Direct Mail and The Value of the Printed Piece

Catamount Marketing Direct MailEverything old becomes new again. There’s a revival happening with printing. What was left for dead or dying over the past six or seven years has risen back to reclaim its worthy place amongst digital forms of communication and creativity that we are enveloped in. Print, though different in some ways, has come back around full circle.

Within my own printing business, and in discussions with clients, prospects, and peer marketing discussions, the printed piece, as a marketing communications tool, has patiently regained its place alongside other digital media as an integral component of a multichannel marketing strategy. People consume content in a variety of ways, often all at once, and effective marketing is delivering good content in the most relevant manner, that gets someone with a need to know, like and trust you. Making the printed piece one of those touch points is steadily being employed alongside internet marketing tactics and starts to look attractive in comparison to the bloated volume of interruption email.

But here’s the deal, whether by inbox or mailbox interruption marketing is interruption marketing. If there’s no relevance to me, or my lifestyle, my interests or background, then you’re interrupting me. But deliver a message that speaks to me because you know something about me, what I like, or my connections, and I’ll at least take a look.

The compelling aspect of the printed piece, and in particular direct mail, is holding a tangible piece in my hand that I’m employing more of my five senses to as I consider its message. An attractively designed and creatively worded piece of paper has shelf life potential that email simply doesn’t. If I decide to toss it away, I have to physically hold it and look at it before I decide to do so. While email is more measurable and has the HUGE advantage of connecting me to the power and depth of the Internet, it’s also very easy to delete en mass along with the dozens or hundreds of other messages that I’m flushing daily.  When done right, with a measurable call-to-action and/or directing the reader to a landing page, direct mail is equally as measurable.

Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us enjoy getting mail as part of a daily routine of connection and receiving; except the bills of course. The physical piece in my mailbox stands out and grabs my attention; and if it speaks to me and my interests and needs, I read it, I hold onto it, and I act on it when the time is right.

To make the most of your marketing, including direct mail, contact me at tom@catamountmarketing.com.

 

Storytelling is Content Marketing and it’s Good For Business

Catamount-Marketing-StorytellingFor me, the word “storytelling” conjures up visions of reading bedtime stories; something I fondly remember doing each evening with my daughter in the early years. Early on it was about goodnight moon and how much I loved her, meatballs coming from the sky, a lady who spread lupine seeds and then the adventures of Harry Potter.  But there is so much more…my parents are good storytellers; my Dad’s remembrances’ of his summers at his uncle’s farm in Canada and later his years in the Army, and my Mom’s stories growing up with seven brother and sisters on a rustic Vermont farm. A tad more famous storytellers that come to mind are Andy Rooney, Walt Disney, Yogi Berra, and one of the best of them all, Bill Cosby and his stories about growing up with Fat Albert and the gang. Musically, Bruce Springsteen applies high-energy notes and a heavy beat to his Jersey life stories.

Today, there’s an explosion of storytelling thanks to the Internet and social media. Blogging has become the stage of story tellers everywhere due the ease of both acquiring and spreading information. For years I’ve told many a story in my [printed] Printips newsletter column. With over 2 billion YouTube videos viewed every day, video storytelling is huge and only growing. If you’ll recall, with my trusty iPhone, using the camera, the video recorder, and internet access at my fingertips, I was able to compose and share my unfolding story of the Paul McCartney concert “live” from Fenway back in July.

What’s fueling this growth and popularity? Storytelling is a cornerstone of human existence, and it’s what enables people to communicate and connect with anyone. It’s also what has personalized a somewhat increasingly depersonalized means of communication because of all the different types of technology. I’ve been writing my Printips column for many years and people tell me how much they enjoyed reading stories about my daughter growing up, my wife’s artistic endeavors, and our travel experiences. Stories make a connection between people with shared interests and desires.

In business and work life, storytelling can have many purposes…to teach lessons, spread knowledge, share empathy, offer hope, or add humor when it’s most needed. The traditional Four P’s of marketing (product, place, price, promotion) are being replaced with the Four C’s – content, context, community connection. Seth Godin, arguably the world’s most prolific blogger and content advocate, is a current favorite storyteller of mine and speaks to these values daily on his blog at www.sethgodin.com.

Whatever business you’re in and whatever you goals might be… to initiate social change, make a sale, or make a friend, the people who are best at it are the ones who can tell a story that makes you sit up, listen, and understand. The best storytellers are becoming the best business leaders. Contact Tom at Catamount Marketing to learn how to leverage your stories.

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Content Marketing Using 80,000 Green Bay Packer Fans

Catamount-Marketing-content-marketingAnyone who knows me knows that I’m a big Green Bay Packer fan. Born and raised in Vermont, I’ve been a Packer fan since the mid 1960’s when, as kids in the neighborhood who played a lot of backyard football (we even strung up spot lights on 2×4’s with extension cords running to several neighborhood homes to play night games!), each of us adopted a pro team to represent.

