Archive for March 31, 2010

For Designers

As you work on putting together your direct mail piece, one designer shares his rules. Some of them may be valid for you, others maybe not. We just want to get you started.

From: Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Timothy Samara

  1. Have a concept
  2. Communicate don’t decorate
  3. Speak with one visual voice
  4. Use two typefaces maximum
  5. Show one thing first
  6. Pick colors on purpose
  7. If you can do more with less, do it.
  8. Negative space is magical
  9. Treat type as image
  10. Keep type friendly
  11. Be universal, it’s not about you
  12. Squish and separate: create rhythms in density and openness
  13. Firecrackers and rising sun: distribute light and dark
  14. Be decisive
  15. Measure with your eyes
  16. Make what you need; don’t scavenge
  17. Ignore fashion
  18. Move it! Static equals dull
  19. Look to history, but don’t repeat it
  20. Symmetry is not good

Postcard Design Idea Sparks

We found some ideas about postcard design at this site from Chuck Green on

What is the purpose of a post card?

“Greetings from” and rotating racks decorated with pictures of places great and small—those are the type of messages associated with post cards. The marketing potential of a simple card is unbounded. You can show something such as a photograph of a new product, a remodeled showroom or the impressive gear you use to provide your service. You can double your advertising impact by sending cards to your mailing list with a reprint of your magazine ad. Send a reminder of an upcoming event. Ask for an appointment and follow up with a phone call. Step one? Establish a clear mission for your card.

Why is it done the way it’s done

Why are post cards designed the way they are? For reasons of cost and contact. First, since private postal cards were authorized by Congress in the late 1800’s, they have been the among the least expensive way to put a printed piece in the hands of your prospect. And because a standard post card can’t be smaller than 3 1/2 by 5 inches or larger than 4 1/4 by 6 inches it is easy to handle, sort, and deliver. Plus, the design improves your odds of making contact. A post card message is out in the open, eliminating the real possibility your prospect might toss a sealed envelope.

If cost is less important than impact, you may spend a few cents more to mail a card up to 6 1/8 by 11 1/2 inches—a size that demands more attention.

How can You do it most effectively?

With your mission and a strategy established, the challenge is to execute effectively. Let’s say you have a list of a few hundred prospects with whom you hope to establish a relationship. You could use the shotgun approach and run a series of ads in a local publication that you hope they might see. Or you could pinpoint your prospects by printing a half dozen series of post cards, each featuring a different advantage of doing business with you, and mail them, one each month for the next six months. Which would be more effective?

Start with these post card ideas and create your own variations, see more information about postcards.

  1. Bust the size barrier. Once you exceed the 4 1/4 by 6 inch maximum for a standard-sized card, you may as well take advantage of the 6 1/8 by 11 1/2 inch maximum. You’ll pay extra to mail it, but this super-sized format allows more dramatic graphics and a more detailed message.
  2. Request a response. Every good marketing piece has a specific call to action. Why not ask your prospect to respond on the spot? This post card has two missions—first, to request some survey information. The “How’d we do?” half is detached and returned to the sender by business reply mail. The second half, labeled “Keep this card by your phone,” is a way to keep the company’s name in front of the customer. The postage for this 2-card format may be higher, but the added value can be well worth it.
  3. Work the cliche. The old-fashioned picture post card is a theme you can use to your advantage. This design plays on what you expect a post card to be. But what looks like a souvenir from a museum is actually an announcement from a restaurant. A painting by the Impressionist Monet graces one side, the message, set in elegant type is opposite.
  4. Make contact. The reason direct mail is all dressed up with fonts and graphics is because it wasn’t long ago letters and cards were mostly handwritten—fancy type and pictures were something different. Today, the opposite true? Don’t you pay special attention to a handwritten message? The idea here is to print a supply of post cards on which you can jot down messages that keep you in the front of your customer’s mind.
  5. Create a ticket. When you use a post card as a discount coupon or a ticket to an event, you raise the possibility of a response. The message here is obvious—bring the card in and get a discount.
  6. Publish a mystery. You may have seen this technique used on billboards—pieces are added one at a time until, one day, you drive by and discover the total message. The same type of mystery message can be posted and solved in a series of post cards. You simply divide the finished message into puzzle pieces and sent them in sequence. In most cases, the cost of printing cards drops substantially when you print several different designs at the same time—you may be surprised to find how practical this possibility is.
  7. Make news. Post cards are great for spreading the news. Next time a new captain takes the wheel, you move to a new location, announce a product, or add a new service—publish the news by post card.

