by Heather Westgate, Chief Executive, TDA

It’s widely acknowledged that many direct marketers are earmarking greater portions of their budgets for online activity. The relatively low cost of digital media, combined with a capacity for more detailed measurement, makes it an attractive option in many ways.

However, anyone who thinks that their business can survive on search marketing and banner ads alone will probably be disappointed.

Digital marketing brings many opportunities for enhanced engagement, but you need to get people to visit one of your spaces – whether it’s your website, Twitter profile or another online hub – before interaction can begin.

Much of the time, offline channels remain the most effective acquisition tools and they play a valuable role signposting existing and potential customers online.

Direct mail, with its ability to engage one-on-one with customers, can play a particularly powerful part here. In some cases, it can actually be more appropriate and lead to greater cut-through.

It’s true that you might not always be able to prove exactly which press ad or which piece of direct mail prompted an online visit. Despite your carefully crafted easy-to-remember campaign URL, a potential customer may still have ultimately arrived via Google.

But you can’t attribute all the success – or the entire budget for that matter – to that last click. Successful marketing involves many touch points and chains of connectivity.

Axing your offline budget and diverting it all to digital would be like trying to run a car without an engine.

When developing a marketing communications strategy, it should never be about adopting an ‘either/or’ approach. It’s about customer insight, intelligent targeting and applying the best combination of channels, and the role of imagery and visual creative has a fundamental part to play here.

Some, for example, may prefer to read a physical rather than digital copy of a magazine – not only is it more portable, its ability to bring content to life with imagery and colour leads to a more stimulating and engaging experience for the reader.

Equally, a well-thought out direct mail campaign can drive online traffic and convert customers. The direct mail pack is, after all, tangible and can therefore create longer-lasting impressions on the recipient.

Direct mail’s ability to bring content to life with imagery and colour leads to a more stimulating and engaging experience.

Direct mail’s biggest strength is probably its ability to personalise a message. It’s also often more likely to spark an online visit than other forms of advertising such as press ads, as people who receive mail at home have instant access to their personal computers.

According to recent reports, neuroscience experiments support the theory that direct mail creates significantly longer-lasting impressions on certain areas of the brain compared with digital marketing, and could therefore have a bigger impact on a brand’s bottom line.

This has been backed up by research commissioned by Royal Mail, which showed that a physical piece of direct mail is significantly more multi-sensory than an online version, due to the increased number of senses which are triggered by simply holding something, rather than seeing it on a screen.

It’s important to remember too, that whilst the ultimate goal might be to sell, the more traditional offline tools can enable you to achieve steps such as building a brand, acquiring leads, or deepening an existing relationship.

A great example is an integrated campaign which we created recently for Cancer Research UK, so it could thank its regular donors for their support and show them the difference their help had made.

The mailing was designed to deepen relationships with supporters and inspire them to continue giving. It focused on personal stories about people local to each donor’s area who have battled with cancer, and on donors’ own motivations for giving.

Recipients were invited to visit the Cancer Research UK website to share their own stories. More than 2,000 recipients responded with their own stories, showing that the key aim of engagement had been achieved.

Many think that visual creative-based campaign marketing is living on borrowed time, but this denigrates the concept of integration.

When combined effectively with a digital strategy, the use of imagery and visual creative in direct mail can lead to a more compelling customer experience and more effective customer acquisition.

It should still be considered as a key component in any campaign strategy, but be reinforced with a significant presence across other channels, in order to shape the customer journey with maximum effect.

The secret to creating effective customer journeys – and therefore better ROI – is finding the right balance between push and pull marketing.

There isn’t a one size fits all solution, the ideal ratio ebbs and flows in line with the audience, the proposition and the business need.

Direct marketers need to embrace this approach with increased confidence and panache. Rather than thinking in terms of online and offline ‘matching luggage’, ROI should be the starting point, and how effective integration can help deliver it.

This in turn should spark a return to some of the core values and techniques of direct marketing – targeting, proposition development and strategic timing.

Over the next year or so, I expect to see a rise in sophisticated ‘test and learn’ activity exploring new and exciting ways to manage customer journeys across platforms.

The best direct marketers are those who are not tied to one approach and who communicate with today’s consumers, not at them.

Heather Westgate is Chief Executive of leading direct marketing agency, TDA.

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QR Codes are being talked about in the world of Direct Mail, Direct Marketing, retail sales, insurance sales, real estate, or any other industry where a new way to connect to a consumer is a good idea.

www.tri-win.com

Look! A QR Code. Follow it to go to our home page.

