Direct Mail in the Digital Era

Catamount Marketing direct mail servicesDirect mail is still a viable and critical component in marketing. Direct mail needs to be viewed in a multi-channel environment – tied into your website, landing pages, social media and email marketing, but keep in mind that if you violate the basics you will not get the best possible return.

Know your audience. You can have the most innovatively designed piece imaginable, but it is a waste of money if you send it to the wrong people. Just as in email marketing, you must provide valuable, relevant and timely information in order for someone to act on your offer. So lose the one-size-fits-all mentality; segmentation is the goal. Decide what your ideal customer profiles look like and then go find prospects that look like them. Understand your target’s problems and tailor your message to address the problems with your solutions.

For direct mail, copy is King. For search engines, content is King. What’s the difference? A webpage has a near limitless amount of space to convey the message. A direct mail piece usually has a limited amount of space to capture the reader’s attention, engage them to learn more and lead them to take an action.

Vary your message to your audience. Not all your prospects have the same issues and concerns. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors, roofers and general contractors all may be in the construction industry, but they do not share the same problems. If you have solutions for this broad market, you will need to communicate to each differently. A generic message may get a response across the broad spectrum, but you will not reach as many as you could have if you tailored your messages to each market separately.

Timing. Each recipient may be at a different stage of the buying cycle when your message lands in front of them. A small percentage may need your products/services immediately and will respond. Others may be located on the spectrum of no interest to actively researching. Your piece must provide a way for these buyers to educate themselves about your products/services in a non-threatening manner. Other factors to keep in mind are seasonality and buying cycles. I am more likely to buy a Gas Grill in the spring and summer than in the cold, dark winter months. If I live in the northern part of the country, offers to buy in the winter will likely fall on blind eyes.

Offer. Buy now, steep discount, or additional bonus items are not always the best offers. Whenever possible, it is best to test offers with small samples to see which offers provide the best return. If you are selling a longer buying cycle product or service, offers of more information, how to buy and comparison charts may be the most effective offers. To get someone to respond, the risk must be lower than the reward.

Having a good product or even providing excellent service is not enough today. If your prospect is buying what you sell from someone already, then providing a “me too!” offer will not likely be enough to have them switch. You must know what your competition is providing and then you need to offer more value on the same or similar products and services. Notice I said more value, not lower price. Providing the same products at a lower price can provide more value, but it is difficult to match or provide more when your strategy is to sell for less.

Letters, self-mailers and postcards, oh my! Postcards and self-mailers tend to work better with existing customers who already know you and your services. The old adage is a letter sells, a brochure tells in direct mail. You can say much more in a letter than you can in the space available on a post card or flyer. If your products or services require some education in order to provide a clear reason to consider you, then you should consider the direct mail personalized letter format as your initial introduction or at least as your first serious sales contact.

Sometimes a nice warm, informative and relevant personal letter is the most effective communication in an otherwise overloaded digital world. Kind of nice just to take our eyes off the computer for a moment, sit back and consider a well written introduction. It can be just the differentiator you need to open the door.

The Olympics, Branding, and being a Russian

The 2014 Winter Olympics have come and gone and with them no shortage of compelling stories, entertainment, and feats of athleticism. Much was made of the Russians as hosts of the Games from being the most expensive Olympic Games to date, to the political juxtapositions that are part of everyday life in Russia, to their apparent propensity to do just about everything at the very last minute; from constructing the venues and hotels, to showing up to attend the events themselves. My wife was surprised to find out that apparently I’m not the only one who goes through life this way.

One story that developed was about the snafu in the opening ceremony when only four of the five Olympic rings displayed as intended. When you have the whole world participating in and witnessing an event of this magnitude, “technicalities” are MAGNIFIED!

Now I’m by no means an authority on Russia and its ways, but it didn’t take long before the political inferences and jokes surfaced suggesting this to be a major embarrassment for the host country/homeland; and that the proverbial “someone’s going to Siberia for this” made its way into the Olympic commentary airwaves.

