger audiences in really interesting ways.

But at the same time, I have to marvel at how some formats that have been around for decades, and were once much more commonplace, still show up in the mail I review for Who’s Mailing What! every day.

Here are four tried-and-true tactics that I’ve seen recently, and why they still work.

1. Yes-No-Maybe Reply Stickers
UPMC direct mailThis involvement device was a common practice for many publishers selling subscriptions to magazines and newsletters back in the day. Developed by John Francis Tighe, it’s pretty simple: you give the prospect 3 options on the reply form, with a sticker for each.

This direct mail piece for UPMC, a healthcare system, shows “YES” and “NO” showing through the extra envelope window. The “MAYBE” sticker on the letter is visible only by opening the envelope.

This practice lets you easily segment people who need a little more convincing.

2.The Outer Quiz
Harvard Heart Letter direct mailAsking questions – or getting a prospect to think of a true or false response – gets them to stop and consider the content or the features of the product or service and how they can benefit.

Whether it appears on an inside page, or as here, on the outer for Harvard Health Letter, it helps initially qualify the prospect. In this case, the reader is confronted with some information that may be true. Because it involves health, it’s a good way to push them inside to get some answers. This works for money issues as well.

3. The Interoffice Envelope
Southern Missions direct mailThis envelope design was introduced in the 1980s by Greg Dziuba for Book-of-the-Month’s Fortune Book Club. It often appeared in B-to-B efforts, as it grabs the target customer’s attention and makes a strong connection with customers working in an office environment.

Some fundraising appeals by Sacred Heart Southern Missions, a social ministry, have used this Kraft “Inter-Department Delivery” envelope for over 10 years. The last “deliver to” name here is “Fr. Jack”, with an “URGENT” notation in the comment column.

In the letter inside, Father Jack Kurps relates how a memo in a routing envelope revealed to him a dire need for replenishing funds his organization needs to aid the poor. The tactic, and the message, work together to put the reader in the shoes of that priest.

4. The Photo Lab Envelope
Dissolve direct mailJust as office memos generally travel electronically now, so do pictures. But when you have them printed on higher-quality equipment at a drug store, you still get them in a special envelope.

Dissolve, a stock footage agency, mailed photos from its collections in this envelope. They’re styled like vacation snapshots on heavier stock paper, which adds some heft to the direct mail package.

You can call any or all of these approaches “gimmicks.” But the fact that they persist shows that they still work at getting attention, and ultimately, driving response. They’re worth a test, at least.

4 Simple Ways to Use Magnets in Direct Mail

Magnets give shelf-life to the printed piece. Here are just a few of the many good magnets appearing in some of the mail I’ve curated.

When we started unpacking from our recent move, one of the first things I took care of was a bag of magnets and other stuff that goes on our refrigerator door.

You probably know what I’m talking about. A calendar. Some family photos. Coupons. A thin notepad. A note from my aunt.

And holding it all together? Magnets.

Magnets from the nearby hospital. And from the local dry cleaner, vet, plumber, you name it.

The problem is, now I need new ones, from newly local businesses.

The week before last, I attended the National Postal Forum in Baltimore. Walking the floor, something a vendor said got me thinking about good uses for magnets that I’ve seen in direct mail. As Mike Reed, the regional sales manager for Magnets 4 Media put it, “they give shelf life to the printed piece.”

That’s not sales speak; it’s the sign of a good direct mail practice.

Here are just a few of the many good magnets appearing in some of the mail I’ve curated for Who’s Mailing What!

1. Provide Information
Mount Sinai magnetA lot of healthcare facilities like hospitals and urgent care centers mail magnets. I wrote last year about the word cloud magnet mailed by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia to new movers.

Here’s another good one, promoting Mount Sinai Health System’s Brooklyn Heights Urgent Care. It’s sealed onto a laminated 5-1/4×8-1/2” postcard. It includes contact information, address, and hours, all vital information when it’s needed most.

2. Make Them Laugh
New Yorker magnet mailSome people read The New Yorker only for its cartoons, and save the ones that make them laugh. This magnet shows the 2 things most people know the magazine for: its cartoons and its writing. It’s been mailed as part of its subscription and renewal packages for the last few years.

3. Thank Your Customers
AIG magnet mailMagnets can reward the loyalty of your best customers. Here’s one –a magnetic bookmark – tipped to a letter mailed to a past AIG Travel Guard insurance client. If they read a print book while traveling, they’ll be reminded of what company is protecting them.

4. Thank Your Donors
American Red Cross magnet mailNonprofits use magnets to reward donors, as part of a mix that includes other time-tested premiums like pens, stickers, etc. Much of the time it will have a logo on it and a maybe a tagline.

The American Red Cross enclosed this magnet calendar in a year-end appeal to past donors. The Norman Rockwell artwork is a nice nostalgic touch.

So what do all of these examples have in common?

They provide something of value. They build the brand. And best of all, they stick around for a while, literally.

How to Get Memorial Day Email Marketing Right

Memorial Day means different things to different people, but some of the email marketing I haven’t been seeing in my inbox bothers me a little.

Memorial Day means different things to different people, but some of the email marketing I haven’t been seeing in my inbox bothers me a little.

It’s a 3-day weekend, and the unofficial start of summer. There’s plenty of sales to promote with red, white, and blue highlights. Lots of beach towels, barbeque grills, food. And yet …

Last year I had to scramble to find examples of email that recognizes that Memorial Day was originally about honoring the sacrifices of soldiers who died serving our country.

This year was no different. The best emails were truly few and far between.

Publix emailMany used a patriotic image to get attention, like the one in this email from Publix, the supermarket chain. It says some nice things, but that’s about it.

It misses an opportunity to further engage shoppers.

Vinesse emailBut Vinesse, one of the country’s largest wine clubs, hit all the right notes a few weeks ago. This promotion centers on a special offer for Purple Heart Red Wine from C. Mondavi & Family, a Napa Valley brand. Proceeds go to the Purple Heart Foundation, a group which help veterans recover from wartime injury and trauma.

Here’s a key connection for me: Peter Modavi, Sr. served in World War II. And the two winemakers are more recent veterans. The email explains this, and with the strong visual, inspires a bit of patriotism.

American Red Cross emailI also liked this one effort from the American Red Cross that went out yesterday. It acknowledges that Memorial Day “also heralds a much more solemn occasion”: remembering our soldiers.

The letter goes into all of the ways that the Red Cross’s services have an impact. Picture like the ones here show a lot of what it does for military service members around the world, as well as veterans, and families.

And, the email links to a video showing its work, and ask people to share it. The only ask for a donation is in the P.S.

So, you can either acknowledge the holiday’s true meaning in a big way, a respectful way, or not. Maybe the best thing to do is to just pick one, and move forward.

As for me, I’ve got a cemetery to visit, and a promise to keep.