7 Instances of Well-Intended Direct Mail Gone Bad

There are many things that can go wrong with a direct mail campaign. Before you plan your next campaign, see to it that you are not making any mistakes that can not only cost you money, but also responses. Believe it or not, bad direct mail is very common.

There are many things that can go wrong with a direct mail campaign. Before you plan your next campaign, see to it that you are not making any mistakes that can not only cost you money, but also responses. Believe it or not, bad direct mail is very common.

How Direct Mail Goes Wrong

  • List: There are many things that can go wrong with your data. You can have old, outdated information. You can select the wrong people to get the wrong offer. For example, an offer for men only, but some women are entered with the wrong gender code. These can cause problems with personalization and have you sending to people who are no longer interested, who never were interested, or are no longer at that address.
  • Call to Action: Worst case scenario is no call to action at all, followed closely by a poorly worded CTA. In order to drive response, you need a CTA that resonates with your audience.
  • Wordy: Too many words or the wrong words can get your mail piece tossed in the trash. Be concise and to-the-point. Let them know what’s in it for them and how they can get it. Details on products are a turn-off; use benefits to them to draw them in.
  • Images: The wrong images can turn people off or confuse them. Make sure you choose images that support not only your message, but also your brand.
  • Grammar: Misspellings and poor word choices are very common. You need to make sure that your copy is free of errors to get your point across correctly. Mistakes like these give you a bad reputation from which it can take a long time to recover.
  • Format: There are many USPS regulations that can cost you a lot of money if you do not follow them. When you are creating your campaign, it is best to consult with your mail service provider to find out specific details about your design idea. This can save you from paying extra postage or not being able to mail your piece at all.
  • Timing: Granted, there are differences in delivery times across the country, but there is enough information out there for you to plan on a schedule that will most likely occur. If you have a short response window, you need to make sure that the mail piece does not arrive after the window has closed. There is nothing worse than a mail piece that is trying to drive traffic to a store sale, but the mailer arrives after the sale is over. Make sure to allow yourself enough time for concept, design, print, and mail.

This is, by far, not a complete list of bad direct mail, but it does give you a comprehensive look at several key areas where things commonly go wrong. Sometimes, knowing what not to do is the best place to start planning from. Many times, the best way to stop mistakes is to allow enough time for the creative and production processes. It is also a good idea to have someone from outside your organization look over your final concept to make sure that person understands your offer and that it is appealing. Are you ready to get started on better direct mail?

Inductive Direct Mail Strategy Leads to a Better Creative Space

Sometimes marketers get stuck in a direct mail strategy rut. They find a direct mail format that works and just stick to it. Over time, the ROI shrinks, but not enough to spend time making changes.

Sometimes marketers get stuck in a direct mail strategy rut. They find a direct mail format that works and just stick to it. Over time, the ROI shrinks, but not enough to spend time making changes.

This is easy, but not the right thing to do. When you get to this point, you need to get outside your comfortable box and create a new direct mail approach. This goes beyond thinking outside of the box, but to creating a whole new type of box. What do I mean?

It is time to use inductive thinking to get to a better creative space. What is inductive thinking? It is when you observe something and you use that information to create something new. Why use it? Because this type of thinking causes you to ask questions, challenge rules and take risks you would not normally take. This leads to new and better ideas.

So how can we apply this to your next direct mail marketing strategy?

  1. Doubt Everything — Question what you think you know about your direct mail. This includes all your beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions. Only after you do this are you open to new creative thinking. This is the hardest part of creating a new direct mail approach, but it is worth the effort. This step gets you thinking differently.
  2. Probe the Possible — You start this with the questions or issues you discovered in Step 1 to see which areas of focus will be most important. Beyond that, you will want to dig into customer insights, which are extremely important. You need to go into the minds of your customers to discover why, where, when, and how they choose to buy from you, as well as why others don’t buy from you. You are searching to refine any questions or problems you see with your direct mail campaigns.
  3. Diverge — In this step, you will take what you learned from Steps 1 and 2 to focus on the one true problem you wish to address. In many cases, this will be: “How can I increase my direct mail response rate?” You will then come up with as many ideas as you can, no matter how crazy they are. Get creative here. Consider “anything is possible” and “how can it fix my problem?” This step is for creativity and brainstorming.
  4. Converge — Now you are ready to move on to analyzing what you came up with to find the solution that will work best. You will need to use logic and practicality here. This is where you translate your ideas into reality.
  5. Reevaluate — Here you will evaluate how your new direct mail campaign worked. What are the areas of improvement? What else can be tried? You can and should be doing A/B testing to see which designs, offers, lists, and so on perform best. Constant vigilance and tracking are required to create and maintain powerful direct mail.

