Tag : dimensional-mail

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160: Creative Ways to Get Past the Gatekeepers to Your Prospects

Last year, one of my clients asked me for a creative solution to attract major developers to a multimillion-dollar auction. The property in question was a large expanse of vacant land next to a huge highway and surrounded by hundreds of homes in subdivisions. It was one of those properties that could practically sell itself.

My idea? Go to the property with a trowel; scoop some of its dirt into plastic storage bags; insert an attention-grabbing, moisture-resistant postcard into the dirt; and mail the package to his top 25 prospects.

The call to action: “Here’s some free dirt from your next development project. Name your price for the rest of it now at [insert URL].”

What do you think the chances are that the recipient visits that link? 

Effective advertising is interruptive and disruptive. It stops what the recipient is doing. Then it changes their focus, even if temporarily. We stand a better chance of getting prospects to our marketplace—our website—when our advertising “interruption” shifts the prospect’s focus and attention to us, and away from their task at hand.

Having been inundated with various advertising media, savvy consumers have become adept at filtering ads—blurring them into the background and mitigating their disruption value. We’ve enlisted SPAM filters, DVRs, remote controls, station presets, banner ad blockers, and even monthly subscription fees to keep us in our ad-free safe zone.

So, what is an advertiser to do? Well, one of the best ways to circumvent that consumer defense is the element of surprise; and one of the best vehicles for that is dimensional mail. Dimensional mail typically gets past the gate keepers, even in corporate settings. It furthermore allows for a unique advertising vehicle that is quite possibly underused and unmatched by your competitors.

It’s fairly easy to connect the problems of sellers or intermediaries with inexpensive items like:

“We can alleviate your headache.”

Coffee Packet or Energy Shot
“Could your marketing use more energy?”

Empty Plate
“Let us take some of the stress off your plate.”

Toy Handcuffs
“Do you feel handcuffed by your [situation]?”

(mailed with one sock right-side-out and the other inside-out)
“Does your vendor know [asset category in question] marketing inside and out?”

“Carrying costs keeping you up at night? We can help you sleep easier.”

Gardening Gloves
(even better: sent dirty)
“We get our hands dirty so you don’t have to.”

Oreo Cookies
“These should be the only OREOs on your desk.”

You get the idea.

This concept isn’t for mass marketing. It isn’t for everyone on your company’s mailing list. This is for a few prospects at a time. I’d recommend sending a series of these per wave of prospects before following up with a sales call and/or email.

You still won’t “win ‘em all.” I’m not promising an overnight marketing success or some guaranteed silver bullet; but I will leave you with a thought to ponder: which would you be most likely to open and read, though: a generic sales letter or an interesting package with a cleverly-written tag line?

Do you suppose your prospects are any different from you?

Special thanks to Gillian Zimmerman for her freelance editing help on this post!
Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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154: Why Businesses Advertise Backwards

When someone says “Super Bowl commercial,”  your mind probably imagines one of the whacky or sentimental spots that Forbes reports costs $5 million per 30 seconds in this year’s Super Bowl. This creative ad, though, won’t be shown Sunday night. It’s a commercial about Super Bowl commercials.

The moral of this short story is that Super Bowl commercials are big gambles for the vast majority of brands in our country. Most of us get that; so, the ad plays as an inside joke.

That said, I regularly see auctioneers fall for the same line of thinking: that a bigger audience is a better audience. I’ve seen auction marketers try to hedge their bets with the assumptions that a bigger mailing list is better than a small one, that a metro newspaper with 300,000 subscribers trumps the local paper with fewer than 5,000 weekly readers, or that a boosted Facebook post to everybody in a radius beats a demographically-targeted post to 1,200 people.

Maybe sometimes. Not usually, though.

Media is typically sold to advertisers using a measurement called “cost per mille.” The basic idea is to take the cost of an advertisement and divide it by the quantity of potential audience impressions. So, if you pay $500 to reach 10,000 subscribers, you’re looking at cost of $50 per thousand.

