The Measures of Success: Do Your Marketing Materials Meet One of These Criteria?

It’s important to develop a purpose for your marketing materials before you begin creating them. Not only will the planning facilitate effectiveness, but it will also help you measure results in the end.

It might sound remedial, but the outcome of your collateral should be the most important factor, not the collateral itself. Make sure the goal is at the forefront of every phase of production, and don’t try to do too much with a single project. Ask yourself, “Which of these five objectives am I looking to achieve?”

Building Brand Awareness

Successful businesses have stories. When consumers like the stories, the businesses are successful. This is the central dialogue of every effective brand awareness campaign, regardless of style, method, format, or level of complexity.

Look at the growth of the organic food movement. If you walk the aisles of Whole Foods, you will see tales about local farmers, happy cows, and hand-picked produce. People aren’t just buying dinner; they’re buying stories. And it’s the copywriters who cultivate this connection between producer and consumer.

World famous food writer, Michael Pollan, refers to this evocative marketing prose as a literary experience. It makes food choices special, transforming an egg or a piece of chicken or a bag of arugula from nourishment to an intellectual experience with complex aesthetic, emotional, and even political dimensions.

When you develop a producer/consumer relationship with this kind of depth, you help grow bonds with your customers. Just by committing to your story, you’ll begin to sow the seeds of brand awareness that will bear fruit for many years to come.

Supporting Sales

The ultimate goal of any business is to increase sales and revenues. Marketing collateral such as direct mail, catalogs, and point-of-sale brochures can all play a vital role.

The most important aspect of supporting sales with marketing collateral is to begin by considering the sales process as a whole. Don’t try to create a piece that covers the entire process. Instead, figure out which step you want to support, and plan accordingly.

For example, if you’re looking to cultivate new leads, try a direct mail postcard with short, snappy phrases and statements that grab the reader’s attention. Introduce them to the product, and lead them to the next step of the sales process. Instead of trying to sell them a widget directly from an initial postcard, direct them to your website for more information, instruct them to call a 1-800 number for the latest offer, or even ask them to bring the postcard to your store to receive a 10- percent discount.

If you already have the sales leads and are looking to supplement a later phase of the sales process, a different format might work best. Perhaps you have a team of salespeople who need to provide detailed information about your product line. Try a catalog to underscore the important benefits you’re providing, include a call-to-action, and have your sales team leave them behind.

When creating marketing collateral in support of sales, it’s important to define what part of the process you’re looking to support. Can you send a piece of collateral that attempts to do all the work in one shot? Sure. Will it work? Probably not. Should you even try it? There are more effective ways to support sales. Define your goal, and stay focused.

Projecting Thought Leadership

According to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, nearly two-thirds of all consumers conduct their own research before making purchases. This means most people who are ready to buy already know details about what you’re selling. They’ve read the ratings and reviews. They’ve seen all the articles. They’re educated. But who creates all this information?

In the last few years, we’ve seen an outpouring of fresh and relevant content. From stay-at-home moms blogging about childcare products to multi-billion dollar corporations publishing white papers about the newest software solutions, our collective vision of marketing is changing. With the birth and development of content marketing strategies, we’ve seen companies move away from the traditional sales pitch in favor of posting valuable content and information. They want to be seen as thought leaders, not just salespeople.

Essentially, content marketing places emphasis on providing relevant information to potential and existing customers. The idea is that as your consumers begin to see you as a valuable source of information, they begin to trust you. Trust leads to reader retention and brand loyalty. As you continue to provide useful information to your now eager audience, the consumer begins to see you as a thought leader in your industry, not just someone selling something. And it’s common sense that consumers like to buy things from companies that are trustworthy and consistently project leadership in their industry.

From blogs to case studies and from white papers to editorials, the supply of useful information is almost endless. It seems like everyone has something to say about pretty much everything. So if everyone else is influencing buyers with relevant information, shouldn’t you be, too?

Introducing a New Product or Service

People like the concept of new. No matter what it is, they like being the first to know, the first to try, the first to taste, the first to buy. It’s human nature.

Sometimes companies run into a lack of purpose when it comes to the development of marketing collateral. They often forget that news can sell, and even when it doesn’t, it can open doors that eventually lead to sales potential.

Introducing new goods and services is one of the most important reasons for the development of marketing pieces. Tell your audience what’s new with your organization, and be even more effective by creating a level of exclusivity. Never underestimate the power of telling someone they are part of a select few who can try something first.

Facilitating Internal Communications

It’s common for companies to focus on selling to customers, but one of the most overlooked marketing efforts is actually done internally. Many companies forget to “sell” the business to their own employees, which is surprising because it’s those same employees who are out there “selling” the business.

Everyone needs to be up-to-date. They need to buy in and be on the same page, and traditional marketing collateral can help. Meetings are important, but unless they consistently present a visceral experience, the same information can be conveyed by email or newsletter. And the great thing about using traditional marketing collateral is they won’t interrupt employees from their daily tasks like a meeting will. Plus, you’re giving people the option to read company news on their own time.

Internal communications can be just as valuable as your inventory or hardware. Like servicing computers and fax machines to maximize their potential, opening up lines of communication with your employees is a way to get the most out of your human resources.