This process can lead to direct mail that is new and effective when you are able to get the right people in the room for effective communication and you allow enough time for each step to really dig deep. The more time you spend with each step, the better your results are going to be, keeping in mind that this process never really ends. After each campaign, you will evaluate what you did and then start the process to make it even better next time. Are you ready to get started?

Where Do You Start? Teaching Direct Marketing to College Students

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

I remember sitting in the parlor of a Catholic parish rectory in North Jersey while my wife was participating in a wedding rehearsal. The Mets game was on TV. The brother of a parish priest who was visiting from Ireland asked me to explain baseball. Explain baseball?!?! Where do you start?

Despite all of the professional speaking and training I’ve done in direct response marketing, the first time I taught a college course devoted entirely to it was last spring. I started with the fundamental concepts of media, offer, and creative. I had them write about each of these concepts from their own experience. We went over the various targeting opportunities marketers have online and offline. And at the end, we covered measurement and metrics.

At the end of the course, I asked the students to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed. The most insightful comment was from a student who said:

“I wish you had covered all that measurement content at the beginning of the course. It made me realize why all that other stuff was important, and how it fit into the big picture.”

HELP!

Now, as I embark on teaching a course dedicated to Direct Response Marketing at Rutgers School of Business Camden, I’m looking for advice about how to sequence things.

Last year, when I bemoaned the lack of an appropriate up-to-date textbook for this discipline in this column, Dave Marold and Harvey  Markowitz stepped up and recommended the Fourth Edition of “Direct, Digital, and Data-Driven Marketing,” by Lisa Spiller. (Thanks for that Dave and Harvey; I’m using that book in the Fall).

What Do You Think?

Now I see the benefit of stressing measurement early. Even though I told the students every class that the coolest thing about direct marketing is that you can measure it, apparently the mechanical reality of measuring something like search engine keywords was not real for them. So:

  • Do I incorporate some form of measurement into every lesson?
  • Do I introduce a comprehensive measurement unit early in the course? (Spiller’s book does that early on, in Chapter 4).
  • Or, do I go full-on “math course” at the beginning, and thin a 40-student class down to 20 students after two weeks? (Just kidding).

Opinions welcome. (Actually, encouraged.)

How Big Idea Marketing Can Live on in Data-Driven Storytelling

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

big idea marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

But did the advertising work? Did it achieve a client business objective? Did it engage customers and produce sales, orders, leads …? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Back then, only direct marketers cared about measurement.

How Data Has Changed Advertising … Forever

Enter data. Well, data entered the advertising marketplace when direct mail and direct selling made its debut. But not to discount direct mail pioneers and their cousins in direct-response print and broadcast and telemarketing, let’s fast forward to the digital era. Wow! Today, do we have data!

Combine that creative genius with a heavy dose of data insights and strategy, and now we have data-driven creative — where creative effort is measured against action. No more gut instincts and guesswork. Agencies and in-house marketing departments can prove that their creative ideation works and, in fact, can use prospect and customer data to drive the creative ideation to predict and produce defined business outcomes.

Is there still a role for big idea marketing? Of course! In fact, breakthrough creative is indeed a mechanism for breaking clutter. But now, we have the means for one more de-clutter breakthrough: relevance. Using data insights to drive strategy, combined with compelling creative and storytelling, and now we’re proving our C-suite mettle.

There’s a role for creative festivals.

Rethinking Ad Festivals

But how about a data festival … or a data-driven storytelling festival? Well, we may just have one, and it’s been around for a while. It’s the International ECHO Award Competition, with its call for entries now underway. (I’m a member of the Data & Marketing Association ECHO Board of Governors.)

If an agency today is not proving its command of creative, data and relevance, then it’s not proving its presence as a business driver — no matter how many creative trophies are in the case. Winning an ECHO is different. It’s always been about data-driven storytelling, and it’s always been about strategy, creative AND results, more or less in equal measure. ECHOs serve as proof points for agencies, and in-house marketing teams, that they have data chops. They serve as signals to C-suites that ECHO winners are trusted business partners who know ad tech, martech, data management platforms, analytics prowess and have a discipline to test and measure — all in equal faith to the creative big idea.

