Tag : roi

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]

50: Get Better Advertising ROI for Free

Point & ShootEvery summer, I walk into the National Auctioneers Association’s trade show to look at which advertising pieces won in the categories biplane’s work did not. Every year, there is at least one award given to a piece identical to the prior year’s winning entry, just with a photo and text swap. Same colors, same font, same exterior layout.

I know this. Many of the auctioneers in the competition do, too. Unfortunately, though, the lesson is lost on most: good photography can trump subpar design.

Sadly, though, good design can’t trump subpar photography. Believe me, I’ve tried. So often, an idea for a top-shelf layout is neutered by dark and/or low-resolution pictures, cluttered and/or grainy photographs. Sometimes, I can partially repair some shots in Photoshop; the rest of the time, the images look like still frames from a 7-Eleven surveillance video.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ve seen a lot of auction advertising images with 72 lines of, “This auctioneer didn’t take the time to put this property in its best light.” Your seller sees that. Your prospective buyer sees that. Your brand is associated with that.

If that brand isn’t worth a professional photographer’s fees to you, here are some simple tips to improve your advertising’s photography:

Get out of your vehicle.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Photoshop’d rear view mirrors from images! Candid camera just captured your laziness—not a cool brand image.

Aim away from the sun.
Silhouettes remove detail—great for dramatic portraits from your vacation but killer for that commercial property you’re trying to sell.

Shoot in the middle of the day.
Unless you’re going for dramatic scenery shots, avoid long shadows. If at all possible, avoid one building’s shadow being cast on your subject real estate.

Illumine all interior lights.
Even if you’re shooting in the day time, turn on all interior lighting prior to photographing. Make sure you’re not standing in front of a primary light source when photographing a room; if at all possible, shoot perpendicular to your light source.

Set your camera to its finest/best image quality.
Almost weekly, I open well-intentioned (even beautifully captured) pictures that are only a small fraction of the image size my cell phone camera takes. You want to use the image “quality setting” that will create the largest files and fit the fewest images on the memory card. Your designer can always batch-reduce them for you to use on the web. But there’s no such thing as successfully enlarging low-resolution digital images to match natively-large ones.

Don’t use a flash.
If your point-and-shoot camera needs to pop the flash to capture your stationary subject, it’s not properly lit. Your outdoor real estate shots cannot be helped by standard camera flashes, either. If you must use a flash, do not aim at reflective surfaces (windows or mirrors, chrome or painted metal) . If your flash can be aimed vertically instead of horizontally, rotate your flash toward the ceiling.

Photography lives as an under-valued skill. True: anybody with a camera can take pictures of what you’re selling. But cameras are limited by mechanical ability and unbreakable physical laws. They can’t always compensate for user ignorance. So, be intentional about your auction photography; otherwise, it might be your brand nonchalance you’re capturing.

Many believers, especially celebrities, think all there is to living the Christian life is experiencing a faith conversion. That’s the most important step of a journey with Christ, but the rest isn’t just automatic—any more than a child’s education and maturation can healthily advance without the intentional input of others.

Our walk must be intentional, a pursuit of God’s voice and a community of faith. We cannot grow alone. In our American culture, where independence and self-actualization are not just praised but ingrained, it’s easy for us to think we can do this God thing by ourselves. Just because we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, the example of Jesus, and the word of the Father, doesn’t mean we instinctively know how to harness the potential of all of that.

That’s why mature Christians are commanded to seek and counsel those young in the faith. And new believers are told to walk alongside those who’ve been on the path a while. In theory, we all should be reaching a helping hand forward and backward at the same time—to be a somewhat-absorbent conduit of insight and encouragement.

So, whose hands are you holding right now?

[footer]Images used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/footer]

19: Do Shotgun Advertising Weddings Make Sense?

Utah BrideWith the rising cost of postage, more and more auctioneers are trying to bundle multiple auction direct mailings into one postcard/brochure (or one email). The shared cost efficiency allows for more expanded marketing of each auction, but significant drawbacks can balance those benefits. The answers to the following key questions will tell you whether or not the gains outweigh the losses.

