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National Mail Order Association (NMOA)
Direct Marketing
and Mail Order


Scotts LawnService:
Turning Green into Gold

Late last year, my agency received a number of calls from companies who generated leads through telemarketing.

"We can’t call anymore — so we have to make our direct mail work much harder for us."

One of them was Scotts LawnService®, a division of Scotts. Scotts LawnService is a $100 million company that provides lawn care and service primarily to homeowners.

Their control package promised you a "thick, green Scotts lawn…without lifting a finger" and it performed well for many years. However, even the best package can become tired and response started to go down.

And with "Do Not Call," Scotts needed to boost response — and do it quickly.

Timing was Critical

Scotts doesn’t have the luxury of year-round testing. They need to mail in January and February for two reasons:

First, they want to reach people before they have been contacted or signed on with another lawn service company. (More about this later — because it played an important role in one of our tests.)

Second, it’s essential for the homeowner to start early — because as we say in our letters, "There’s only one way to stop turfgrass disease, crabgrass, foxtail and other invaders to your lawn — and that’s before they gain a foothold."

So we had to do a lot of work every quickly.

We began with a day-long consultation at Scotts headquarters in beautiful Marysville, Ohio. (Town slogan — "Where the Grass is Always Greener.")

We went though all their previous mailings, and talked about the lessons learned. One of the great things about Scotts is they keep a binder of every direct mail test they’ve ever done — so they can see exactly what’s worked and hasn’t worked.

What was obviously working was their offer. Scotts would send a representative to give the homeowner a Free Lawn Analysis. This was a no-obligation inspection of your lawn, which identified problem areas, and also included an estimate.

Based on this intensive work session and briefing, we came back with three different recommendations.

1. Improve on the control.

Controls are controls for a reason — they work. So the first thing we did was suggest some minor changes and tweaks on the existing direct mail package.

Scotts had made what I consider to be a critical mistake. They were selling their product or service — instead of selling the offer. So we took their existing control and hyped the offer.

This included putting the offer right on the outer envelope — and a chart of what it included on the back.

The result: this package pulled 31% better than the control.

This was the only change in the package. I’ve seen similar lifts with other clients. If you have a good offer (and you should) make sure you tell people about it right away.

Hyping the offer was a no-brainer; but what else could we do to their control that would improve response?


The chart on back of the envelope.

2. Add to the control.

The second recommendation involved the use of lift notes. As you know, lift notes are the little extra enclosures in a direct mail package that are included to "lift" response.

They usually say things like, "Please read this if you have chosen not to respond."

But we went one step forward — and we tested the strategic use of lift notes. We identified several different barriers that might stop people from responding to our mailing.

  • One of the barriers might be cost – so we tested a lift note that address the issue head-on, and gave them an idea of what a typical program might cost.
  • Another might be trust. Scott products are well-known and trusted – but Scotts LawnService is fairly new. So we reassured prospects with this:

    "Every Scotts professional is a graduate of Scotts Training Institute, headquartered at the world's largest turfgrass research facility in Marysville, Ohio.

    "No untrained, part-timers will ever set foot on your lawn."

    • Finally, one of the barriers was that the homeowner may have already selected a competitor. They could have signed on early in the year or they might have signed on for a multiple year deal.

So one of the lift notes we proposed said, "Please read this if you used a lawn service last year…and you weren’t completely satisfied."

Inside the copy continued, "Did you know — more than 1 out of every 3 customers of Scotts LawnService started with a different lawn service?

"They switched to Scotts because they just weren’t getting the service they were promised — or the results.

"That’s why Scotts LawnService wants to make sure you know that you are not locked-in to your current lawn service. You can cancel immediately simply by calling them, or sending them a note or e-mail."

This lift note proved to be the winner – and lifted response to the control by 21%.

3. Beat the control

Scotts had been testing variations on their control for several years – maybe it was time for a brand new package.

This was the fun part – do something completely different. The agency came up with several new concepts – and imagine our surprise when Scotts agreed to test them all!

They included:

  • "Reveal" where we focused on before and after. We showed people what a typical lawn looks like before Scotts, then asked them to unfold the brochure to reveal what it would look like after Scotts.
  • "Neighbors." This was a humorous approach that said, "Your Neighbors Will Turn Green With Envy…(and so will your lawn!)"
  • "Invaded" which showed all the different kinds of weeds and bugs that are trying to destroy your lawn. The designer created a frightening border that we used on the outer envelope and the cover of the brochure.
  • "Proposal." This was a 9-inch X 12 inch envelope personalized with the message "Lawn Analysis Enclosed for Your Address."

Inside, it included a mock "Lawn Analysis Form". The letter copy began with the questions: What’s wrong with your lawn?

Not many companies are willing to test so many executions. But the results proved that the investment was well worth it.

There was one more factor that came into consideration.

It’s Easy Being Green

In direct marketing, we usually focus on the words — and of course, they’re critically important.

But what impression does the prospect get when they open your direct mail — what do they see? This can also be an important element and drive response.

For Scotts, the answer was easy — we wanted them to see green. That’s why in every package, we were careful to focus on the beautiful green lawn — the visual promise of what Scotts LawnService would do for you.

The Winning Package

The "Proposal" package beat the control by 51% — the highest lift in response that Scot’s LawnService had ever achieved.

I wasn’t surprised. Size does matter — at least when it comes to direct mail, and larger packages seem to consistently outpull smaller ones.

We also think this package is improving conversion, because once you see just how many things can go wrong with your lawn — you’ll want to have Scotts take care of it for you.

Scotts was so pleased with the results, they’ve entered the campaign in this year’s Echo Awards, where we hope to turn green into gold.

Back to Beat the Control



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