I have seen more posts regarding what they are and how “x” company can integrate this wonderful new technology to leverage your ROI and increase your response rate in your targeted sector of demographic focus… bleh. The short explanation is this: QR Codes are an everyday part of life for Smartphone users who pay attention to new tech.  Soon they will simply be an everyday part of life, so it is in every marketer’s best interest to learn about them, and use them. It is not in every marketer’s best interest to spend three days reading article after article to learn about them so I am going to speed up the learning process.  This post compiles information from a bunch of different sources and present it here in way that you can read the bits you are interested in and ignore the bits that you already know. Plus, I will even site sources that I use so you can get more information on a specific topic. Guess what kids, learning how to write a research paper in college was worth something in the real world.

“What is” with a little “how to”…

Let’s start from the beginning. A QR Code is a bar code . Similar to the UPC Code you will find on any product in your local grocery store with a couple of important differences, data storage and readability. A UPC code is read in one dimension, laterally, and can hold about 30 American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters.  A QR code is read in 2 dimensions, laterally and horizontally holding much more information, up to 7,089 characters including ASCII, binary, kanji, and kana. It’s the added dimension that lets a QR Code hold so much more information and do some of the very cool things that it can do. I’ll talk about the “can do” a little later now let’s talk about the how to.

Scan it. Seriously to activate a QR Code all you need to do is point a smart phone with the correct reader application installed at the paper, billboard, television screen, or computer monitor where the code is displayed and scan it. Not all QR Code readers work the same, nor will they handle data the same way. The QR Code industry is in need of some standardization but until that happens your best option is to search for “QR Code Reader” in your favorite application market and pick a reader that looks good to you. Most new smart phones come with a QR Reader installed.  I use a smart phone with an Android operating system and the preinstalled reader was called Goggles. I don’t believe iphone has a reader preinstalled but you can get a reader application free. I installed I-nigma on an iphone 4 and Neoreader on an iphone 3 over the last few weeks.  The above mentioned readers are not the only readers just the ones that I have used personally, and are not endorsed by this blog or the QR reader association of America… blah blah blah…

Once you have the reader installed, launch the application, use the smart phone’s camera to display the QR code on the screen and either snap a picture or, depending on the application, the QR Code may be recognized automatically. Goggles needs you to snap a picture I-nigma will react when you get the code positioned inside the frame displayed on the screen.  After your smart phone reads the code then it will react based on the information contained in the code, and do what it can do.

Now about that “Can Do”…

Right now there are two major uses for QR codes. The most common use is directing the phone’s browser to a web page of some kind, just like the one at the beginning of this post.  Encode a URL as a QR Code then scan it with your smart phone. Your phone will open its browser and point you to the website. This is nice for a couple of reasons. First it saves the consumer the hassle for typing in a URL by hand. I know it’s a small thing but simple is usually better in all things. Second it lets them visit the website immediately while your marketing actions are fresh in their mind.

The second big use right now, and one of my favorites, is the QR Code business card.

demo QR vCard

Fake business card

This is usually done by creating a V-Card, or meCard, then translating that code to a QR Code format. You can embed your name, address, phone, email, website and more in a QR so that a user can scan the code and get all the information entered into your contacts automatically. You don’t need to worry about losing a business card again. Just losing your phone, and frankly you are going to have bigger problems to worry about if that happens. Notice how their are a lot more squares in this code than the on above. The more information you put in the code the bigger it gets so don’t try to encode your entire company directory at one time.

There are other things that QR Codes can do. Lots of other things:
• Browse to a Website (as noted above)
• Bookmark a website
• Make a phone call
• Send a text message (SMS)
• Send an e-mail
• Create a vCard (also noted above)
• Create a meCard (I noted this above as well, pay attention!)
• Create a vCalander Event
• Google Maps
• Bing Maps
• Geographical Coordinates
• Android Market Search
•Youtube URL for Iphone
• Encode the Latest Tweet of a User
• Tweet on Twitter
• Twitter Profile Image Overlay
• Create a Blackberry Messenger user
• WiFi network for Android
• Free formatted text
• Taking payments (this was not noted above, I will explain this later)

How about a little more “how to”…

Even with all the things that QR Codes can do they are surprisingly easy to create. There are a number of websites that will help you create a QR Code ( look a list of QR Code Generators!) Keep in mind one generator is not a good as another. My personal recommendation for QR Code generator of the afternoon is http://keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator/ . I used Kerem Erkan’s generator to create all the QR Codes listed in this post. It has a very simple interface and lets you control file output and the color of the code. Surprise! QR codes don’t have to be black and white.