In the auction industry, my clients are regularly marketing to smaller audiences.

So, I like to take that one step further and determine the cost per person. In the example above, you as an advertiser would be looking at an investment of $.05 per person. This number can be helpful, when budgets are tight; and you’re looking for the most efficient media possible. We all want the most bang for the buck.

The problem with both cost per mille and cost per person, though, is that they distract from a more important metric: cost per prospect. Cost per mille asks, “How many people can I reach with my money?” Cost per prospect asks, “Who are my most likely buyers (or sellers)? What will it cost to reach them?” Cost per mille promotes scale. Cost per prospect promotes efficiency and effectiveness.

Size of the audience is less important than relevance of the audience.

Whether it’s a mailing list or a publication, a website or a social media platform, the primary question marketers should ask is not, “How big is its reach?” but “Are these the right people?” It’s the difference between spectators and participants. (Helpful tip: we want participants.)

Once you know you have the right people, divide your budget by the number of those prospects to determine what you can spend per potential client. If you don’t have a budget big enough to make a good impression to all of the prospects, maybe sift those prospects down to a quantity you can. Some auctioneers work it the other way, cutting the size or impact of the media. So, they send a postcard instead of brochure or an email instead of direct mail.

For company promotion, I’d keep sifting until I can make an impression that can’t be ignored. It’s not uncommon for me to spend $150 to $500 of my time and resources per potential client I pursue, but I only work for 15-30 auction companies per year. I’ve helped auctioneers spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on a single proposal presentation to a single client. The nuclear company in my area probably spend tens of thousands of dollars to convince a power company or municipality to buy one of their eight- and nine-figure reactor systems. Your effort should be proportional to the value of their business.

That might mean you’re looking at mailing a package instead of a postcard, arranging a free seminar instead of an advertorial in the business journal, or drafting hand-written notes instead of form letters. Discover what would impress a client; then do it.

A media sales representative can’t tell you your cost per prospect.

Only you can do that. Whether you’re actually taking a calculator or spreadsheet to it is less important than operating from the prospect mindset. Start with the audience and work backwards. If you’re going to gamble, improve your odds. Work to find the valuable few instead of the risky many. No matter how many people see your advertising media, you want the ones who do interact with it (1) to relate to the content and (2) to be impressed.

Feature image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

64: Taking Your ROI to a New Dimension

Oscar the GrouchDo you remember the musical feature that Sesame Street used to play called “One of These Things [Is Not Like the Other One]”? Just in case you didn’t, it showed a grid of four items, one of which was different than the other three. Even for little children, the odd item stood apart from the other options.

Decades later, we’re still playing that game—every day—with advertising. Estimates vary, but it’s assumed that Americans absorb between hundreds and multiple thousands of marketing messages every day. As we drive, watch TV, open our mail, and surf the Internet, we’re consciously or unconsciously trying to filter the brands we’ll trust and what we want to purchase from them.

It’s not just us as individual people. Businesses (yours included) are playing the other side of the game, trying to be that exception that people will notice above competing options. I’ve helped auctioneers try neon & metallic inks, complicated folds, oversize brochures & postcards, and loud designs—all in hopes of grabbing and holding attention with the few seconds their pieces will have to make their respective impressions.

Direct mail’s still a good start. As postage continues to rise, the players still mailing will have a larger share of the mail box. And the more our media goes digital, the more power a tactile medium like direct mail will have, especially hand-written notes and unconventional pieces.

One of the leading categories of such unconventional pieces is dimensional mail, mail that arrives in three-dimensional packages like padded envelopes, boxes, tubes, and plastic cases. The shapes and construction vary greatly from nondescript exteriors with flashy contents to pieces that are rubber band-loaded to erect into shapes upon opening, like this one [see sample] that I recently found in my mail box.

Dimensional Mail ClosedDimensional Mail Open

For the last month, I’ve been getting a Google Alerts® email every day with stories of dimensional mail. It’s a growing trend in direct mail that neither you nor I can ignore, because you’ve never seen response rates like these—even for direct mail, which typically trumps all but telemarketing in direct marketing response rates.

