Tag : media

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177: Is the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising Costing You Money?

Our culture uses the words advertising and marketing interchangeably. So does the auction industry in which I work, even though they should know the difference more than most industries.

Most people see the Venn diagram of these two words as this:

Assumption Venn

In actuality, the Venn diagram looks something like this:

Venn Reality

Let me explain.

Marketing is the strategic pursuit of qualified prospects.
Advertising is the media through which marketing decisions are communicated.

In other words, advertising is just a part of marketing. It’s the louder, more flamboyant part; but it’s only a part.

3 real-world examples of this differentiation:

Marketing is my alma mater importing palm trees, lining walkways and roadways with them, and paying us grounds crew guys to insulate the non-native trunks so that they’d make it through the winter. Marketing is putting a palm tree in the college’s logo. Advertising is all the media that includes said logo and is sent to Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—the states from which a large percentage of our student body came.

Advertising includes all the direct mail, newsprint, and signs my former employer dispersed before one of our multimillion dollar land auctions. Marketing is the multi-parcel system they used to get maximum value out of a property. Marketing is the software they wrote for that system when the personal computer was first invented. Marketing also includes all the lender luncheons they held in the new geographic markets they pursued.

Advertising got the registered bidders to an on-site auction, where one of my clients was selling his own farm. Marketing showed up when, after chatting up the attendees, he phoned a friend to get a sight-unseen starting bid by the acre.

Auctioneers make a marketing decision when they choose between live, simulcast, timed online, or sealed bid platforms. Same goes for when they choose whether to offer a buyer broker commission and, if so, at what percent.

Marketing determines who the prospects are, what they want to know about the asset or service at hand, and where to go to connect with these prospects. Advertising just executes that plan, and advertising decisions are easier once the marketing strategy has already been made.

Why do I make this distinction?

Because often, auctioneers ask me to recommend and/or execute advertising campaigns without that marketing foundation. I regularly seem to surprise auctioneers, when I ask them, “Who is your buyer for this asset?” or “Why would someone want this asset, or how would they use it?” The same goes for similar questions, when chasing auction sellers. (For the record, I also have stellar marketers as clients who start our correspondence with this information or answer these questions with dexterity.)

A marketing plan and an advertising budget are two different things. We can spend money on a standard media program that crosses a lot of t’s and dots a to of i’s. Or we can target prospects through the filters of cultural trends, asset appeal, market demand.

I gladly generate media all day. That’s how I make my money. But it behooves auctioneers to think bigger than just the box of advertising. Because marketing is how you make your money.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

109: When Is An Audience Too Big?

F150 AdThis coming Sunday, corporations will be spending roughly $4 million for each 30 seconds of advertising they obtain.  Even at these rates, available commercial slots for 2014’s big football game sold out in 2013.  It’s the most watched TV show in North America every year with an expected audience of 108,000,000 consumers.

If you’re doing the math at home, that’s 3.7¢ that advertisers spent per potential viewer.  Most media won’t break it down for you like that—instead going with cost per mil (CPM), which means cost per thousand viewers.  In this case, that’s $37.04.

Whenever I see expensive ads like these, I wonder three things:

(1) How many times someone has to see this ad before they decide to purchase?
(2) How many units does the advertiser need to sell just to break even on this commercial?
(3) How much of that product’s average price go to just this commercial?

Take, for instance, the Ford F150.  Ford sold 763,402 F150’s in 2013—the most of any vehicle sold in the US by far. If Ford Motor Company purchased only one 30-second Super Bowl spot and if this were the only ad that they ran all year, every truck’s price would include $5.24 for just this ad.  Based on the number of TV and magazine ads for the F series that I see in my limited broadcast media interaction every year, I wouldn’t be surprised if owners of new F150’s are paying for more than $1,000 in advertising.

Whatever the number is, Ford & Chevy, Verizon & AT&T, and Budweiser & Coors have found it reasonable, if not necessary, to spend so much on mass marketing.  For my clientele, too, a CPM of $37.04 would seem a good deal for their small business marketing, especially their event marketing.

That $37.04 can be deceiving, if not expensive, though.