QR Art…

Warning: I am a designer by trade so I may get a little over excited about this bit. You do not have to slap an ugly QR Code on well designed media. QR Codes are just now going main stream so they tend to be the focus of the media they are included in. Big black and white squares positioned right in your face.  For now this makes sense since the marketers using them tend to need to educate their audience on what they are and how to use them. As they become more common they will become something people will look for, like a web address, allowing designers to integrate functional QR art seamlessly with their design. Just because they are traditionally black and white does not mean they should be. QR codes:

• Can be any color
• Can be any modular material
• Must have at least 55% contrast between the foreground and the background
• Should have a margin or “quiet space” of 4 units
• Need to have clear detection patterns in the corner
• Can have up to 30% of the code obscured if you use the highest error correction
• Can be read with any orientation
• Can put it in perspective
• Can be anamorphic (widescreen)
• Can have the cell shape distorted
• Can have the interior made of circle or other shapes
• can have the design reversed.

free Text QR Code

Nothing of interest in this QR Code

 

 

If I have your head spinning with all the QR possibilities I suggest looking at Erica Glaser’s post about QR Design. I found 80% of all my information about QR design on her blog. Or if you still want more look here for some very creative uses of QR Codes

Why…

Why would anyone want to use a QR Code? Because there are benefits to using QR codes. For the user, aka, the consumer, or the reason you are getting your paycheck, QR Codes are simple.  Seriously, its point and click, how much easier can it get? If you are concerned about the learning curve I have shown nearly a dozen people how to use QR Codes in the last three weeks. As soon as I show them how to install a QR Code Reader on their smart phone the three minutes of lessons are over and they start scanning ever QR Code they see. I know this is true because they bring me all the printed material they find with QR Codes on it. OR they walk up to me with their phone and tell me to scan the image of the QR code that they have displayed on their screen.

Yup this QR Code is made of sand

A QR Code adds an element to print media that will get people to interact in a way never before possible. In the past print media drove people to the web by putting a URL on the paper. If the marketer was lucky the consumer remembered to look up the website when they got home. With a QR Code your magazine ad, newspaper article, t-shirt, button, coffee mug, billboard, etc, becomes interactive at the time your viewer is looking at the advertisement.
You can change the content of a QR Code after it’s printed. No, you can’t change the ink on the paper but you can change the web site the QR Code it pointing to. Since QR Codes that resolve to a URL point customers to mobile-friendly websites you can change the website all you want without changing the print. Update quantities, add customer reviews, list your new line of toe-socks, and everyone who scans the QR Code will see your updated information in essence extending the lifespan of print media pieces.

So let us marketers talk about maketing…

For all of us marketing types, one big benefit of using a QR Code is the trackable nature of the technology. QR Codes with the right support behind them can give you an incredible amount of data: where the code was scanned, what time, what kind of phone was used. Even if you don’t have a budget for fancy metrics you can still get great details about who is scanning the code with Google Analytics and a little creativity. Let’s say you are branding coasters with your company’s newest line of beer, and distributing the coasters to 8 different bars. If you build 8 different landing pages that look identical, and embed landing page one’s URL onto the coasters that get distributed to bar one, and no other coasters get send to that bar, you know that every time someone visits landing page one they were at bar one. Maybe you are sending a direct mail piece and you want to test three different versions of art? Use three different landing pages, and three different QR Codes. Use one code per version of art. You will get some good data, and every consumer will get the same online experience.

This is a tool…

QR Codes are tools and they are not marketing in and of themselves. Well they are new enough now that they market to the techie crowd just by being used, but that will not last. There a some things that can be done to get people to use the QR Codes

Educate the consumer. For now a little bit of education will go a long way. Many people with smart phones still don’t know what a QR Code is. That will change. For now a brief how to” is a good thing.

Tour of Tri-Win Digital Print and Mail Services

Scan this QR Code to get a tour of our building.

Let the consumer know what to expect when they scan a QR Code. If the QR Code links to a video simply say “scan this QR Code to view our video.” Seriously, this QR code does link to a video tour of our facility.

Most importantly give them something new! Don’t just link to a digital image of the ad give them new content. You could create a 2 part ad and link to the other half of the video, or offer them a chance to sign up for an email list. Hey, you could just offer them 10% off their next purchase because they scanned your QR Code. As long as there is more information after they scan the code that is the important part.

Is this just another tech fad…

Yes, it is another tech fad but it is more than that too. There are some large corporations who are adopting the QR Code as part of a daily shopping experience.

Macy’s is using QR codes. They launched a new service called “Macy’s Backstage Pass” that will provide consumers with essential tips,  and information on their latest trends via 30-second films formatted to work on users’ mobile phones. In addition to committing to use the technology Macy’s is also educating consumers with a 30-second TV spot running nationally that shows shoppers how to use the QR Codes and what they will get when they scan them.

Best Buy is using QR Codes. Back in September they added QR Codes to product information tags making them the first national retailer in the US to deploy this technology. Scan the code next to the TV you are thinking of buying and you get access to the product detail page.

Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats is using QR Codes adding them to more than 12 million boxes as the primary distribution vehicle for, “Honey & Joy,” a web based sitcom.