On Creativity

Creativity Sparks

  1. Do something mindless (take a long drive on familiar roads, do housework or yard work, take a long bike ride or walk)
  2. Find diversity as in thinking, images, people (colleges, libraries, museums, city parks…)
  3. Fill your head (Read books, newspapers, magazines, surf the Internet, watch movies, documentaries, listen to radio, talk to people)
  4. Take a lesson from a kid (kids are a model of creativity and energy, they have no mental boundaries)
  5. Go to the edge (do something that scares, break some rules, make self uncomfortable, create challenges for body and brain)

Creativity Killers

  1. Fear of risk, failure, looking stupid
  2. Routines (because we have always done it that way)
  3. Sameness (people who think the same way)
  4. Premature judgement
  5. Digression
  6. Unrealistic Deadlines
  7. Stakeholders who “know” everything
  8. Yourself (running on empty, “I think I can’t”, doing nothing, lack of discipline)

Five Marketing Steps

A refresher for some of you and perhaps a fresh outlook on some basics.

Step 1: Understand your customer

See other posts about segmentation and definition

Step 2: Create value for your customer

  • Focus on product or service features
  • Enhance the social skills of your employees
  • Use price as an additional customer value
  • Provide credit or payment terms to meet the needs of your customers
  • Enhance the image of your product, service or store
  • Provide service, before and after sale
  • Think of your location as another service for your customer
  • Present convenience
  • Set a mood with the atmosphere of your place of business

Step 3: Communicate your value to your target market

  • Everything you do communicates
  • Word of mouth is critical
  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression
  • Keep it simple

Step 4: Make it easy for the customer to buy

  • Set hours of operation that are convenient for customers
  • Make credit readily available
  • Select convenient locations (for retailers)
  • Find good retail outlets (for manufacturers)
  • Deliver products to customers in a reasonable and timely manner

Step 5: Create long term relationships

Expand Markets And Optimize Costs With Segmentation Strategy Part 3

This is a continuation of Target Marketing Magazine’s article about customer segmentation.

Modeling for Performance

Behavioral models can help you refine campaigns and follow-up marketing by allowing you to predict the likelihood of profit-driving behaviors such as payment, multiple orders and renewal. Model-based, predictive segmentations can be applied in the following ways:

  • Refine descriptive segments to increase campaign impact.
  • Manage campaign costs by eliminating lower-performing groups.
  • Expand market reach by targeting the top-performing groups.
  • Segment incoming orders for fulfillment and upsell by profiling for profitable behaviors.

As an example, imagine that your descriptive Segment Y is statistically more likely to respond to a given offer, but the payment rate for the group is only 50 percent. Let’s say your business requires a 60 percent payment rate on new orders to be profitable. A net payment model can help you identify the individuals (or households) who are more likely to respond and pay within the segment. By subsegmenting the group, you can see that targeting only the top 80 percent of the file is likely to achieve your 60 percent cutoff.

Building a solid model requires that you have results from previous campaigns to that segment and that the modeler has access to a large source of relevant data. The resulting model can dramatically expand the reach of your marketing campaigns and significantly increase ROI by helping you identify and target only the most profitable groups. The result? Your overall mail costs go down because you don’t promote to the entire file, but your net response stays more or less the same and payment goes up. You deliver higher ROI.

Models also can help you expand list populations by letting you mine segments that you haven’t been able to work with before. If you’ve been using on a 60-day selection, the model should let you expand to a 90- or 120-day selection, providing larger universes.

Finally, your models also can work for you in untargeted media or other channels. Models can be applied to responders—or in real time on your site—to help you make decisions about fulfillment, upsell targeting and future marketing contact.

Expand Markets And Optimize Costs With Segmentation Strategy Part 2

This is a continuation of Target Marketing Magazine’s article about customer segmentation.

Third Party Information

The data you have on your customers, great as it is, just isn’t a complete picture. Understanding what, when, where and how consumers do business across a large group of marketers gives you insight you can’t get from your housefile. New sources of data can help you create broad-based, descriptive segments that provide opportunity for product development, channel selection and increased lifetime value. Understanding your customers through the prism of third-party data sources helps you see far deeper into your customers and gives you a more intensive understanding of their buying interests and behaviors. Consider some of the outside data attributes you can use:

  • RFM: Recency, frequency, monetary value.
  • Product Type: Continuity, one-shot, online subscriber, magazine, music, video, sweeps.
  • Affinity Type: History, health, gardening, sports, cooking, home, crafts, kids.
  • Acquisition Channel: Mail, telemarketing, e-mail, Web store, package insert.
  • Performance: Fast payer, slow payer, returner, write-off, repeat buyer, renewer.