Half a decade ago, one of my former clients—no longer in business—asked me to advertise a New Jersey construction equipment auction in the Philadelphia Enquirer and the New York Times.  I asked him, “How many people looking for an excavator look in the Sunday classifieds of a metro paper?”  If every one of the combined 2,342,631 subscribers of those papers on Sunday happened to turn to that ad’s page and also perused until they found that tiny ad—still probably only a fraction of 1% of the audience would care about its content.  And that’s the best-case scenario.

For the same amount of advertising spend, he could’ve bought sizable ads in construction equipment publications and on related websites—where the percentage of audience being qualified prospects would be exponentially higher.  Or he could’ve spent less overall for more conservative advertisements across all of the targeted media.  Sure, the CPM would’ve been significantly higher; but the value would be exponentially higher.

Be careful when an ad agency tries to sell you national ads for a campaign that only needs local/regional media or regional/national asset media.  Most ad agencies in the States make a commission—usually around 15%—back from the media for the advertising you buy.  Commissioned sales reps from both agencies and media alike will sell you on audience size (sometimes called “total reach”); but look, instead, at percentage of likely buyers from that audience.

Instead of CPM, I recommend evaluating media use based on cost per qualified prospect (CPQP).  It’s better to pay a lot to reach people who are likely to pay you a lot.

One of my auctioneer friend’s campaign came at a cost of roughly $65 CPQP, but he only mailed to between 75 and 80 people.  From that very small audience, though, he made over $100,000 in one year. That’s an average of almost $1,300 in revenue per prospect.  Not per sale.  Per prospect.  That’s a number that no Super Bowl advertiser can match and that no ad agency can promise.  While this might be on the high end of expectations, the principle it illustrates holds true.

On a related note, I recommend polling your bidders per media outlay to determine what your cost per bidder is from each. Tim Narhi Auctioneer & Associates do a great job of this and can show a seller what they spent per bidder per media for several years’ worth of auction advertising—including almost any one specific auction.  Those numbers trump any statistic an agency or media rep will tout.

The feather-in-your cap ads like those in the Broncos/Seahawks game might appeal to your ego, but targeted marketing will make that net proceeds check appeal to your wallet.
[tip]

We live in a big world, and the religious affiliation of that population is quite diverse—so much so that I don’t know that any one faith system (or lack thereof) includes a majority of the global population.  For those of us who think the eternal stakes of believing an errant way are high, the temptation is to evangelize to the largest audiences possible.

God uses crusades and impersonal pamphlets.  I’ve met people whose life trajectory has changed from them.  He might even use television and radio programs, in spite of the characters that populate most of them.

From my own experience, though, I’ve seen the most efficient sharing to come on an interpersonal level.  Conversations in a coffee shop, book clubs in a cafe, table talk at a church environment.  Life change happens deepest when lives are rubbing against changed lives—when someone can say what the Apostle Paul did, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

[footer]Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.
F150 image screen captured from online commercial.
Volkswagen ad frame downloaded from Google Images.[/footer]

100: The Pinterest Effect

My Current Pinterest BoardsI take notice, when I hear a question over and over again.  And one question I’ve heard a lot lately is, “What is ‘Pinterest’?”

In short, it’s a social media environment that pulls inspiration from the bulletin board at your local coffee shop or the pin board in your college dorm room.  It’s a live stream of images—called “pins”— pulled from other websites and categorized topically both by the website administrators and again separately by its users.  Each image comes with three optional interactions: like, comment, and re-pin (to your board of pins).

Whereas other social media are based on users generating their own content, Pinterest‘s ease of use and popularity is mostly because its users don’t create the original content.  In fact, approximately 80% of posts are re-pins.†  To avoid copyright violation, the pictures are almost all linked back to their originating sites—be they travel, lifestyle, or entertainment websites.

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

Women typically account for a higher percentage of users than men do on social media*, and they account for anywhere from 68% to 90% of the activity on Pinterest—depending on where you get your stats.  Most posts are often associated with fashion, decor, cooking, crafts, and inventive solutions for household organization.