Starbucks is using QR Codes. Letting consumers pay for their coffee is the latest us of QR Code technology. The goal here is to get Starbucks customers to stop using physical Starbucks cards and start using Virtual Starbucks cards. To use the service the customer displays the QR Code on their mobile phone and a reader located at the point of sale scans the code and subtracts the cost of the drink from the funds preloaded on the Starbucks card mobile account.

Home Depot is using QR Codes. Partnering with a mobile barcode platform developer call Scanbuy Home Depot will use QR codes to provide “how to” videos, information about the supplier, appropriate usage guidelines, safety instructions, or anything else Home Depot deems smart phone appropriate. Plus you will also b able to purchase the product using the mobile phone after scanning the QR Code in-store or at home.

But wait QR Codes are not just for retail applications.

New York is using QR Codes. By 2013 all New York City building permits will have a QR Code on them so smart phone users can get details about  the ongoing project or file a complaint regarding safety or noise concerns.

Tokyo is using QR Codes. There was an experiment in Tokyo where QR codes were overlaid on top of a city map.  When the QR Code was scanned the user was given directions to the part of town associated with the QR Code.

The Post Office is Using QR Codes. “Deliver Magazine”, a publication produced by the post office, did a feature article on QR Codes in October, 2010.  Since then they have started using QR Codes in marketing to offer people the ability to get free flat rate shipping kit

What does all of this mean…

I see them popping up all over the place, and I bet you will too now that you know what they are.  They have already taken hold in Japan, they have been in use there for years. While it has only been in the last year or so that QR Codes have started to get the public’s attention they have it now. Plus with it projected that 50% of Americans will have a smart phone by Christmas 2010 the use of QR Codes will only increase. For now integrating QR Codes into your marketing will give you a competitive edge, in a year not integrating them in your marketing will mean you are behind.

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Are you planing on integrating QR Codes into your marketing strategy, or have you already printed them on every thing you own? Let me know, and if you think this post was useful to you link to it, or pass it along to your friends.  Thanks!

With a little bit of help from Direct Mail Beginning to End –Production and a lot of coordination you, your printer, and your designer have created a direct mail piece that is creative direct and won’t make you choose between printing it or making your car payment. Now it’s time to tackle the other major cost of creating your direct mail campaign, postage. Depending on the mailer either your printing or your postage could be your primary cost, and every creative decision you made will affect your postage now.

The size of the piece, the weight, if it folds, how many tabs need to hold the folds in place, if there is an envelope, and how the address is oriented relating to the shape of the mailer are all factors that will affect how much it costs to mail your campaign.  There is no way to begin to scratch the surface of everything you need to know about navigating postal regulations in a blog post, and I am not going to try. The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) published by the post office is over 1,000 pages. It covers everything you need to know from how the size of your mailer dictates the postal class it will mail in, to the permitted saturation of colors used for printing the background of your address block. While the post office has been kind enough to post it online (note the shiny blue link text) there are so many rules with the mail the only way to be sure you are getting the best rate, short of reading it from cover to cover three times, is to work with a direct mail house. Get an expert (Remember last week I told you I would use that phrase again!)

Lots of printers these days are doubling as mail houses trying to offer a convenient one stop location for direct mail needs. There is nothing wrong with an all in one print house and mail house. It’s convenient, and can save time and money by eliminating the need to ship your printed stock to another location, but be sure they truly understand the mail regulations. I know of one case where a restaurant chain was mailing 2,500 5 3/4” x 11 5/8 mailers a week through a printer who was moonlighting as a mail house. The printer was simply trying to offer a convenience to the restaurant and make a little extra money on the side so it sounds like a good deal, but all postage is NOT the same. After about six months the restaurant chain was approached by sales rep for a mail house who told them that if they changed the size of the mailer to 5 3/4 “ x 11 ½” they would save 0.13 per mailer. Making that change took less than 5 minutes to implement, had no effect on the cost of printing, and no customer noticed the difference saving the restaurant $325.00 a week. The restaurant switched mail houses, and started looking for a new printer.  I don’t know if the designer picked the size of the mailer, or if the printer suggested the size. I do know that no one looked at the specifics of presorted first class letters and presorted first class flats until the direct mail expert talked to the restaurant.

The best intentions can backfire when someone gets involved who doesn’t know what they are doing.  A mail house should know direct mail, and a print shop should know printing. Places that do both printing and mailing should know both printing and mailing.  The designer, the printer, and the mail house should be able to communicate with each to solve problems in the creation process and reduce cost. As the business you might need to be the intermediary unless you find a direct mail company that offers design, print, and mailing as a package, and (I’m going to say it again…) has an expert in each field.

This is the last post in the Direct Mail Beginning to End Series, but it is far from my last post. If you have questions, and you probably do since this series was designed to be an overview of the direct mail process, post them in the comments and I will answer them or I might just write a whole new post based on your questions!