Are these like-kind properties?
Being offered at auction is not enough of a common denominator. I opened my mailbox a few weeks ago to a brochure with a trailer park on the outside cover and a mountain retreat home and luxury golf course residence on the inside spread. I’ve received another with a NASCAR® collectibles sale on the front and investment and historic real estate properties hidden inside. You will muddy your company brand, when your brochures have multiple personality disorder.

Am I weakening the auction spotlight?
One of the advantages the auction method holds over traditional listing rests in the attention it draws to individual offerings—be it a single item or group of related items. The closer your piece looks to an ad or flier from an MLS firm, the less advantage the auction method’s advertising has. Singular emphasis on the first impression panels (the mailer and opposite flap) are easier to read and more likely to take the reader’s attention to the inside of the piece.

Is my mailing list too generic?
If your mailing list makes sending a tractor brochure and a real estate postcard separately redundant (or a hog farm and a horse farm), it’s time to segment your list(s). Some people might be interested in more than one type of property you sell, but most will have only one or a few interests. You create dissonance in your prospects, when they get mail from you which doesn’t interest them. You can become the auctioneer who cries, “Wolf!” And that might lead to them not opening any mail they get from you. Plus, you waste postage and printing on non-prospects mixed in with the interested. Split your lists; give web visitors and auction-goers the ability to sign up for specific categories or lists—for both printed and electronic mail. Then watch your return on investment (ROI) rise.

Does this piece do all of the auctions justice?
I get some brochures with several weeks’ worth of auctions, and I wonder if sellers are comfortable with their property being advertised for a week while the auctioneer’s other clients get longer exposure. Don’t hamstring an auction trying to create budget space. An auction inadequately exposed often leads to an inadequate commission check. People buy properties, not auctions. Don’t rely on the sale method to compensate for the deficiencies in your marketing.

What’s the order of priority?
Most auctioneers use the sale date to determine what goes where on a brochure or ad. If marked as an auction calendar, this makes sense. But calendars are meant for organizing, not advertising. Since everything can’t come first on the calendar, priority becomes an issue. What owns priority grabs emphasis; what owns emphasis grabs attention. Everything else, by default, gets the leftovers. The biggest draw should have the best and/or biggest spot. If giving prominence to one property over another creates an enigma, give each buffalo its own prairie; release them separately.

Are there alternatives?
You can concentrate (and thereby shrink) your mailing list by raising the qualification standard—and then send separate pieces to the same, reduced list on back-to-back days. You can send two smaller pieces using the savings in printing and design to offset some of the postage. You can use separate ads and emails and only combine for the direct mailing. You can stuff an individual brochure or postcard inside another brochure—so that the pieces are separate except for mailing. You can use online printers for short quantities but with postal discounts achieved by inclusion in their daily collective/mass mailings.

Separate mailings will further help establish your brand, if you sell different kinds of items. The key question to mull is this: is what you’re about to send targeted marketing? If not, then what is your competitive advantage? You may not always need or want tailored advertising—just the answers for your sellers as to why you don’t.

It makes sense that the car I share with biplane is uniquely designed, quick to respond, and inherently customizable; that’s my brand.

It makes sense that my firm uses attractive computers and intuitive software; that’s my competitive advantage in the industry.

It makes sense that this attic home school grad would work comfortably in his basement; that’s the sovereign foreshadowing woven into my story.

It makes sense that this Generation X/Y-er goes to a church where tee shirts and jeans are the standard attire and the music beat can be heard in the parking lot; that’s my personality.

I hope it makes sense to those who see me live and who read what I write that I have a passion for God and a growing faith. That’s my goal, and that’s my life. I hope those go together—or at least get closer and closer to congruity.

When someone peeks into your life, does it make sense that you’re living with an eternal perspective? Does what you say and what you do go together? How about your now and your eternity?

[footer]Stock image(s) use by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

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