Left brain, right brain. Yes, there’s still necessary discussion today about data, measurement and unfettered creative. But in today’s world, we can have both creative and relevance through data. In fact we must have both to capture elusive consumer attention, and to produce action … to prove our worth.

This roster of agencies let’s fast forward — and their agency groups let’s fast forward — have been named ECHO Award finalists, and Diamond, Gold, Silver and Bronze ECHO trophy winners in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Who will be joining them in 2018? In October, in Las Vegas, we’ll find out.

Credit: DMA

Marketing Copywriting: Does ‘Anal Retentive’ Have a Hyphen?

There wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

There are many stellar copywriters out there. And there are equally great editors. But can we please have a marketing copywriting style guide?

You see, there appear to be (too) many discussions around the all-important matter of how many spaces a writer should place after an end punctuation. Two spaces later, and now I’ve added another one.

There’s the one-space marketing copywriting camp: the digerati, journalism (both digital and print), chronic text users, rule haters, possibly job-screeners looking to weed out (illegally, even in fun) anyone over 40 by examining their written work. Journalism? I received an “F” once in a J-school assignment, because my professor called me out for using two spaces after at full stop. Paper costs money, even if a Twitter character doesn’t.

And there’s the two-space marketing copywriting camp: Book publishing, science, aesthetics, rule respecters from days-long-past childhood education, and perhaps anyone anally retentive. Oh, did I say science? Yes, even researchers have weighed in on this weighty matter. And you knew it was coming … the digerati quickly responded: Mental Floss, and I really appreciate LifeHacker’s investigative response.

Punctuation in Marketing Copywriting: One or Two, Oh My! Whatever Are We to Do?!

I have to say, I’m flabbergasted by all this concern (or lack thereof) over marketing copywriting punctuation.

First, I demand that any HR professional who screens job applicants based on one-space use or two — as a tacit means for age discrimination — ought to be fired, and the company he or she works for sued to high heaven. (Good luck proving it.)

Second, I thank the researchers who have “proven” that all our eyes need a break — even if it’s only a couple of pixels. Dear reader, I know I’m prone to write long, drawn-out sentences, and I apologize. I’ve always suspected you needed a break — and, as a default, I’ve always sought to give you one. No matter what font is used.

Third, perhaps all we really need is a marketing copywriting style guide — and adhere to it. When I get a freelance assignment, one question I often ask, “Is there a style guide for your company or publication? If not, do you default to Associated Press, Wired or Chicago Manual of Style?“ Even studying a client’s website, direct mail, official filings or other communications simply to discern if a preference even exists (or not) is helpful. Observe, and do what the client does with marketing copywriting.

Anal-Retentive Marketing Copywriting: Why Bother? Bother

Logically, there wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

Perhaps “anything goes” and “break all rules” is the new style — and thus, I’ve wasted your time reading this column, as I get nostalgic for consistency, order, attention to detail, and a layer of copy editors and proofreaders who no longer exist in the world of on-demand communication. But as we throw away the style guides, do we have to throw away the fact-checkers, too?

I guess, these days, that’s also a matter of style. At least there will be no eye strain here, today.

[Editor’s Note: The editors of Target Marketing have removed one space after each of Chet’s sentences. He is now informed: It’s our style!]

Vote for SOW Reform to Stop Agency ‘Manslaughter’

Even as digital marketing was born — websites, search, email — were often described, rightly so, as “direct marketing on steroids.” But Google didn’t invent analytics.

SOW reform
Credit: Clipart Panda

The 1991-92 recession was a boon to database marketing. Fed up with ad spending that wasn’t producing results, many brands — advertisers — turned to databases and data-based marketing to deepen their understanding of customers, and learn how to attract new customers who looked just like them.

The economic growth of the 1990s only solidified database marketing’s reputation, with its ability to produce and refine predictive models, enable better A/B and multivariate testing, and bolster acquisition, retention and loyalty business objectives. These were the days when direct marketing agencies, many acquired by the ad holding companies in the 1980s, were — at last — the rising stars of holding company stables.

Even as digital marketing was born — websites, search, email — were often described, rightly so, as “direct marketing on steroids.” Google didn’t invent analytics.