The Packers were in the process of winning the first two Super Bowls so why not adopt the best! Vince Lombardi was King, and players like Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, and Bart Starr were the best in the league. I’ve remained a loyal Green Bay Packer fan ever since.

Though old news today, this image is news to me. My Dad, a proud veteran himself, passed these images to me in an email yesterday, images at a game at Lambeau Field that I was not aware of.

Content marketing can, and does, come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s the management of the Packers and Lambeau Field involving a community of 80,000 fans in a display of lights, color, patriotism, and unity paying homage to our veterans. This extravagant Monday Night Football PR campaign (patriotic yes, and marketing too) completely nailed the 4 C’s of marketing – content, context, community, and connection. Good-to-great marketing today is all about “content”. It’s about sharing content that gets someone, with a need, to know, like, and trust you. You don’t have to be a Green Bay fan like me to see something like this and come away feeling better about the Packer brand. You might even feel good enough to dump the Cowboys and become a Packer fan!

This makes me even prouder to be a Packer fan, and an American, than I already was.

Why Google Sends Me Direct Mail?

Catamount Marketing direct mail servicesI continue to harp on the Renaissance of direct mail and how it’s alive and kicking! Apparently Google thinks so to, putting some of their money into direct mail to attract business. For the past 24 months or so, I’ve received direct mail from this granddaddy of all things digital. Here is arguably the world’s most prolific producer of everything virtual, electronic, and cyber-driven, sending me a printed card in an envelope on a regular basis promoting their AdWords program. You may have received one or two of these as well.

In the envelope is a very simply designed and worded introduction to what AdWords is, how it can help my business, and how to contact Google to get started. These pieces always typically include an attached card with an introductory offer to encourage me to try AdWords for free for a specified dollar value. The card includes an offer code for their research guys to measure effectiveness.

Some instances of these mailings have arrived to me with my company name in the body copy to add a more personal touch; as if speaking to “me”. All-in-all very simple, easy and quick to read and I’m assuming quite effective considering they continue to arrive in my mailbox to this day.

So what is Google doing right with these campaigns? Essentially, all the basics.

  1. List: I don’t know who comprises their mailing list but they found me – a local small business and a good prospect for this product. A relevant and current mailing list is vital to a successful direct mail campaign.
  2. Creative: The design and content is simple, not pushy, and easy to read and decide on; whether to pick up the phone to call them, or to go to their website to learn more, or to decide not to buy.
  3. The Offer: Their offer is again simple, straight forward, and valued to encourage me to take action. A hundred bucks in free advertising? Awfully enticing! Google has all the money in the world to make generous offers (a pretty safe assumption). Your offer would be a balance between a worthy incentive yet not damaging to your business. It’s a good idea to consider a limited time offer to get someone to act and not let them procrastinate or fade away.
  4. Cross-Channel Marketing: This campaigns starts with a direct mail piece which then encourages the recipient to go online to learn more or buy. This is how people generally like to be buy – comfortably approached and informed up front, followed by an easy way to take the next step. Directing a prospect online also allows for capturing an email address for lead nurturing and future approaches.
  5. Measurement: This entire campaign has measurement tools built in so Google knows exactly what their response rate, conversion rate, and ROI is. They didn’t get as big as they are by guessing.

So why does Google send me direct mail? Because it works.

Direct mail may be good for your marketing mix as well. Call Catamount Marketing at 802-865-0299 or contact us to schedule a free discussion about your business and marketing objectives.

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Direct Mail Strategies That Work

In my previous post I dated 10/4/13 I wrote about and displayed statistics showing the favorable performance of direct mail in a cost per lead comparison to other popular marketing communications mediums. In this post I’ll touch on some best practices and ideas to maximize your direct mail efforts.

It All Starts With a Good List

As technology advances, so has the depth and quality of data; in particular mailing lists. Generally speaking, depending on what your business or organization is and what your goals are, the best list to use or start with is your own house list. These are people who have either purchased from you in the past, have expressed interest in doing so, or are prospects you are cultivating. People do business with people they know, like, and trust so a familiar face or name is the best asset you have. If some people on your house list haven’t bought from you for awhile, now is a good time to approach these folks and inspire them to return.

Beyond your house list, renting a list from an experienced list broker can provide you with segmented and targeted contacts to approach that may be strangers, but comprise people with interests and demographics that align with your business and direct mail message.

Managing a proper and well-performing mailing list can take time and be tedious for some, but it’s vital to the performance and ROI of your efforts.

What Format/Style Is Your Audience?