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So now you have a great list of prospects and with a little help from last week’s post, Direct Mail Beginning to End – Design, a clever professional looking design that people will want to read your direct mail campaign. This week it’s time to take your creative to a practical place and, sadly, allow real world considerations to start affecting our final outcome. Things like size, shape, paper quality, color, weight all affect what your final costs will be. I know is sounds complicated but if it was all intuitive I wouldn’t need to write this blog would I?

Let’s start with paper quality and finishes. This decision should focus on your aesthetic preference and what impression you want to give to your customers. Do you want to have nice textured 130 pound paper or would 60 pound text paper work for your mailer.  The quality of your paper speaks to the nature of your company.  If you go with the cheapest option your decision to use low quality materials will be obvious to you prospects. Selling a luxury car with uncoated paper that tears as you turn the page will not send the message of quality and status that ultimately sells a $50,000 car. The better quality paper you use the better your mailer looks, but even if you can stand in front of the owner of your business and justify why you spent three dollars for each postcard you mailed you may want to reallocate that funding somewhere else. High quality paper sends a message of quality but too much quality can send the wrong impression. For example, if you use a very expensive stock in a donation direct mail campaign for a local charity you may find that you have sent the impression that the charity has extra income so donations may not be needed after all. Your paper choice should be affected by the message you are trying to send. If this doesn’t make much sense to you talk to your designer. If you have a good artist working for you they will understand what I mean and offer a suggestion or two regarding paper and finishing.

The paper finish: gloss, matt, coated, uncoated, etc. effects the impression your mailer has on a customer, so you need to consider paper finish as part of your impression but the bigger concern is durability. It doesn’t matter what paper you choose if the mailer is destroyed by the time it reaches its destination. Once I made the mistake of printing a direct mail campaign on a gloss finish paper without using a protective coating. By the time it made it thought the mail it looked like someone had used it as sand paper. You can save a little money if you decide not coat the paper with a protective finish but make sure it can survive the post office’s automated processes. You may not need to use coated stock if your mailing goes in an envelope, but any surface of the direct mail piece that is exposed in the mailing process should have a protective coating to avoid damaging the ink.

Now let’s talk about the ink. The more colors that you need to print the more expensive it is to print. Printing one color of ink is going to be your cheapest option. You have options of printing 2, 3 or 4 colors as well. 4 color printing is also called full color since you use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) to reproduce the full spectrum of colors. If you are printing 1, 2, or 3 colors you are probably using a spot color. Spot colors are inks that are mixed before they are put into a printing press to get a certain color and are generally not mixed. That ends today’s remedial ink 101 lesson. With direct mail your printing options are only limited by your budget, but remember the more inks you need the more your cost will be. There are some very creative and eye catching designs made using 1 or 2 color printing so don’t let the concern of ink costs limited the quality of your art. To make sure you are getting the best materials for your money you need to be sure the printer you are working with understands their business and knows when digital printing is better than off-set printing.  Get an expert (pay attention to that expert line I’m going to use it again in next week’s post).

Printing is the first major cost of producing a direct mail campaign. There are decisions that need to be made at this stage of the process that have wrong answers. Very costly wrong answers so get a printer that knows what they are doing! Get an expert ( I guess I used this line sooner than I thought. It must be IMPORTANT!) Make sure your printer is willing to discuss options with you. They should be willing to talk to you about the printing process, and discuss options on what kind of printing would work best for you.  Allow them to make recommendations, but make sure they can tell you why they made those recommendations. Make sure you know how long it will take to get your materials printed. Once you get your mailer printed you will need to deal with the other major cost of a direct mail campaign, postage, and I will deal with that next week in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Postage.

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People are harsh, at least in regard to direct mail. Even the sweetest little old lady who greets strangers on her morning walk will throw away a direct mail postcard without a second thought. Let’s not think about what that guy you cut you off on the way to work would do. In fact people will only give you about 3 seconds of their time before they decide if they want to read what you sent them, or pile it on top of the credit card bill in the recycling bin. It’s that tiny window of opportunity that makes design so important. Like I said in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Data Lists, your data is the most important part of a direct mail campaign but design comes in a close second.

It’s the design of your direct mail piece that will get you past the 3 second window, and get the recipient to read your message.  While there is no single “best” or “right” way to design a mailer I can give you some fundamentals to think about during the process. First, you need a designer. Your nephew who likes to mess around with Photoshop is NOT a designer. Well, probably not anyway and if you want to create a good mailer you will need to work with someone who not only knows what the terms bleed, cmyk, and ppi mean but can create something that looks professional. Since every direct mail campaign is or SHOULD be unique I can’t help answer questions like what color you should use, or is this font better than that font.  Those are questions that need to be addressed with your designer along with a few other basics.