Pinterest Board: Inspiration for Biplane's New OfficeUnlike Facebook, it’s not intended for conversations.  Pinterest has grown so much and so quickly that Friendsheet.com, a site that makes your Facebook stream look like Pinterest, has garnered the favor of Mark Zuckerburg††—and might someday be a native Facebook option.  Unlike Twitter, it’s not intended to keep users updated on current events.  Unlike YouTube, it’s exclusive.  You can curate your own pin boards and list of followers only if you are invited by someone who is already a Pinterest member.  Unlike Google+, it’s growing like a weed both in number of users and the amount of time those users spend on the site (more than four times longer than Twitter users per month and almost 30 times as long as Google+ users average per month***)—exponentially expanding to over a million average daily visitors.*

So, why do we need yet another social media site?  And what does Pinterest have that we can’t get anywhere else?

Visual simplicity.

Facebook has images.  Twitter is succinct and sortable, too.  Pinterest, though, simplifies everything to one thing: pictures.  No profiles to manage for its content creators and little, if any, reading required by its consumers.  It lets our short attention spans be satiated quickly—or drawn into the bowels of online daydreaming.

If Pinterest were running for president, it’s campaign supervisor would be explaining its surge in the polls emphatically: “It’s the photos, stupid!”

Facebook, the major social media player with more average minutes of use per month than Pinterest understands our culture’s draw to images, as it sees 70% of its users’ activity centers around its photos.**  But that pales to the photo-centricity of Pinterest, which by default, has pictures at just under 100% of activity.

There’s a lesson there for every marketer.  What makes content quickly absorbable is compelling imagery, imagery which Pinterest users tend to pull from predominantly-commercial websites.  Words—even headlines—are secondary.  As a culture, we don’t’ care about explanations and slogans, if we aren’t drawn to them through the picture(s) they accompany.  As a marketer who helps other marketers, I can tell you that if the design of our marketing media centers around large, singular imagery—and those images are professionally staged and captured—our advertising will be far more effective than the current average of small business advertising media.  That goes for small business at large and the auction industry, which I serve, in particular.

Message is important.  And honing your message is crucial.  But Andre Aggassi was right: image is everything.  And, last time I checked, advertising is part of everything.  If the first thing your media recipients and viewers sees is text—no matter how large or bold or colorful—chances are good that you’re doing advertising wrong.  If they see a solid background with a collage of pictures, we are making them work harder (than if we had used one big, full-bleed image) and, in many cases, watering down the primary draw.  Look at advertising for Apple, Nike, Ford, TNT, and BOSE.  They get it.  So should we.

If potential buyers don’t like what they see in the primary image, what makes any retailer, wholesaler, or auctioneer think potential buyers would care what other pictures we have or what the advertisement has to say?
[tip]

The Bible says we humans were created in God’s image (one of the ways homo sapiens were differentiated from the rest of creation).  As believers of The Way, we are to be pictures of Jesus in our culture.  While we are wrapped in individual personalities and exclusive physical containers, the essence from the new core of our souls should shine through those translucent shells.

In contrast, the entropy and temptation for us all is to talk religious words, add Jesus stickers or fabric on the outside, and gather with those who codify and police exterior criteria the way we do.  That’s lazy and destructive.  Jesus didn’t come so that we could shine through the filter of him—or worse: the filters of religion, church, and spirituality.  He came to give us life, to change our core, to change the lightbulb—not the lamp shade—in the fixture.  He wants his truth and love and other attributes to radiate from us.

If today were a snapshot of who you are, and you handed that snapshot to a stranger, what would they see?  If you had to hand it to Jesus as a photo illustration of him, what would you have changed about your day before taking that picture?

[footer]
†” Why Is Pinterest So Addictive?” by Stephanie Buck, Mashable.com. March 24, 2012.
http://mashable.com/2012/03/20/why-is-pinterest-so-addictive/

†† “Friendsheet: The Zuck-Approved Pinterest-Style Facebook Photo Browser” by Josh Constine, Techcrunch.com.
http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/07/friendsheet-the-zuck-approved-pinterest-style-facebook-photo-browser/

* “A Very (P)interesting [infographic]” by Tim, DailyInfographic.com. March 9, 2012.
http://dailyinfographic.com/a-very-pinteresting-infographic

** “In Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy” by Chas Edwards, Adage.com. March 15, 2012.
http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/age-pinterest-instagram-marketers-image-strategy/233270/?utm_source=digital_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage

*** “The Mounting Minuses at Google+” by Amir Efrati, Wall Street Journal. February 28, 2012.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204653604577249341403742390.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
[/footer]

96: Winning The Close Ones

Having helped auctioneers with proposals for over a decade, I’ve found that many auction proposals follow similar outlines and use similar selling points.  So, how do you separate your plan from the competition’s one?