Design and focus on direct mail aimed at your audience. Whether playful, loud, and flashy, or more conservative and business-like, craft the graphic design and content writing that clearly expresses your intention that’s appropriate and relevant to your audience. For one mailing, a fun postcard would work best while for another an envelope mailing comes off as more credible. A good practice is to collect direct mail pieces that catch your eye and form an idea generating foundation for your next direct mail marketing campaign. These samples also help with the planning and discussions you have with your printing/mailing provider or marketing firm.

The Impact of Postcards

Direct mail doesn’t have to be large and expensive to be effective. The U.S. Postal Service found that postcards are the mail format most likely to be read or scanned.

It may be that postcards don’t take much time to read. This means that to be effective, the prospect needs to understand your offer within seconds of glancing at it. Some of the same rules apply to postcards as to emails in terms of how much information can be effectively communicated.

Test postcard performance by using your best-performing promotional email as the starting point. Put the image and header on one side and the body copy on the other. Oversized postcards tend to get more attention, so try a large-format card size. Then see how your postcard test performs against email.

Remember, postcards are a great deal less expensive to print and mail than most forms of direct mail.

When Is an Envelope Not Just an Envelope?

If you are using envelopes, your mailing may be ripe for some testing. The “functional”purpose of the envelope is to contain the contents inside. But “marketing” purpose is getting the recipient to open it and look inside. Consider a message on the outer envelope to encourage an open; and further consider testing different messages – either within the same mailing or over multiple mailings – to help determine which perform best. Include testing a blind outer envelope, with only your return address as well; they can sometimes pull better than an envelope with a teaser line because they don’t notify recipients that they are opening a solicitation. The best approach relies heavily on the audience and the offer. Test, Test, Test.

Personalization Works Best

Personalized communications will almost always out-perform generic pitches in all categories.

But using a person’s name is just the beginning—the content needs to be personalized as well. For example, if you are marketing high tech products that run on different platforms, users will have different hot buttons. A generic message that focuses on only one platform will not be relevant to other customers. Wording that tries to cover issues for all platforms will be cumbersome and uninteresting to most recipients. It’s worth the extra time and small expense to assure that your piece says the right thing to the right people.

Strike When the Iron Is Hot!

Direct mail campaigns used to take weeks to execute because of the time it took to develop concepts, print, etc. That can still be true of large and elaborate campaigns, but now marketers can take advantage of digital print-on-demand.

This allows you to be far more flexible in how you use direct mail. For example, American Signature Furniture once conducted a test, sending a self-mailer to people who visited a showroom but did not buy. The mailer included the customers’ names and the name and contact information for the sales rep who served them, as well as the date and time of the visit. Photos displayed the styles they considered during their visit to the store.

Results were impressive. People who receive the mailer and return to purchase spend about 40% more than those who did not receive the mailer. The reminder also boosted return visits to the store by 10%.

Use direct mail as an adjunct to other sales and promotion efforts. Salespeople who complete a sales call can drop a postcard in the mail on the same day, thanking the customer and perhaps offering a special discount. Direct mail can support an email campaign as well.

Of course, seasonality is important. If your swimming pool-supply business peaks during the warm months, be sure to send direct mail in March reminding pool owners of the delights of the summer to come—and the importance of having a clean, sparkling pool to enjoy.

Go Dimensional

3-D or dimensional mailings, whether they take the form of a box with a teaser on the outside or a tube, outperform standard formats by 250%, according to the DMA, but increase the cost per lead by only 50%.
Use dimensional mailers with high-value prospects, and make an even higher impact by following up with a telemarketing call.  I’ve seen a combination of email, direct mail, and telemarking consistently yield a 13% to 15% response, and once you have them engaged on the phone you can qualify them for lead quality and pass the “A” leads immediately onto the sales department.

Test Test Test Test Test

Amid a plethora of promotional techniques that are extremely hard to quantify (such as social media marketing), direct mail remains refreshingly measurable. Every lead or order can be traced back using source codes or other techniques. This allows you to experiment with different approaches to determine which ones are the most successful. It also allows you to quantify your ROI and justify costs.

Another useful testing process if A/B testing. Within a given mailing, split the list in half with half the recipients receiving Headline or Offer A and the other half receiving Headline or Offer B. Assign a code to each Headline/Offer and track the returns as they come in. This can provide valuable data for not only evaluating the results of that mailing, but for planning and strategy going forward.

Find out how direct mail may generate leads for YOU

Contact Tom Brassard at Paw Print & Mail to learn how direct mail can best perform for your business or organization. Call 802-865-2872 or email tom@catamountmarketing.com.

The Renaissance of Direct Mail

Direct-Mail-BenefitsEverything in life is cyclical, it’s true. Fashion, foods, movies, music, sports, the economy, all go through cycles where a trend begins, plays itself out, is replaced with a different trend, then reverts back to the original or repeating trend. The packaging, technology, and audience may update along the way, but trends and practices are in a constant cyclical state.

