Late last year, my agency received a number of calls from companies who generated leads through telemarketing.
"We cant 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 doesnt 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, its essential for the homeowner to start early because as we say in our letters, "Theres only one way to stop turfgrass disease, crabgrass, foxtail and other invaders to your lawn and thats 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 theyve ever done so they can see exactly whats worked and hasnt 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.
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.
So one of the lift notes we proposed said, "Please read this if you used a lawn service last year and you werent 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 werent getting the service they were promised or the results.
"Thats 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!
Inside, it included a mock "Lawn Analysis Form". The letter copy began with the questions: Whats 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.
Its Easy Being Green
In direct marketing, we usually focus on the words and of course, theyre 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. Thats 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 Scots LawnService had ever achieved.
I wasnt 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 youll want to have Scotts take care of it for you.
Scotts was so pleased with the results, theyve entered the campaign in this years Echo Awards, where we hope to turn green into gold.
© Alan Rosenspan & Associates