The way you present it.

Our culture is becoming more and more visually stimulated and educated; and your marketing materials need to reflect that—especially your proposals.

Display media choices & other marketing tools.
LoopNet SampleDon’t just list the media you plan to use; show it.  Grab screen captures of the websites on which you plan to list.  Splay covers of brochures or postcards of similar properties you’ve sold.  Maybe even include a digital tear sheet showing what their ad will look like in the newspaper.  You can find similar ways to illustrate press release work, too.  This tactic will save you from burning through past auction brochure samples and allow you to include these samples in PDF presentation via email.  In the past, I’ve even inserted a chart showing the subcategories and quantities of planned direct mail lists.

Sample MediaAnd it wouldn’t hurt to show online bidding screens or a picture of someone bidding online to illustrate that process, especially for an online-only auction.  On at least one occasion, an auctioneer has hired me to build a sample ad or even a full direct mail piece of the property to demonstrate to the seller what they can expect.

Demonstrate numbers with charts & graphs.
Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.”  But knowledge that isn’t easily understood or retained loses its power.  Charts and graphs not only make your information more indelible, they allow you to impress people by the fact that you’re even curating the statistics they illustrate.  If you have some of the following information—and it it puts your work in a favorable light—leverage it for your case!
• Percentage of bidders and/or buyers (on-site vs. online)
• Average quantity of registered bidders per asset type or per geographic location
• Sale prices vs. assessed values
Comparison to Assessed Value
• Price per acre per crop type or land location
Sale Prices Per Acre (Fictitious)
• Breakdown of areas of specialty by quantity of auctions in each category
Areas of Specialty
• Quantities of online only, simulcast, and offline auctions
Bidding Platform
• Media (specific or categorical) choices by number of past bidders or buyers
Pie ChartIllustrate your experience with maps.
My chiropractor has a map in his waiting area showing all the countries from which his clients have come.  Anecdotally, I’ve found that biplane‘s coverage map has given my career experience more credence than the number of auctions I’ve advertised or even the years I’ve been in the business.  To many folks, those units of measure are ambiguous.  Numbers might be relative, but geography is typically a concrete value—especially when selling real estate.  So, show your prospect the nearby locations where you’ve held similar auctions: ““We’ve sold X properties near yours.”  Or show them the geographic expanse of your work, whether that’s by county or by state: “We’ve sold your type of asset from coast to coast.”

The free website, BatchGeo.com, can help you quickly create maps of multiple locations from your database.  Or maybe create a state or county map showing the number of properties that you’ve sold in those boundaries or number of acres successfully auctioned in them.  I’ve been impressed by auctioneers who have mapped in what states and countries they had online bidders and from which they had online buyers.

Your offer—all the things you are promising to do and for what price—will be the deciding factor in whether or not you get the job.  For situations when the proposals on the table will all have similar offers, make sure your proposal gives the impression that you’ll execute the auction with unmatched dexterity.  One way to do that is to use fewer words and more images.
[tip]

I’m not sure that I’ve ever read an entire real estate sales contract, even though we’re preparing to buy our third home in less than a decade.  I’ve never finished reading the iTunes service agreement or all the entry rules in contests to win a trip to the Super Bowl or a new F-150.

And I’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover.

There.  I said it.

I’ve memorized literally chapters of the 66 books—including every verse of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the canon.  I’ve studied entire books going verse by verse.  But genealogies or major prophets usually kill the hitting streak.

I’m grateful that God supplemented all those inspired words with his inspired nature.  Even in its “groaning,” decaying state, Creation teems with colorful illustrations of his creativity, evidence of his perfect engineering, and analogies for his transcribed principles.  It’s no wonder that Romans says nature alone is enough to show us our need of redemption—a rescue from the entropy of our soul.  And it’s critical that we, who have been restored, worship his revealed glory—so that the rocks don’t have to cry out in our place.