Yet how many of the traditional direct marketing methods of data stewardship, testing, research, response analysis and data-derived strategy were really ever adopted by the earliest digital darlings — with their appetite for speed, scale and Super Bowl ads? Living on VC riches, the first wave of dot.com e-business held some spectacular fails.

Enter social, Big Data and “walled gardens.” The second wave of digital disruption has indeed been successful as it basks in the spotlight — with scale, testing and ROI analysis discernible (or seeking to be) on each new wave of innovation (not always successful). Digital has been growing its share of marketing spend without interruption, at a quickening pace — displacing or discounting print, direct mail and broadcast. Ad tech, marketing tech and data are indeed today’s advertising stars.

But for how long?

In this brave new ecosystem, are brands performing much better in their business results, overall?

Michael Farmer, author of “Madison Avenue Manslaughter,” who spoke at a recent Marketing Idea eXchange event in New York, says they are not — and their ad agency partners, alongside CMOs, are paying a dear price for this lack of achievement. This domino effect screams “help!”:

“What’s going on with advertisers? Since 1980, advertisers have been governed by ‘increased shareholder value,’ which means executives must deliver results or find another job. CMOs jumped on the digital / social bandwagon and migrated media spend. At the same time, they significantly increased digital / social SOW workloads for their agencies, reasoning that digital / social work was either cheap or free compared to TV / print / radio. Lurking in the background, though, were the non-consuming Millennials, who became the largest demographic group; e-commerce (i.e., Amazon); and the financial melt-down of 2008. The net result: brand growth ceased, and digital / social spend did not provide a solution. CMOs lost credibility, and their job security declined to 3-4 years.”

So where do we go from here? How well do we advertise and sell to Millennials, Plurals and the diversity of America today? Well many brands have turned to consulting companies who have the C-suite relationships, hardly bastions of creative genius, but perhaps more understanding of how to make all this technology, process and content connect best to customers.

Can agencies get back to performance? Farmer believes scope of work reform is one place to start for agencies: they must say “no” to transactional tasking, and “yes” to strategic ideation — and insist on being compensated for it. Even if this means firing clients who balk at paying up. The race to the bottom has served no one.

“What’s going on with Scopes of Work? Digital / social marketing altered Scopes of Work significantly. A 1993 “traditional” SOW requiring 50 creatives contained about 400 executions – 8 per creative per year. By 2013, the count would increase to 600 executions, 12 per creative per year. By 2018, the integrated SOW could contain as many as 15,000 deliverables – involving email marketing, Facebook posts, and a variety of little social executions that would see a typical creative cranking out 300 deliverables per year, or one per day, with little strategic content. Predictably, few clients think that they need high-cost agencies to do this kind of work, so the SOWs are migrating elsewhere, particularly to in-house agencies and to low-cost countries like India. High-priced Chief Creative Officers have no obvious role in this high-volume world, so agencies may begin cutting them out.” 

Perhaps, maybe a little direct marketing discipline needs to be discovered (or rediscovered) by brand chiefs here — who learn to become unafraid of data, data insights, data testing, data quality, data stewardship, all working in tandem with creative storytellers to produce the “big idea.” Creative storytellers working alone — without data — may produce some gems, but without achieving business objectives, these ideas are simply creative but unproductive.

Accountability in ad spend should never be out of style. It’s time for agencies to regain the strategic mantle, or indeed rest in peace.

Parting tip: Do you want to see some agency and client work that is producing business outcomes. Become an International ECHO Awards judge. Currently the Data & Marketing Association has an open call to recruit agency, ad tech, consultant, and brand professionals for judging this year’s competition (online and in New York). If you love data-driven marketing and the business results that can be achieved, then the ECHO judging experience can give you a phenomenal idea store of what’s working now, and likely tomorrow. Consider the 2018 judging application here.

Technical vs. Creative: Who Should Manage On-Page SEO?

“Good fences make good neighbors.” That is a line from Robert Frost’s early 20th century poem “The Mending Wall,” and it’s also a relevant philosophy when determining who’s responsible for your on-site SEO.

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

That is a line from Robert Frost’s early 20th century poem “The Mending Wall,” and it’s also a relevant philosophy when determining who’s responsible for your on-page SEO.