In one recent study of executives with companies of more than 1,000 employees, 85% “said they would be more likely to open an item if it was especially large, odd-sized, or appeared to have come by a delivery service other than the U.S. Post Office – FedEx, DHL, even UPS fared better than the USPS to convey urgency.”† Those executives aren’t alone, as articles like this one point to US response rates measuring from 7%-30%.††

Want a real world example?

AlphaGraphics . . . scored an impressive 21-percent response rate by including lumpy, or dimensional, mail [a branded Rubik’s Cube] in a recent multichannel campaign . . . ‘It’s more important than ever to do something unique in your approach that will attract consumer attention,’ says Jesse Himsworth, AlphaGraphics channel marketing manager.”†††

I’ve got one better than that, though. Shearer Printing & Office Solutions, which handles a large percentage of biplane productions‘ printing and mail fulfillment, has gone almost exclusively to dimensional mail to market their services to prospects. As a printing company, they could print any number of elaborate, creative pieces. In fact, their company brochure won the 2010 USA Today / NAA award for best company brochure.

Yet they don’t use any branded piece in the first three mailings of their introductory marketing campaign. They use a series of unmarked tubes [shown below] without any Shearer-branded marketing materials inside—just everyday items that together illustrate their services; these tubes are sent in succession and followed by a phone request for a sales presentation. In one recent campaign to 72 prospective customers, this dimensional mail campaign garnered them 31 in-person presentations (43% of recipients) and 19 clients (26% of recipients), plus referrals from those 19. The transactions generated from these responders have totaled over 20 times the dollars spent on the campaign.

That’s serious return on investment! Shearer got their pitch past the office gate keepers and earned over $100,000 in business from a mailing list of less than 75 addresses.

Why? Because they rigorously segmented their customer base. They created intrigue with a coy, unique presentation. They chose a message that applied to their prospects’ business environment, and they reinforced the impression with multiple submissions.

Shearer Printing Tubes
Dimensional mail, admittedly, costs more than traditional direct mail and other media per impression. At the same time, though, it has the potential to be far more efficient and effective in landing new customers, because the impressions are more indelible.

Don’t be a snuffleupagus. Even Oscar the Grouch would admit that ROI trumps raw numbers. Just take a look at dimensional mail the next time you’re looking to drum up some new business.

(Further links and tips related to dimensional mail will be posted on biplane productionsFacebook and/or Twitter streams.)

Ever since that formative Sesame Street period in our lives, we’ve been looking for things that stand out to us—things that take our breath away, special people to befriend, idiosyncratic pastimes to pursue, fulfilling adventures to be conquered. And, if you’re like me, you’ve at one time or many tried to stand out yourself.

I’ll admit that some of this has been intentional on my part, even factoring into where I go on vacation, what I wear and drive and do for kicks, what I post on Facebook—what I write. In the YouTube and Twitter generation, I know I’m not alone. Ironically, our culture seems to want to be heard but not to hear each other. (Have you watched cable news lately?)

I just attended a bible-based leadership summit, where admitted atheist and bestselling author Jim Collins revealed one of the greatest pieces of personal advice he’d ever received: “Jim, you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you spend more time being interested?”

Of all the things said over two days of continuing education, that convicted me most. I’m working on that selfless task but have a long way to go. How ’bout you? How are you doing at investing in others’ lives more than your crafted legacy?

[footer]†”Dimensional Mail Most Effective Direct Response Strategy for B-to-B Sales – Part 1″ www.derniersarticles.com, July 29, 2010
†† “Direct Mail Response Rates – Pop Up sender to prove profitable for a B2B direct marketing.” www.advertisingdirectmail.doodig.com, July 18, 2010
††† “Add Dimension to Your Mail: How lumpy mailers are helping marketers boost response rates. www.delivermagazine.com, July 30, 2010: Christine Hansen

Image of Oscar the Grounch & Sesame Street screen-captured from online video.[/footer]