[footer]Stock image of graphs purchased from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

42: How Do You Choose Where To Advertise?

Shoe ChoicesIt still resonates as one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard from an auction industry professional. “You know, Ryan, this fancy brochure isn’t to sell this property. It’s to get the next one.” That sentiment became one of the intentional building blocks of biplane productions. I intend my work, in part, to give appropriate showcasing of the properties at hand and making their information easily absorbed. But my sustainable value is in building the look and feel of my clients’ respective brands, so that they will get more and bigger deals.

That’s just brochures and postcards. How about the entire media mix? What criteria do you implement to choose the media you will use to promote your auction? How do you determine what new media to try? Why do some parts of your advertising budget get more dollars than others?

It’s not always to sell the item at hand. But that’s okay, even if it’s the sellers’ money. Your media choices should accomplish at least one of the following imperatives; if it doesn’t, you have some media pruning to do.

Attract buyers for your products
Get bidders to the auction by taking the auction to the bidders. If you’re polling your bidders, you know where they hear about your auctions. Spend the largest percentage of your budget there. If you’re not polling your bidders, you’re lost.

Secure clients for your service
Impress potential sellers with the media your buyers tell you is primary, but don’t forget about trade or interest media that reflect your current and past seller base. Your forays into non-primary media do not need to be large, just consistent and professional.

Convince sellers of your effort
Sometimes, a web site or newspaper’s name trumps its real results. But your seller doesn’t care; and the extra expense may make them more motivated to accept your high bid(s) come auction day. It only costs $135-$685 (depending on state) to hit every newspaper in your state, even if it’s just a 25-word line ad. Buzzword web sites often charge little to nothing to post entry-level listings to their databases. Small ads in more media can help you assuage the demanding seller that you covered your bases.

Keep up with (or trump) the professional Joneses
How do ad reps make money? They convince competing companies that the other is sold on their media. Sometimes, you have to advertise where you do and how big you do to get your auctions and company noticed. Other times, you want to establish your brand in a media before your competition does or give the impression that you’re the market leader. Just make sure through polling and anecdotal observation that it’s not an emperor’s new clothes deal, where you all are spending on something that isn’t there.

Build brand awareness
The person who recommends your services may not be a friend or even a past client. It may be someone who only has seen your professional brand consistently and professionally presented. Potential strategic partners should know who you are. The same goes for your trade and community organizations. Your media should match the personality and strategies of your company, regardless of size.

Not all media are created equal. Sometimes the same media, deployed in a different area doesn’t equal itself at home. Knowing why you’re using a specific media will help you determine how much money and energy you direct to it. You can tailor your advertising budgets to have the same reach while still devoting priority to the media that gain you the most impact—just by sifting your strategy through this 5-piece filter.
[tip]

I’ve endured scores (if not hundreds) of long, drawn-out church presentations for people and people groups who (1) were not in the same place on their spiritual journey and/or (2) were not represented in the building. God’s Word is promised not to return empty, but that doesn’t mean its impact can’t be improved with planning.

At our church (and, I’m sure, others like it), our teaching team sifts every talk through the filter of “the four chairs.” As much as possible, the topic at hand is tailored to apply to the four places from which people at our church come:

  1. the person running after Jesus, wanting to absorb everything they can to grow
  2. the complacent or status quo Christian, who follows God from a distance
  3. the seeker or religious unbeliever, who may even think they’re a Christ-follower
  4. the person who is far from God, who may even be a skeptic or practicing atheist

See, the Bible claims to be profitable for all people in all situations. Church shepherds must guard against disenfranchising one or more of the four spiritual chair sitters, stunting their Jesus journeys or at least wasting their attention. For the rest of us, we need to be prepared to address all four of the chairs filled by those with whom we have God conversations.

[footer]Photo used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

38: (Mail) Box to the Future

The FutureDo you remember road trips before GPS units?  Before mapquest®?  How ’bout work before the advent of email?  Can you imagine switching from your iPod® back to stacks of CD cases?