Whoa — sounds like quite the leap, right? Not really. Frost’s poem is about two neighbors who, despite having no livestock or overhanging trees, meet each year to repair a stone wall that separates their properties. One neighbor implores the other to give up their annual ritual, while the other simply repeats,

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

The full meaning of Frost’s poem is up for interpretation. The neighbors carry out their task of reinforcing the barrier between them. But in doing so, they collaborate and work together. They meet at an agreed upon boundary and debate without conflict. Then they go on, maintaining their separate lives, one as a pine tree grower and the other as an apple farmer.

How does this apply to your website’s on-page SEO? Read on, and I’ll explain.

SEOs and Content Creators: Farmers of Different Crops

Farming isn’t just a career path — it’s a lifestyle choice. You can draw many general similarities between farmers, such as they love working outdoors, they enjoy living in the country and they like to work with their hands. They appreciate the cycles of growth and harvests. They are experts at monitoring, analyzing and adapting to produce the most bountiful crops.

Similar things can be said about people who work in SEO. They’re tech savvy and prefer constantly evolving, fast-paced environments. They enjoy the rush of earning high-ranking search results. They tend to be balanced creatively and analytically; they don’t shy away from complex data, yet they’re artistic enough to understand how websites, social media pages and other online assets could be made more engaging for visitors.

Look closer, though — especially at SEO marketers and webpage content creators — and they are far from mirror images.

What Story Does Your Direct Mail Tell?

Why is a story so powerful? Stories are a form of communication that draw us in and pull at our emotions. They create an authentic connection that our brains are hardwired to remember and respond to better.

All direct mail pieces tell a story. Are yours telling the story you want, or one by default? The story is critical to your response rate. Why is a story so powerful? Stories are a form of communication that draw us in and pull at our emotions. They create an authentic connection that our brains are hardwired to remember and respond to better.

People buy from companies they trust and like. Are you one of them? You can be if you get your story right. The story is the most overlooked part of direct mail creation. Check your mailbox for nonprofit appeals; they do a great job of telling stories. So, before your next campaign, consider how to craft your story.

How do you create a direct mail story? Start with the following questions and write out each of the answers:

  1. Who: Who are you as a company to your customers and your employees?
  2. How: How did your company come about? What problems were you trying to solve?
  3. What: What do you do for your customers and employees?
  4. Why: Why are you in business?
  5. Targets: Who are the prospects and customers you are targeting? List out what they have in common and their differences.
  6. Real: Consider choosing a real client or employee who has a good story about your product or service and how it helped them.
  7. Goal: What is the goal you seek with the story? To showcase why people should buy, to show how warm and friendly you are, or something else? A well-defined goal will give you the best results. How do you need to write your story to accomplish it?
  8. Share: Once you write the first draft of your story, give it to a select set of people outside your organization to critique it. They will find issues you never thought of and may have more ideas to make it better.

Now you are ready to get to the crafting part. Your story must have the following components:

  • A reason to get excited and interested in the story. A boring story will not work.
  • Ask for participation in your story. You want your audience to really get into it. You can even have them respond to you via social media to keep the story going.
  • Tell your story in a fun and different way so that it stands out. You can be funny, witty and a little edgy so that people remember you.
  • You need a beginning, middle and end, as well as a problem and solution that are well defined. When you leave something out of your story, it does not resonate with people.

When you are able to convey an authentic, compelling story that connects you with your prospects and customers, your direct mail is more effective. When you do not craft your own story, you get stuck with the one people give you based on your messages. Don’t’ let this happen. Take an active role in crafting your story and make it the best story ever.

Keep in mind that you can create multiple stories to appeal to different targeted groups. One story does not fit all. You want your story to connect with people — in order to do that, you need to segment your data to reach the right people with the right stories. Have you used stories before? Have they worked for you?

125 Blog Posts and I’m Done

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month. These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month.

After a long-standing career on the agency-side of the business, I’ve been given the opportunity to expand the CRM program for a luxury brand while working on the inside of this prestigious organization, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a demanding position that will require 150 percent of my attention, and thus, I’ve decided to hang up my blog.

