64: Taking Your ROI to a New Dimension
Do 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.
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.
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.
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]