Let me take this opportunity to wish you a safe and Happy New Year.
I hope 2005 is your best year ever and I hope you go from strength to strength in the months ahead.
As you look ahead, you might want to ask yourself a few important questions. These are from Re-Imagine, a recent book by business consultant Tom Peters.
Who are you?
I've made a number of resolutions this year, and they include sending out my newsletter on a more regular basis, and trying to add as much value as possible without being promotional.
All the best to you, Alan
Imagine you are a car designer and you show your new design to the client. "Looks good," they say, "But can't we make that left back wheel a little bigger?"
You say, "Um, but wouldn't that make the car drive a little funny?"
"Don't be a Prima Donna," they say, "You've got four wheels. We're only changing one..."
Change may be good, but it's important to keep in mind the original idea of the ad or direct mail piece and make sure it doesn't get lost. Let me give you an example:
MyFamily.com is the largest genealogical search company on the web with over 3 billion records.
Last year, we tested a direct mail package for them that performed poorly. I was surprised and asked them to send me a sample so I could try and figure out where we went wrong.
I was amazed to discover that the sample looked nothing like the concept we had originally presented.
I remember that the client had some changes and I'm sure I had some myself but something had clearly been lost.
I volunteered to do the package over. This time, I would do exactly what I had recommended and the client agreed not to make any changes.
It went out and we all nervously waited for the results. The client just sent me this e-mail.
"Good news on the revised package it was quite an improvement. Looks to be around a 300% increase in call volume over the previous piece. We need to test in larger quantities to verify..."
What did I learn?
Make sure the idea that you came up with or approved clearly shows through the finished piece. And beware of too many changes.
Lesson in B2B
We just did a couple of direct mail packages for Hoover's Online.
Hoover's is the leading business information resource in the country with access to vast databases of over 12 million companies, in-depth coverage of over 600 industries and contact information on over 300,000 corporate executives.
Their previous direct mail used this as an outer envelope teaser:
"Would you try to sell ice skates to a football team? (You might if you knew the owner sponsored kids' hockey leagues.)"
Clever? Sure, but I've learned that clever doesn't usually work in business-to-business. And this direct mail package didn't perform as expected.
We're testing a number of new ideas for Hoover's Online. Our new outer envelope headlines aren't clever they focus on the offer.
"Inside: 25 of your best prospects.
"Find more prospects.
I'll keep you posted on the results. But the lesson here is that most people take their jobs very seriously. And your advertising or direct mail should respect that.
In my B2B seminar, I show an ad for Canon copiers that features an older guy standing over a copy machine with a serious expression on his face.
The headline reads, "It's My Job to Buy Copiers. I Have to Make the Right Decision."
Fish Hook Story
How important is the offer in direct marketing?
Texas Monthly magazine did an interview with Gordon Bethune, the retired CEO of Continental Airlines. He had a great analogy, which I'd like to share with you:
"Do you ever wonder why fishermen put bait on the hook?
"Well, let me tell you why. Because the fish doesn't give a damn about you. The fish has his own agenda, which does not include getting in your boat or feeding you. It's not on his list of things to do.
"You, on the other hand, need the fish, so it's incumbent on you to know what that fish likes.
"And they don't all like the same thing, which is your problem too. If you are smart enough to know something about the fish and where he lives and you put the right bait on it, he might help you. Now isn't that simple?"
A good offer is the bait on the hook. And the more attractive it is to your market, the more they are going to respond.
Seven years ago, I did a couple of direct mail packages for American Express selling their "Credit Aware" product.
The winning package focused on Identity Theft, which was a growing problem even back then. The outer envelope read, "How would you know if someone is using YOUR NAME to open accounts?"
The letter had a personalized Johnson Box - the headline of the letter - that read:
"They say they're Sample A. Sample.
So last month I gave a seminar at American Express, and I invited people to bring in their samples. One person stood up and said, "We've tested so many things against our control but we just can't beat it. Would you mind taking a look at it?"
He handed me the exact same package I had done seven years ago.
If you have a package that works well for you keep using it. You'll get tired of it long before your market does,
I'm starting a file of ads and direct mail packages that made one mistake...or failed in one specific area.
My first example I'd like to share with you is from Verizon.
Recently, they sent out a direct mail package that had a terrific offer. When you signed up for Verizon DSL, you could win an all-inclusive trip for two to the GRAMMY Music Awards in Los Angeles.
Included were air, hotel and an invitation to the official GRAMMY Celebration After-party (where all the winners go.)
The letter was terrific. It had a tipped-on plastic Name Tag at the top that read, "Hello, My Name is Rock Star."
When's the last time you got something like that from your phone company?
Unfortunately, the outer envelope had almost nothing to do with the concept. It read, "Now you can get Verizon Online DSL for as low as $29.95 a month" and then underneath, it said "It's time for dial-up to face the music".
Get it? I don't think most people did. And how much better would this mailing have been if the outer envelope had something like "Win a Free Trip to the GRAMMY Music Awards. Or one of 60 other valuable prizes"?
Have you seen an ad or direct mail package that just missed? I'd love to see it...
Don't get me wrong I'm grateful for all of my clients but one of my New Year's resolutions is to find...um, well... more cool clients.
These would be companies who I admire, or whose products I would love to use. And so recently, we sent out letters to a number of different companies.
Our mailing to The Atlantis Resort included a $1 chip from their casino, glued on to the top of the letter. The copy began with "I'm willing to bet you we can improve your response..."
Our mailing to Steuben Glass quoted one of their most famous headlines, written by John Jackson, one of my mentors at Ogilvy & Mather.
The headline read, "A Persian poet once wrote: if you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy something to feed your soul."
Ideally, I'd love to sign on an exotic hotel, a circus (they do direct marketing, don't they?) an entertainment company, a tourism account, and maybe an interesting magazine.
If you have any ideas or suggestions I'd be very grateful.
Evelyn Woods (no relation to Tiger) invented Speed Reading more than 50 years ago.
Evelyn was an elementary school teacher who taught herself to read several thousand words per minute.
Her technique was to quickly scan each page, read and absorb more than one word at a time, and move her eyes smoothly and easily down the page.
Evelyn should have been a direct marketer because that's exactly how people will look over your advertising or direct mail. They'll scan it looking for benefits, news, their name or key words like "Free" and "Save." And only then will they decide whether or not to actually read it.
How can you put this principle to work for you?
It's lifted response considerably with some of my clients.
We've used this technique for several different clients and it always seems to work.
I recently received one from MONEY magazine. It was one-page, one-side "Benefits Summary" and it simply listed all the different benefits of the magazine. It also put a price on each.
MONEY listed 8 different benefits, and the personalized order form was at the bottom of the page.
For years, I've been teaching that the more time someone spends with your direct mail package, the more likely they are to respond but these fast formats are working very well.
So the next time you're testing a direct mail package, remember the old poem:
Tell me quick
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Thank you, Alan
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