Suppose you discover that many of your customers have a strong interest in something you don’t sell, like gardening products. Or if your customers have a strong affinity for video, you might consider offering a DVD as a premium. As you develop insight into which groups prefer specific offers via specific channels, you run the risk of making your segments so small that they are no longer truly predictive. Segments can only show you that, on average, a certain group is likely to perform in a certain way. Groups can be too small to be statistically predictive.

Make sure your segments are statistically significant, big enough to be actionable, and likely to remain stable and consistent while you execute your expanded marketing plans. Chances are you’ll begin to see a pickup in response as you reach out to new prospects in new ways.

In the next post we will look at what can be gained by modeling your lists.

Expand Markets And Optimize Costs With Segmentation Strategy Part 1

Target Marketing Magazine published an article about customer segmentation.

Why Rethink?

Everyone talks about reaching the right consumer with the right offer at the right time, but how do you deliver? Many marketers do a great job capturing, tracking and leveraging customer data. They know what segments work and which don’t. But today, every marketer’s “ideal customer segment” is a moving target—and growing increasingly fragmented as consumer attention flits from medium to medium. In this environment, it doesn’t make sense to expect your legacy segmentation strategy to be as reliable as it once was.

The first question to ask yourself is: Are your existing segmentations meeting your business objectives? Everyone seeks higher response, but is that enough? What about net payment rates? Or lifetime value?

Looking Into—and Beyond—Your Customer List (Housefile)

Building a segmentation strategy that gives you the flexibility to operate profitably in a multichannel world starts with reviewing your housefile. Simple segmentations are readily apparent: actives and expires; payers and nonpayers; product interests and demographics. These descriptions are great for doing things like selecting list sources and segments for mailings. Descriptive segments are useful for customizing creative. For instance, if you are fielding an offer for political biographies, you use your descriptive segmentation to change the copy and featured book for the Republicans versus the Democrats you’re targeting.

Successful descriptive segmentations move beyond intuitive target groups by using statistical techniques to uncover correlations and segments that may not be readily apparent. Overlaying additional data can significantly deepen and broaden the resulting segments.

Four rules for developing descriptive marketing segmentations.

  1. Mutual exclusivity. Groups of households or individuals should be homogenous and unique.
  2. Business rules. Only consider segmenting based on variables that are appropriate and actionable for the entire available universe.
  3. Actionable. A good segmentation provides basic guides for crafting custom offers and customer relationship management.
  4. Statistical data discovery methods. Develop segmentation rules that identify data-driven variations in your populations.

In the next post we will look at what can be gained by enriching your list with demographic or purchase of other products information.

Try Postcards

ABC15 ran a story about a family that has been trying to find their lost pet dog. They have put posters up everywhere, taken fliers to area veterinarians, and now they are trying postcards. The story featured a service that creates postcards to saturate the neighborhood with a photo of the lost pet, some basic information and all the ways to contact the pet owner.

A postcard can reunite families and pets, a simple postcard can do so many good things. A postcard can reach people in the moment when they are open and willing to consider information and offers. We offer more information about postcards and ideas to get you started in using them too.

It seems like thoughts and trends are going in a circle. People are trying everything to communicate important messages and then they go back to what has been proven to work, direct mail.

Copywriting Sparks

A new simple approach may help you create some new ideas for your next direct mail piece.

Step 1, Answer these questions:

  • What problem does your product (or service) solve, and for whom?
  • How long has your product (the widget) been selling steadily, and why?
  • What uses or occasions is the widget especially appropriate for?
  • Where would you normally find one of its ingredients or components being used?
  • What doesn’t the widget have, which makes it superior?
  • Is there a flaw to feature?
  • It’s a cross between a what and a what?
  • How will the user feel when using it?
  • What does this widget go well with?
  • What kind of testing went into making the widget?
  • Why might you want more than one widget?
  • Why is the price so reasonable?

Step 2, Look at your list of answers and choose one or more ideas that provide an appealing angle.

Step 3, Add the practical facts like how big and how much, and you’re done.