First things first people need to be informed who you are and what you are offering. If you sending out mailers to clients you have already worked with, or you have a level of brand recognition that Nike would envy than all you need may be a logo.  If you are an unknown then you will need to give the reader a bit more to go off. It may just take a photo, or a slogan but you need something. Remember reading “is no single “best” or “right” way to design a mailer” about 20 seconds ago, there is another approach you might want to take. Give the customer no explanation and see if pure curiosity can drive them to get the information. If I got a postcard in the mail that only had a QR Code I would pull out my phone and find out more.

Next there should be an offer of some kind.  You can offer to give them a discount, you can offer to give them more information, you can offer to give them free kitten with each dog house sold, but you need to offer them something. This is the part of a direct mail piece that appeals to the “what’s in it for me” attitude that permeates American society today so make the offer good. You are not creating a direct mail campaign to use up a budget surplus.

Finally you will want a call to action: come in and get free appetizer, call to hear movie times, register your account and get a free death ray! Tell the person getting the mail how to take advantage of the offer. Directing someone to take action has been proven to work better than simply telling them about the deal. Your call to action can be as direct as “Come buy my Nachos!” or it might be more passive like “When you get a moment, log in and see what we can do for you.” The best call to action is dependent on who are marketing to at the time, and you will probably want to talk to your copy writer about what will work best.

Now here is the tricky part you need to hit all three points in a way that is personal to each person who receives the mailer. Since you have a good data list you know enough about your targets so you can integrate their name into the mailing as a first step. Then you can use a series of images to talk to a potential client on an emotional level. If you know your customer likes to sail thanks to a data list that includes hobbies include some images of people using your product on a boat.  If your client is a college professor include academic related images.  If the prospect is a mechanic a picture of grimy hands is a way to connect. Reach out in an emotional way with imagery, and logical way with facts to get the best chance to connect to a potential new sale. If you are concerned about the complexity of creating a direct mail campaign with this level of detail don’t be. It is much simpler than you may think. Variable data printing allows you to print all the direct mail pieces in one run while changing the images and names on each individual mailer.  Designing a direct mail campaign that truly is customized to each recipient will increase response rate, and get you a better return on your investment.

Your design is what will catch people’s attention, get them to read your message, and get you past the 3 second trashing. Think about how many number 10 envelopes you get in the mail every day, then thing about how many triangle shaped self mailers you get in the mail. Are you going to be more likely to spend more time looking at the standard form letter or a three panel self mailer tied with a bow? The unique piece will always get more attention but creativity costs money. The post office does its job very well, but they do not embrace creativity. This is might be a bit obvious but I’m going to say it anyway; the size and shape of your direct mail piece directly affects how much it costs to produce and mail.  Next week I will start to talk about automation and post office regulations and how to create something that won’t use all or your annual advertising budget.

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In last week’s post: “Direct Mail Beginning to End – How to Get Started” I gave you an overview of the benefits of direct mail as a advertising medium. This week it time to talk about the foundation of every good direct mail program.  Let’s talk data. The data list is more than just a list of addresses. It’s the insight into the lives and habits of your potential consumers. It’s the foundation of your direct mail campaign so if it’s a bad list then you have a bad direct mail campaign.

There are three types of data lists. The first type of list is your client list. This data consists of people you already do business with. This list is arguably your most valuable list because you know the people on this have already worked with you and, as long as you did a good job, are likely to work with you again.  If you are marketing a new product or service this data list should be included in the direct mail campaign unless there is a good reason to skip a person on this list. For example I can’t think of a good reason to send a postcard offering free fingernail painting to a man who lives 3 hours away from the manicurist.  A local salon is more likely to get the opportunity to pain that man’s nails a lovely shade of honeysuckle. One note about a client list, DO NOT mail them anything that mentions first time buyers or new clients. People know what businesses they have used before and they want you to know they have purchased from you. Sending a repeat customer an offer to experience your product for the first time makes you look like a fool and makes them feel unimportant. Both of those qualities are bad for business so keep this list up to date and cross check this list with every direct mail campaign that you produce!

The second type of list is a responder list.  This list is generated by people who may not have purchased anything but have given you their contact information directly. Usually this list is generated from web site surveys, and mail responder cards.  With this group you know the contact is interested in something you are already offering and it’s a good idea to include them on mailers offering specials for new customers. They will not get offended if you offer them a first timer’s discount since they probably don’t consider themselves a customer.