Technology constantly evolves what we consider normal to new levels of efficiency and effectiveness—and new levels of addiction.

What if I told you that five years from now, the way your direct mail is currently distributed will seem as inflexible as a CD and as inefficient as mix tapes?  You’d probably believe me, thinking that it will be replaced by email or some portable device network. If current trends remain, though, electronic media will continue to take a back seat to “snail mail.”  So, how do you change relative dinosaurs like letters, postcards, and brochures—or the post office system—in a seismic way?

Variable Data Printing [VDP].

VDP allows for different people on your mailing list to get a personalized piece of mail, customized to their interests.  The pictures and/or text can literally change from one recipient to the next—in the same print run.  The process prints your mailing addresses along with the advertising content in one pass, and VDP uses your mailing list database to determine the content to be printed around the address it’s applying.

Some real world examples:

  1. A Midwest seed company printed brochures for its farmer list.  Farmers on the list with known John Deere equipment got brochures that showed green machinery, planting and harvesting the product.  Case/IH owners got red equipment images, etc.
  2. A yard treatment firm sent postcards with aerial images of recipients’ respective properties and acreage measurements along with the cost of the amount of product it would take to treat that lawn surface.  Each card had a different aerial, acreage, and cost estimate.
  3. A luxury automaker allows web users to create a brochure based on the car models, features, and colors each respectively would prefer.  Each brochure shows a car the recipient assembled themselves on the Internet.

Some potential auction uses:

  1. For estates or auctions with both real estate and personal property, one part of your list’s brochures could emphasize the personal property with the other brochures emphasizing the real estate.
  2. For equipment auctions, you could have different brochure covers for different clientele, emphasizing trucks or tractors or skid loaders.  (The same concept would work for specialty or antique auctions, with types of items illustrated dominantly for different parts of the mailing list.)
  3. Multi-property auction brochures could use different priority images and text for the properties closest to certain zip codes or for certain household incomes or for property type, etc.  For multi-tract auctions—where you might have hunting areas, building sites, and tillable land—you can have different postcards or brochure covers for each part of your mailing list.

The benefit is simple: people receive mail they are more likely to read. The longer your piece is handled and read, the more likely you are to gain a transaction—if not a customer.  If your mail seems always something interesting to them, you can accelerate the brand loyalty-building process.

If this sounds like science fiction to you—or at least an extremely expensive possibility only for Fortune 500 budgets—know that companies around the country are already implementing this into their marketing.  In fact, if you’re a biplane client, you may already have.  [expresscopy.com uses a portion of this technology to apply recipient addresses and postal indicia as your postcards are printed.]  biplane productions and Shearer Printing & Office Solutions have been researching how to cost-effectively add this technology to your advertising arsenal for over a year.

I’m sure the future solutions will come with some adjustments, just as learning how to set up station presets on your XM® radio or programming your TiVo®.  But the benefits, including a potential spike in return on investment, will probably make the transition worth the initial growing pains.
[tip]

Technology has allowed mass production—somehow, ironically—to make products more personal. I can purchase an iPod® in three different sizes and nine different colors. I can order a MINI Cooper (from the factory) with over a million different optional configurations.

Somehow this personalization has escaped churches. Sure, we have more denominations than cable channels. But the product—not just the pew experience—in most churches, regardless of format or belief, is mostly mass-applied. Henry Ford would be proud. “You can have any Bible, as long as it’s black.”

Jesus said he knows how many hairs are on each head—times billions of heads. He differentiates between every star in the universe. He is recorded in more conversations with small groups or individuals than in sermons. In Jesus, we have a personal, intimate God.

My spiritual walk has been greatly impacted by the concept of small groups and accountability partnership with other believers. But I’ve more recently seen this approach taken to evangelism, where people—with their baggage, questions, and/or hang ups—are surrounded in small pockets of accepting community. They come to know Jesus from people who want to get to know them. It’s less efficient. It’s often uncomfortable. It’s sometimes messy.

But, based on gospel accounts, so was Jesus’ ministry.