4 Ways to keep copy fresh

  1. Embrace the customers’ point of view.
  2. Be strategic and ask tough questions about established assumptions.
  3. Watch out for mistakes that can shorten your project’s shelf life or usefulness.
  4. Try not to worry too much about grammar and conventions. Being effective may be more important than being correct.

Copywriting Checklist

Pat Friesen put together a checklist for Target Marketing Magazine to help business owners, product managers or marketing/advertising directors provide direction and input to writers who have the important assignment of crafting messages that generate response—whether it’s a click, call or car trip to a store or event.

Even if you are not a writer, you play a key role in the success or failure of the copy and content copywriters develop because of one or all of the following:

  • You know the product inside and out—its strengths, weaknesses and unique benefits.
  • You understand the major motivators and buying objections that influence buyers and nonbuyers. You know the competition, its strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • You have access to customer complaints, testimonials and much more.
  • You have insights, ideas and detailed information your copywriter wants and needs to craft a compelling sales message.

This copy checklist is designed to help you give direction and input to your writers. While every project may not require everything outlined, use this as a guide.

  1. What is your objective? Do you want to beat the control by X percent? Generate one-step sales or qualified leads? Strengthen relationships? Introduce a new product? Increase average order size? Initiate Web site involvement? Test media, offers or other direct marketing elements? Transform a one-time trier into a second-time buyer? Generate referrals or measurable forward-to-a-friend activity? Your writer needs to understand what you want to achieve and how success will be measured.
  2. What is the brand personality? Is the brand upbeat and innovative or classic and conservative? Does the brand have a spokesperson? Is there an established copy voice, tone and vocabulary? Provide examples so these can be sustained.
  3. Who is the audience? Is the message directed to a customer or prospect? Multibuyer or first-time trier? Decision maker or decision influencer? What is the average age, household income, educational background of the targeted reader? What is the comfort level with the media selected to deliver the message (e.g., postal mail, TV, etc.)? The customer/prospect profile you provide helps your writer envision the individual person to whom he or she is writing instead of a sea of nameless, faceless people.
  4. What is the product/service? Provide features and corresponding benefits. Identify the top three features/benefits of interest to the targeted audience. What are the truly unique features/benefits? Price? Ordering specifications (size, color, etc.)? Is it new? Improved? A best-seller? Back by popular demand? Also provide competitive advantages and disadvantages.
  5. What is the offer? Because the offer is what generates response, make sure to provide your writer with all elements of your offer and why they are included (e.g., discounts, deadlines, guarantees, premiums, other incentives, delivery options, payment options, etc.). Remember your offer is more than just a product or service, discount, or free shipping; it’s a package of elements bundled together to address key buying objections and push fence-sitters over the edge of indecision.
  6. What are the top three buying objections? Provide prioritized information about why people don’t buy your product or service. Your writer needs to address these objections—either directly or indirectly.
  7. What is the call to action? Do you want people to respond by phone, mail, e-mail, online ordering, clickthrough to a Web site, in-store or at an event? Is a unique landing page required? If the objective is generating leads, provide a sample of the fulfillment package, and/or tell the writer what will happen after a prospect raises his or her hand as a qualified lead.
  8. What is the format? For direct mail, is it a postcard, solo package, self-mailer, box, tube or some other format? For space advertising, is it a full- or half-page ad? Back page, back cover? All of these details provide your writer with additional ammunition for crafting a control-beating message.
  9. What media is being used? Direct mail lists, e-mail lists, TV, radio, space advertising, etc. Tip: If you’re testing e-mail vs. postal mail, be careful about directly picking up traditional letter copy and testing it in e-mail.
  10. What is the test plan? Are you testing copy? Creative? Formats? Lists? List segments? Offers? Timing? Other direct marketing elements?
  11. Will the copy be translated into languages other than English? While this may not directly affect the copy your writer develops, it may influence the overall creative approach.
  12. What other copy resources are available to the writer? Interviews with customers? Sales people? Customer service staff? Product managers? Product developers? (Tip: Product developers know valuable details about the quality of the ingredients or other details no one else knows or thinks to mention. Customers also have a way of revealing benefits often overlooked by or unknown to marketing staff.)
  13. Provide a product sample. Writers like to try what they are writing about because it provides firsthand experience with product benefits.
  14. Offer a sample of the control. Some writers prefer not to see the control e-mail, mailing package or space ad they are trying to beat. At least offer it to your writer.
  15. Provide Web links, when appropriate. Provide specific links you want included in direct mail, space ad, e-mail, e-newsletter, landing page and Web site copy.