The third kind of list is a purchased list.  With this category of list you’ve probably never had any contact with anyone listed here, and you probably won’t unless you turn them into a customer.  Fortunately for the direct mail data list purchaser a.k.a. you, nearly every aspect of who we are has been cataloged, analyzed, listed and put up for sale online. When you are looking to create new leads you can purchase a data list that is specially crafted to fit your needs. If you need to know how many women who live within a radius of a specific address, are between the ages of 25-45, own their own home, have pets, are unmarried and have a bankruptcy on their credit record you can do that. Or, you can get a list of everyone between the ages of 25-40.  When purchasing a data list the more specific you can be without excluding a potentially profitable demographic the better because the more people listed the more expensive the list.  List are usually sold per thousand records but the cost varies depending on what company you are working with and how detailed the information you need is. I have said this before but it bears repeating, direct mail works when you know your market. If you want best return from your direct mail campaign focus your data list to the most likely group to buy your product.  Don’t narrow it so much you lose out on potential clients, but trying to send a mailer to every address in a tri-state area will not get you a good return on your advertising investment. To get an idea of the kinds of data that can be purchased take a look the list below.

• Geography
• Age
• Income
• Gender
• Marital Status
• Interests/Hobbies
• Purchasing Behavior
• Home Value
• Length of Residence
• Homeowners
• New Homeowners
• New Movers
• Occupations
• Ailments
• Pilots
• Boat Owners
• Dwelling Unit Size
• Donors
• Potential Investors
• Stocks and Bonds Owner
• Real Estate Agents & Brokers
• Nurses
• Auto Owner
• Bankruptcies
• Students
• Veterans
• Presence of Children
• Entrepreneurs
• Ethnic
• Neighborhood Consumers
• Newborns and Prenatal
• Lifestyle
• Mail Order Responder
• Home-based Business
• Motorcycle Owner
• Education Level
• Pet Owner
• Net Worth Model
• Purchase Amount Ranges
• Telephone Area Code
• Insurance Agents
• And there are more…

So at this point you have a product to sell, you know who you want to sell it to, you have the list of names that you want to mail to, but now you need a mailer. People are harsh when looking at mail.  Your direct mail piece will get about 3 seconds of their time before they decide if they want read it or throw it away.  How do you get people to read your mailer instead of piling it on top of yesterday’s newspaper? It’s all in the design. Next week I will talk about how to design mailer that will get your audience to pay attention to what you have to say.

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Direct mail advertising gets a bad rap.  It doesn’t get the kind of exposure that TV commercials get, or the kind of captive audience that radio commercials get during the drive home, but it is one of the best advertising mediums available. Direct Mail is all about efficiency, and it’s important that people understand how effective efficiency is in advertising. TV and radio alike focus on creating a commercial that broadcasts to everyone tuning in. Think of it like giving the first 3,000 people who look at you the same message. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do, or what motivates them. If they see you, then you give them the message. Not only is this a very impersonal approach to advertising but if the TV ad is offering a lunch discount on sushi to a person with a fatal fish allergy then the ad is not going to work. Not to say the shotgun approach doesn’t work, it does, but its lack of efficiently is expensive.  The expense of producing a quality TV ad is still out of reach for many small and medium sized businesses that’s why most TV commercials are produced by the Wal-Mart’s and Best  Buy’s of the world. Fortunately there is another way.

Direct mail removes the shotgun from advertising and focuses on creating a personal targeted campaign. When executed well it really is one of the most efficient forms of advertising. Wal-Mart and Best Buy, with their huge advertising budget and multiple TV commercials, still use direct mail because it can be customized for each and every individual targeted in an advertising campaign. With a well developed direct mail campaign the customer who carries around an EpiPen to protect himself from an accidental taste of sashimi would never see the “all you can eat” sea food advertisement. The discount shrimp ad would have skipped his mail box, and perhaps found a local foodie with tight budget. Direct mail is all about getting the right message into the right hands. Unlike TV or Radio that speaks to everyone whether they are listening or not, good direct mail only targets people who might want what you have to offer. Then it packages the offer in a way that appeals the potential customer as an individual.  By limiting the audience to interested parties, and approaching that audience in a personal way, a direct mail campaign can get better results at a noticeably smaller cost than any TV Commercial.

If a targeted personalized ad campaign that can be produced for as low as a $0.25 per lead sounds like it might be a something worth looking into then you are in luck. Over the next few weeks I am going to explain how to create a direct mail campaign from beginning to end in a step by step process, buying the data list, designing your direct mail campaign, producing the mailers, and mailing the campaign.  I’ll even throw in some information about getting a good postage rate, measuring response rates, integrating a direct mail campaign with new technology and how it can be done in an environmentally friendly way. It can sound like a lot but if you take it one step at a time, and you have the right direct mail experts backing you it is a very manageable process.  Take some time decide who are the most likely people to buy what you’re selling.  Does this target group, own a home, do they make over 6 figures, are they in school, do they have a birthday in January, do they own pets? Think about it and figure it out because next week , in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Data Lists, I’m going to talk about the most important part of any direct mail campaign, the data list.