[footer]Photo used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

Why Direct Mail Won’t Die

Mail PunchAs you probably noticed, postage rates just increased again, making direct mail an even more costly component of your advertising campaign. As more and more of our media intake goes digital, I hear entrepreneurs ask if paper mail is worth the cost.

To this, I always respond, “Well, you get what you pay for.”

See, studies (such as this one) time and again report that response rates to direct mail trump web, email, sign, and broadcast media. At one of my clients‘ recent auctions, just under 90% of their on site bidders discovered the auction from the mailed brochure; and 11% of the people on the mailing list attended the sale in person.

Can you imagine if that percentage of the people who read your city’s newspaper or listened to your local radio station came to any of your auctions? At that percentage, billboards would bring hoards of people, and internationally-followed web sites would double the size of your town for a day.

So, why does “snail mail” perform so well?

Geography Saturation

If you want to saturate a neighborhood or zip code with advertising, you can try sky writing or door hangers; but no traditional media can be targeted geographically as tightly as direct mail. Even if an entire neighborhood gets the same newspaper, the chances of everyone reading the page including your ad–let alone the ad itself–prove slim. TV, radio, and especially the Internet own even smaller probabilities of interaction.

Trash Resistance

If you mass-delete some emails, you can always rescue valuables from the trash folder or have someone resend. But we take our time with print mail, as bills and official correspondence hide between the Walmart® fliers and the Lowes® tabloids. It takes more energy and time to “delete” a piece of physical mail than an email. The reader just can’t hit a button on the TV remote or keep driving past your sign or click to the next web page. Recipients must interact with your advertising, if even for a couple seconds.

Portable Lifespan

Direct mail routinely holds a longer shelf life than ads from other media. Signs get passed. TV and radio ads end before the entertainment resumes. If you get lucky, emails might get printed or left in the inbox. Newspapers head to bird cages, recycling bins, and trash cans after the next issue arrives. But I’ve got a piece of direct mail in almost every room of my house. You probably have a stack on your desk, too.

Filter Evasion

As much as it would be welcomed, no physical mail box installs with a junk filter. Unsubscribing from a print mail list requires a web site form or phone call. It’s just easier to carry the mail into the house or back to the office for the garbage can. In that time, though, direct mail is all but guaranteed to interact with a human before its demise.

Welcome Interruption

Web ads distract from the content we want or interrupt us getting quickly to the link we just clicked (hence, their poor click-through rates). Email blasts grow as the weeds of our inbox, between the funny YouTube forwards and critical client messages. Broadcast commercials keep us from continuous entertainment. Newsprint and magazine ads make us flip pages for the rest of the story. But direct mail brightens the mailbox filled with bills and gives us something colorful amidst the perfunctory white envelopes.

Tactile Attraction

My mom had to assign days or weeks for us George kids to get the mail. We all wanted to be the ones to first see and report what the mail man delivered. I still like getting the mail–and not just because that’s where the auction fairy drops my pay checks. Most folks still look forward to opening their mail and cognitively flip through things other people paid to send them. Even [paper] junk mail gets a once-over. Instead of reading subject lines, we get a full mailer panel to grab our attention–or a coy, unidentified envelope to snag our curiosity.

Creative Variety

Email, web, and broadcast media all come in one or two dimensions and can, at best, only engage two of the senses. Direct mail can arrive in any number of shapes and include tastes and sounds, smells and textures. This gives the advertiser more ways to capture and hold attention–and make your advertising more memorable than the next item in the batch.

You can’t pay more for other media to have these attributes. You can, however, supplement them with the media that owns them all: direct mail.
[tip]

I run into so many smart people who tell me that the concept of a Judeo-Christian God is outdated, that modern enlightenment has made biblical faith obsolete or at least the fodder of the uneducated. And while I agree that our culture has exposed religion as just short of pointless, I don’t think we’ll ever outgrow our need to feel the acceptance and warmth of the supernatural.

Like many of my generation, soured by liturgy and litmus tests, I don’t have time for church as a social function, a perfunctory duty, a generational indoctrination. With a heart-beating relationship with Jesus, though, church has become a celebration venue, a family gathering, and a cathartic renewal.

I don’t care how old or smart, rich or successful I become, I will never be able to supplement that wholeness with anything else. It still works for me.

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