So it is with direct mail. Marketing today is certainly digitally-driven using email, Facebook, blogging, Pay per Click, and Tweeting to attract business and generate leads. The Postal Service is losing money and direct mail appears to be down for the count. Right?

Wrong. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail.

According to Direct Mail News, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% for both business-to-business and business to consumer mailings—considerably higher than industry expectations, and surging past electronic mail’s response rate of just 0.12%.

Direct mail is alive and well and going through a cyclical renaissance. As the explosion of digital channels have clogged our inboxes, direct mail finds itself standing out, getting noticed and being integrated into the marketing mix once again. Our clients who have consistently kept mailing are reaping the benefits of staying the course. We’re also seeing a resurgence of mailing activity from new clients following the lead of the classic direct marketers like LL Bean, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and even Google! I regularly receive personalized mail from Google – who practically owns the digital world – in their effort to attract me to their AdWords business.

Cost Per Lead about the Same as Email

The stigma with direct mail is the cost of printing and postage when compared to email. There’s no denying that. But remember, the purpose of doing any marketing approach is to generate leads, right? Therefore the true measure of cost and success is cost per lead. The DMA reports that the cost per lead of direct mail is in line with print and pay-per-click, and significantly less than telemarketing (See Table below). Direct mail production costs are somewhat more than email, but not enough to make email the holy grail of direct marketing when measured against the number of leads generated.

Table: Cost Per Lead Comparison

With a higher conversion rate than any other medium, the Print on Demand Institute (PODI) found that direct mail out-pulled all other channels tested in terms of conversion rates, both for lead-generating “free” offers and one-step “buy now” offers. Direct mail’s edge becomes even more dramatic when it is optimized with personalization and other factors, and combined with personalized landing pages.

Try adding your existing landing page URL to direct mail. Some buyers really prefer to respond online, and this may bring in more business at zero additional cost. This becomes even more effective when you use a personalized URL (PURL) that is easy to remember and to type—www.yourcampaignname/John.Doe makes it simple for customers to type into their Internet browser.

Direct mail also enjoys longer “shelf life” than email, so it might be profitable to evaluate your existing landing pages and offers to see what can be re-purposed to offer through direct mail. If you do, remember that people may access it weeks after the mailing, so make sure that the pages and offers are still good—or put a firm deadline on response time.

Check out my next post coming soon where I’ll highlight various types of direct mail formats and the technology energize them for even higher response rates!

Whether you currently do direct mail marketing or are considering it, contact us today to learn how direct mail may be good for your marketing mix.

Why a banquet table for “5” may be better than for 10

Most of us have attended banquets of one form or another. I just attended a large fundraising banquet last evening. Big round tables for 10 people are the tradition; but what if the table sat only 5? Maybe it’s  time to challenge the status-quo in favor or “really” bringing people together to engage.

Read Seth Godin’s blog dated 9/29/13 http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/09/the-secret-of-the-five-top.html

My Kudos to Hubspot and Inbound 2013

Hubspot-Inbound2013Sue and I just returned from 3 invigorating and inspiring days at Hubspot’s Inbound 2013 Marketing Conference at the Hynes Center in Boston. With 5300 attendees, this is the world’s largest inbound marketing event – and they did it right. From the keynote speakers of Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington, Scott Harrison, and Nate Silver, to the 150+ marketing experts and speakers teaching, sharing, and learning throughout the week’s events, to the evening social events highlighted by a concert by pop rock band One Republic on Wednesday night, Hubspot’s hard work putting this event together truly paid off.I plan to follow up this post with my take-away’s from this event over the next few days, but for now this is a simple and heartfelt Kudos to Hubspot for who they are and what they gave this week.

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Bringing inbound marketing and a good cause together


We have no idea. When we’re thirsty for a glass of water, make a pot of pasta, do some laundry, water the garden, or use the toilet, clean water is at our fingertips. Imagine if instead of turning the faucet we had to walk a mile or more to fetch our water to bring back home to use. Hard to believe this could exist today, but it does, in parts of the world where time and resources haven’t caught up to our standard of living.Yesterday I shared a video about Charity:Water and their efforts to bring safe and clean drinking water to everywhere it’s not. At the Hubspot Inbound 2013 marketing conference that Sue and I attended last week, we each experienced picking up two 5 gallon cans of water (40 lbs each) and walking down and back on a 20 foot stage. That’s a lot of weight and a very short distance. Imagine having to do this daily for long distances just to have some water at home.For every person who walked the stage, Hubspot donated $45 to Charity: Water. Thank you Hubspot… you made a difference.