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When I think about bar codes, not that I do very often, the first thing I think about are little vertical bars that remind me of a prison jump suit circa 1935. I’m referring to the UPC codes that have been used commonly since the 70’s, but a new bar code is changing my first impression. An evolution of the bar code had dropped the prohibition era fashion and took the appearance of something appearing similar to Space Invaders.Tri-Win Direct Mail QR Code

With new QR Codes (Quick Reference Codes), aka 2D bar codes, information is now encoded horizontally, and vertically. By creating a specific orientation of squares that can be read by today’s smart phones hundreds of alphanumeric characters can be stored in a QR code versus 20 numeric digits in the classic bar code. It’s the data encoding capacity that has made the new QR Codes such a versatile tool. You can of course store pricing info in the QR code like the old bar codes, but it the ability to encode a web address that is freeing the marketing potential of the 2D Bar code.

With the incredible level of sophistication in our own electronic chains scanning a QR code with an encoded web address opens the phone’s browser, automatically directing your prospect to your website or a personalized landing page. The QR code is the key to unlock a multimedia experience limited only by the capabilities of the smart phone. Videos, survey forms, special offers, are all put in the palm of a customer’s hand, literally. I know my phone is one competent user short of running a small country so a little creativity applied to this new tech is a breeding ground for viral advertising.
Catching their attention and getting a potential customer to take action is the fundamental job of advertising. QR codes create a great opportunity to do both. To get the attention of the cash carrying demographic, especially those under 30 you need to engage them with something new or clever. Print advertising alone is just not enough anymore. Adding QR codes to a print add creates another level of involvement. With a good creative team you get the fun cool factor that unlocks a wallet. Or even if you don’t get the sale, at least you get someone to a landing page giving you data that your print ads are getting read, or not.

When you start gearing up to create another print campaign you might think about adding a QR code. It can help catch the interest of the technologically inclined, add ingenuity to a very traditional marketing medium, provide a way to verify your mailings are getting read, and connect to potential customers. Perhaps most importantly it can let you know how efficiently you’re spending your print money.

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Email marketing has become the go to media for “print” advertising over the last few years. It is cheaper, faster, and put right into the inboxes of your target. It seems that email has some serious advantages over direct mail, but that list of advantages has made email the favorite media of spammers, and makes it far harder to get a prospect to read your message.
It’s hard to argue against the price point of email versus direct mail. It costs less to develop and deliver email, but marketers are not the only people who know that little bit of information. Your consumer base knows that there is a larger investment of time and money in a direct mail campaign, and no matter how solid your offer is that extra investment can be perceived as a more legitimate offer.
Of course, after the offer has been made and a prospect has decided to get more information they need to be able to tell you. Email does have the one click away advantage, but there are tools that make direct mail nearly as easy to use. First, there is always a good old fashioned phone number. Believe it or not some people still like to talk to others, not me, but I have heard stories. Listing your web address on the mailing is a pretty standard practice, but for the more technically savvy and socially disinclined QR codes can be printed and scanned with any web enabled smart phone with free software making the response to a mail piece one click away. Yes, you do need to check your mail to get the marketing offer in the first place, but email inbox delivery is far from guaranteed.
The offers for discount vet meds, little blue pills, and requests from Nigerian princes to make you a millionaire for doing nothing has led to spam filters being created that leave messages lost in the junk mail folder unread, and wasted. Even if your message manages to get to the intended target you are lucky if the prospect will read your subject line before it gets thrown in the trash. At least with direct mail you’re prospect will have something real to look at. Email messages are intangible and ignoring a bit of data from an unknown source is simply easier than ignoring something you are holding in your hand.
Sometimes cheaper and faster are not the advantages that people think they are. With a well developed mail campaign you can get a better response rate, add legitimacy to your business, and get responses nearly as fast as an email campaign. Plus if your clients are anything like me they will delete the email, but that pile of mail on the kitchen counter will get your mailing a second look as soon as they get around to cleaning up a bit.

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When one is in the thick of producing a direct mail campaign, it’s easy to overlook some of the basic elements that are integral to success. So you might want to keep these six quick tips close by as a reminder.

1) Select the right list. A crummy mail campaign sent to a good list can make money, but even brilliant mail sent to a bad list will fail every time.

2) Update your list. According to NCOALink, at least 15% of the average list becomes outdated every year.

3) Go bold. Choose a clear, bold headline and a color that pops for maximum notice.

4) Watch out for muletas. Muletas are the little red cloths that bullfighters use to distract the bull. As a marketer, you need to look for anything in your piece that will distract potential customers from your offer, message, or product.

5) Present a call to action and an offer. One of biggest mistakes is burying (or not including) a call to action. Tell your prospect exactly what you want him to do.

6) Be consistent and commit. Consumers rarely get multiple pieces from a business. Hit your prospects with different communications about the same thing, or with different products with the same look or feel, or both. This sort of persistence reinforces your presence and adds credibility to your brand.

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