The Games continued on as hoped for with nightly coverage of what appeared to be the generally familiar, safe, friendly, conciliatory, and competitive gamesmanship the Olympics are intended to be. In spite of all the security and terrorism media hype, superb athletes and people competed in honest-to-goodness games.

A surprising and subtle twist occurred as the Games ended during the closing ceremonies. The stereotypical Russian seriousness and zero-tolerance approach to their brand chose the fork in the road less traveled and made fun of their embarrassment of the opening ceremony by mocking themselves with a repeat of the fifth ring snafu. Who knew the Russian authorities could evoke a sense of humor! But they did… for the rest of the world to witness. Nice comeback comrades… these were, after all, the Olympics; the event celebrating our world community.

The time-tested benefits of making mistakes, learning from them, and ending up with a better product in the end was proven once again. Our brands depend on extending ourselves as leaders and marketers and sometimes this means taking chances. Sometimes they work as planned and sometimes they don’t; but when the intended outcome is to do good, feel light, and share some love… the risks are minimal and the gains large.

Good Marketing is Like a Bowl of Chex Mix

Catamount Marketing the value of marketing mixWho doesn’t like Chex Mix? The salty, crunchy snack that’s still going strong today since it was first introduced by Ralston Purina in 1937. What do you think makes it so appealing? Seems everyone has a favorite ingredient in the mix, whether the pretzel sticks, or peanuts, or the assorted Chex cereal pieces themselves.

What makes Chex Mix so appealing and enduring after all these years is the “mix”. The synergistic impact of mixing the ingredients together in one cohesive brand is the Holy Grail of Chex Mix and that which allows General Mills to sell millions of dollars of the stuff in spite of the plethora of individual snack companies selling pretzels, peanuts, and cereal.

What are the three marketing takeaways from this sturdy Chex Mix model?

First, the “mix”. Rarely is a singular marketing medium and approach as powerful as a marketing mix – that which employs making connections and building brand awareness in the variety of places where people hang out and pay attention. Social media, direct mail, email, TV, radio, print, web, and mobile are all used by someone and while each of us may gravitate towards our favorite ingredient (pretzel stick, peanut, cereal), it’s the mix that finds us digging into the bowl in the first place. Identify your audience and how and where they consume media, and then say “hi”.

Second, listen to the audience. Since 1937 Chex Mix has witnessed and been subject to the same social, economic, political, and evolutionary changes their customers have lived through all these years. By all appearances they’ve been able to adapt and remain relevant by “listening”.

Third, trust. The appeal of your mix is defined by the appeal of your brand. After nearly 80 years, Chex Mix has steadily built its brand by consistently delivering a good product. When we tear open a bag of Chex Mix, we know exactly what we’re going to get and we can rely on its taste, crunch, and value. Trust is the operative word here.  As marketer John Jantsch defines it, marketing is getting people with a need to know, like, and trust you.

So next time you open a bag of Chex Mix, enjoy the treat for what it is, and revel in the mix.

Make it Your Mission to End Mediocrity in 2014

Catamount Marketing blogI’m guilty. I’m confessing to peddling some stolen property. This month’s article belongs to Seth Godin and I’ve swiped if from his blog to share with you. I follow his blog daily (www.sethgodin.com) because I find his words and wisdom to be remarkable – a word he uses regularly and with great respect. He’s a marketer in a league all his own! Here’s what he had to say recently…

The Buffet Problem Keeps Getting Worse

Here’s the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity:

“Oh, don’t worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they’re free.”

Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is ‘free’ in the sense that the customer didn’t spend anything extra to get that item.

The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don’t come.

So, the hotel that says, “With this sort of volume… we do tend to encounter a slower pace with our free wireless internet,” has completely misunderstood how to think about the free internet they offer. It’s not free. In fact, it might be the one and only reason someone picked your $400 hotel room over that hotel down the street. Sure the hot water and the towels and the quiet room are all free in the sense that they’re included in the price, but no, they’re not free in the mind of the purchaser.

Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. “Let’s make these the best mashed potatoes in town–who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends.”

The mashed potatoes aren’t free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you’ll do all year. (Posted 1/15/14 by Seth Godin)

Like Mr. Godin…I believe in opportunity. While price is almost always a factor in a buying decision, more buyers are willing to move beyond price as THE most important factor when they’re shown and experience – either firsthand or by word-of-mouth – a reason to buy that brings value and benefit. At our core, most of us ultimately want to buy the level of quality and service that we strive for our own businesses to deliver.

For 2014, make your mashed potatoes the best they can be!

Happy New Year

The Power of Persuasion… and a little humor!

Ok, time for a little levity. If you’ve ever watched Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, you may have caught one of Trevor Moore’s “Winnovations” segments. I give Moore credit for creating humorous moments on the streets of LA and convincing people that he’s come up with a new invention. The “invention” is usually totally worthless but people buy into it. The results are pretty funny and a parody of sorts on advertising, infomercials, and the like.

Watch this video and have a little fun…

Ready for a whole new web?

arketing .com alternativesFor a long time now, when asked what domain should I purchase for my business, we have advised trying to find a .com version of your company name or keyword because of the automatic response of adding .com to the domain when inputting the name directly into a browser to go directly to the website. The .net, .biz, etc. variations were recommended only when you wished to “protect” your primary .com variation of your domain name from your competitors potentially hijacking your clients using your domain with the variant extension; or the .com extension was simply already taken.

Soon, however the .com appendage will be lost in a sea of domain appendages that may more closely represent the type of business or industry that you are in.

It will be really confusing for a while. Just as we were trained to put the www in front of the domain, (that is no longer required with today’s browsers), we will need to relearn and rethink how we get to website’s of the near future.

So where might this all lead us? Consider that new domain extensions might be industry specific or service descriptive or something completely new altogether.

Some examples might be:

  • .restaurant for a restaurant. It would then be much easier to search on local restaurants by searching for local .restaurant domains.
  • .vet or veterinarian for pet and farm doctors
  • .md for medical doctors
  • .dentist for dentists
  • .pharmacy for pharmacies
  • .shoes or .running for shoe or specialty stores
  • .ski for ski shops
  • .llc or .inc to designate a business type.
  • .accountant
  • .law, .attorney, or .lawyer
  • … you get the picture

But let your imagination run a little wild and these new domain extensions may not just describe your business type, but emotions, geography, philosophy, and more.  Consider the domain CatamountMarketing.com. New accepted variations could become:

  • CatamountMarketing.sucks – for complaints
  • CatamountMarketing.rocks – for testimonials
  • CatamountMarketing.givesback – our charity
  • CatamountMarketing.works – dedicated to our employees
  • CatamountMarketing.VT for our Vermont branch
  • CatamountMarketing.ny for our New York office

And consider that really short domain name that you have always wanted for your domain. These may now be available in a very descriptive version soon. Soon I may be able to acquire CM.MKT to replace the longer variations we now use for CatamountMarketing.com. It’s way easier to type tom@cm.mkt for an email address.
Short domain names are tough to acquire today. But with the proliferation of domain extensions, these will become much easier and less expensive to acquire than “purchasing” a domain name that someone has purchased purely to make a profit selling a high demand domain – often referred to as a squatter. And you squatter’s know who you are.

With more domain extensions come more potential to help direct your customers to website specific information. If you are a business owner or in charge of marketing your company, now is the time to begin considering the possibilities; and how you might put these to work for your benefit by securing these additional domains for your company to use.

The .com will not go away anytime soon. It will take some time for the new domains to reach a tipping point and be widely adopted; at least as far as someone actually typing the domain with the new extensions, because people can be slow to change and many people use a search engine rather than typing the domain directly. But too will evolve.

You probably do not need to rethink your entire web strategy today, but a word to the wise… there are many who are already considering how to best dominate the new tidal wave of domain extensions for profit. It might be wise to think about what and how you might be able to use these new domain names as part of your future marketing strategy. Opportunities come to those who are prepared.