These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

  • Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: My blog was written as a marketer for marketers, so I was able to have a little fun with my perspective — and I had a great editor at Target Marketing supporting my ideas.
  • Topical Issues Are Most Engaging: Two of my most popular posts (if you’re using the number of comments as a metric) were about current marketing news: the addition of LinkedIn endorsements and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Both garnered great feedback and discussion on timely topics.
  • The Haters Gonna Hate: My posts weren’t always controversial, but when I touched on a nerve, boy, did readers let me know — and fast. Sometimes it was a headline that folks found offensive (my favorite one, “Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard,” attracted a lovely supportive note from direct marketing guru Drayton Bird, so I felt redeemed). But my Feb. 23, 2017 post on “The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service” got some very nasty responses — including ugly emails in my personal inbox. That post taught me that people don’t read an entire post before they jump to conclusions and start name-calling. Luckily I have thick skin!
  • It’s Easy to Be Negative When Using a Fake Name: Many comments to my posts came from anonymous users — marketers who hid behind a user name so it was difficult to know exactly who they were. Personally, I think that’s a cowardly way to engage in a discussion on a topic — especially when you have something unsavory to say — but over the years, I learned who was a consistent supporter and who was looking to put me in my place. So be it.
  • If Blogging Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It: Some weeks I would stare at a blank screen and think “what can I write about that everyone doesn’t already know?” It took a while to find my blogging “voice” but once I did, I wasn’t afraid to share my experiences and interactions with brands — both good and bad — and try to offer ideas on how things could work better or how to steal that idea and make it work for another brand. While there are thousands of nuances in marketing strategies and tactics, I’m always thrilled when I learn about something new, or how someone else found success, so I’ll continue to be a consumer of smart marketing tips.

I hope all my followers will continue to read, engage and share their POV’s on the sites of other Target Marketing bloggers. I’ve always been a fan of this publication and know that, at the end of the day, we all believe in the power of targeted marketing.

Great Direct Mail Examples From My Mailbox

Have you been keeping an eye on your mailbox? What worked on you? I keep a stash of the ones that worked on me for reference on client projects. Let’s look at a couple of great ones.

direct mail examplesCall me crazy, but I look forward to getting my mail each day, partly because we do direct mail all the time, but also partly because of my curiosity on what is being sent by others. Of course I am super critical of what I receive; looking at the condition it is in, if there is personalization, if there are errors and if it captures my attention. You would think that now with my mailbox being less full that more would stand out to me, but most of the time, that is not the case. As marketers we need to step up our game! Have you been keeping an eye on your mailbox? What worked on you? I keep a stash of the ones that worked on me for reference on client projects. Let’s look at a couple of great ones.

The first example is a retention piece. It has been a while since I bought from them so they are sending me a special offer. (Always a good idea.)

Mail Piece 1: A 5×7 envelope, tri-folded card with attached coupon card

The envelope was blue with just my address, a return address and a tagline of “Very Special Offer For Summer.” The card was setup like a standard greeting card, once you open the first panel there is a personalized short greeting on the inside panel and a half size final panel on the right. To the left of the greeting was the attached coupon card with my name on it and the offer was for a free pair of shoes when I buy one pair. (Buy-one get-one free is great!) The short panel was perfed to allow me to tear it off and share an offer with a friend. The friend offer was 50 percent off a pair of shoes when they bought a pair. (This is a great way to extend your direct mail reach and quickly gain new customers. People decide to buy based on recommendations, who better than a friend to provide that recommendation?) Of course I bought the shoes and I gave the other coupon to a friend who also bought shoes.

Retention mailings work very well. You know purchase history and the value that customer has to you so you can make an appropriate, compelling offer to get them to buy again. Have you considered doing a share with a friend offer? They work great! We highly recommend them.

Mail Piece 2: A 6×11 Postcard

Now if you are like me, you do not normally get excited about a postcard — but this one was different. The first thing I noticed was my name on a tackle box next to a woman fishing. (Yes, I love to fish.) Normally when I get postcards selling fishing things, there is always a man on the card. Not that appealing to me. This card was so much better. There was no other copy on this side of the card. When I turned it over, I realized it was fully personalized with not just my name and address, but with tackle that was of interest to me. I am not a lure fisherwoman, but I get mailers all the time trying to sell me lures. This card had various bait and hooks. So the discount offer was for 25 percent off any of the items on the card. (Wow, an offer I can use for tackle I want!) Did I use it? Of course I did! The true advantage to personalization is that the mailer will appeal directly to the needs or wants of the recipient. This becomes a valuable piece of mail to them.

So why am I sharing my mail? Because I want to give you real-life examples of mail pieces that work! They work best when they stand out and are relevant to the recipient. Are you creating your direct mail this way? When you do your ROI will show it. Are you ready to be creative and make the best direct mail piece yet? Do you have any pieces that you received that were great?