Marketing Back to Basics for Success: The Rule of 7

catamount marketing rule of 7
Brushing up on the basics, in any endeavor, is one key to success that the people who excel understand and apply. Much of marketing is molded from fundamental human nature and it’s easy to lose sight of these fundamentals in the fast-paced information world we live in. So I’m taking a timeout here to get back to basics.

One of the most common pieces of advice that I offer or formally propose is a marketing practice that’s been around since before the beginning of Madison Avenue time. The rule of seven is one of the oldest and consistent marketing truisms. You could easily expect the passage of time and today’s digital world to overshadow a concept this dated, but it’s as true today as it ever was – and worth getting reacquainted with.

Simply put, the rule of seven states that a prospective buyer likely won’t see or hear a marketing message, or seriously consider buying, until they’ve been exposed to the message at least seven times. Why not the rule of five, six or eight instead? The number seven is considered magical and consistently regarded in lore and mysticism. Seven is a number of great power, a lucky number, a number of psychic and mystical powers, of secrecy and the search for inner truth. The origin of seven’s power lies in the lunar cycle. Each of the moon’s four phases lasts about seven days. The Sumerians, who based their calendar on the moon, gave the week seven days and declared the seventh and last day of each week to be uncanny.

For a more analytical perspective, consider the following buying cycle data and where the number seven resides:

  • 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the 5th – 12th contact

The important thing in the rule of seven is not the number, but the message. This simply tells you that you need to let the prospect hear and see your marketing message at least so many times before they buy it. There are many reasons for the need of repetition. Generally buyers just can’t trust you and make the buying decision the first time they see your message.

So, this simply means that your marketing message should be repetitive and consistent. You cannot just run a couple of advertisements one time and expect the customers to buy the product. The hidden message of rule of seven is the continuous and repetitive effort that should be put in for marketing. Better results and ROI will occur if you play your lucky seven.

Another Reason Why I Drink Guinness

I’ll disclose up front that I like to drink beer. Especially living here in Vermont, there’s no lack of remarkable microbrews on store shelves to choose from; but of them all, Guinness would be my flavor of choice if I were marooned on a desert island or Antarctic iceberg.Watching this video ad only heightens my Guinness brand awareness, appreciation, and desire.

The best and most remarkable brands are about more than just the product… it’s how one feels about or experiences the brand.

The Best Marketing is Life in Motion


GoPro is arguably one of the best examples of a success story born from doing what one loves. GoPro is the personal video camera people who have captured the market on capturing life. In the techno-driven and media-rich world we live in, Nick Woodman and his [still] young company has created one of the finest tools for capturing life in all its movement, candor, and glory. In an otherwise consumer-driven world where 3-D printers are creating things out of virtually nothing, one would think that consumerism is only beginning to hit its stride. But consider experiences over things and one begins to appreciate how the meteoric growth of GoPro, the company, has prospered due to millions of GoPro… the moments. Watch the video and enjoy the moment, then tell me you don’t remember the brand.

Graphic Design Roots – Proper Typography

When I started my printing business way back in 1990, typography was still a commonly used graphic arts term that denoted one of the fundamental components of good to great graphic design. This also marked the early years of desktop publishing when typography and typesetting was now accomplished on a personal computer instead of relying solely on very big and expensive typesetting devices. As time and technology move on, classic typesetting practices and the professionals who truly know, understand, and apply proper typesetting fundamentals are fewer and far between. A questionable sign of progress I suppose.

But all is not lost. As the magic of technology and communications often provides, clever and creative presentations and expressions of virtually everything in the universe appear at our fingertips; which is how this video arrived in my inbox today.
I invite you to view and enjoy this short video on the History of Typography. Whether you could care less about this topic is almost a moot point… this 5 minute presentation is fun, super creative, and educational too!

By the way, this describes our creative and production services at Catamount Marketing and Paw Print & Mail. You might contact us to discuss your next print, direct mail, graphic design, content writing, and website development need.