Companies that fail to capitalize on this potential are often the ones that fail to view their workers as true resources. Just like database servers and delivery trucks, the people who work for you need maintenance, too.

Direct Mail – A Numbers Game

Six seconds, one percent, 3000 addresses, thousands of dollars. Direct mail. It’s a numbers game.

Yes, it’s a numbers game, but there is no other marketing approach that allows a regular business to reach so many prospects, in such a powerful way, at so low a cost. Not advertising, not telemarketing, not personal sales calls, not the Internet.

Clients often ask, “What should go into a direct mail campaign?” Everything. Actually, no. Everything needs to be in a Direct Response Campaign; other direct mail campaigns require fewer things.

First, a definition: Direct Mail means addressed to an individual, not to the “occupant”, “general manager” etc. Neither is it un-addressed admail. There are two general kinds of direct mail, based on the target audience: business to business, and consumer. And there is a difference between regular direct mail, and “direct response mail”. Direct response is a subset of direct mail: in it, the goal of the campaign is to have the target respond to it, before it can be considered successful.

As consumer mail has the most statistics behind it, I’m going to refer to it most often. Where business to business (B2B) differs from consumer, I’ll put the B2B information in an “aside”.

Once they’ve come across your envelope in the post, your prospect will take less than three seconds to decide to open it or trash it. By opening it, they’re identifying themselves as real prospects.

B2B is often sent in plain business envelopes, which tend to be opened as a matter of routine.

Next your prospect takes about nine seconds to scan the contents: the response device, the letter, your brochure and the response device again. (People look at the response device twice, as it has their name on it, and, it turns out, people like to see their names in print.) If you fail to hook them in that time, you’re in the trash.

As you can see, you don’t have much time.

Your task is to get your audience emotionally involved with your mailing. They’re either emotionally involved or it’s into the trash.

One method, used in consumer mailings to build emotional involvement is creating visual clutter. Visual clutter roughly drags the viewer around the page, and through the various inclusions. By “exploring” the mailing, they become “involved” with it.

While this should work with B2B mailings, your business prospects are less tolerant of clutter.

Some direct mail approaches:

  • Postcards. The implication is: good news, an easy decision, quick to deal with. However, they can be seen as representing low value, if they are not done right. Production values and creativity are extremely important with postcards.
  • Self mailers. These are often used in B2B. They tend to have very high pass along value. They’re a quick read, and often used to sell seminars, conferences, single books, for lead generation or traffic building. Statistically, seminar mailings pull 0.3% or less.
  • Catalogues. These have a fairly high response rate, and are kept for a comparatively long time. However, they are hugely expensive to print and distribute. These are being replaced by postcard invitations to view an online catalogue.
  • Standard direct mail package. At the minimum, these consist of an outer envelope, sales letter, brochure and business card. They can get very much more complicated than this. These can pull from lower than 0.5% to as high as 5%, or even 10% for outstanding campaigns.
  • Standard direct response package. At the minimum, these consist of an outer envelope, sales letter, response device, brochure and return envelope. They also can get very much more complicated than this. Again, these can pull from lower than 0.5% to as high as 5%, or even 10% for outstanding campaigns.

For the most part, direct mail packages are seen as more personal than the other methods. They can also deliver a larger quantity of information. If you want someone to respond to you, you need to give them enough information to justify their actions.

In the briefest terms, any good direct mail package does the following:

  • It frames the offer.
  • It highlights the benefits.
  • It visually reveals the concept.
  • It calls the reader to action.

You don’t know which piece of your mailing a prospect will look at first. So, every element in the package must contain the key benefits and focus on the offer.

COPYWRITING

There are six kinds of copy you need to write for your direct mail piece. Each one plays a different, but important role.

The first is your benefit copy. It builds desire. A benefit shows the improvement that the user will gain through the product or service.

Then the descriptive copy makes up for the fact that your reader can’t “kick the tires”. This is where the product/service is made tangible. Visuals play a big role here.

Support copy validates your story. It can be data, statistics or research. Or it can be examples, case studies, histories, (Which are 3rd person recommendations.), or testimonials (Which are 1st person recommendations.) Of course, it can be all of these together.

Then there are the “sweeteners”. These are incentives and choices: “Free gift”, “Yours to keep”, “Buy now and get blah blah blah, etc.”

Finally, the “facilitators”: guarantees, “toll free numbers”, “pay later”, etc. These make it easier for your reader to say YES.

THE ENVELOPE

To develop a good envelope, you need to answer these questions:

  • What is your prospect thinking?
  • What’s going to get the envelope opened?
  • What’s going to get the response you want?

Consumer oriented direct mail envelopes announce that they’re advertising something. They use teaser copy, bold graphics, even photos to get people to open them. When people open these, they know they are about to be “sold” something.

Direct mail lead generation and other B2B mailings often use a more subdued #10 or plain 5 7/8 x 9 envelope, often without even a company name on the envelope. This has its dangers, as a recipient might feel “tricked” into opening it.

(Fundraising mailings often take the direct sales approach. The trick with them is not to look spendthrift.)

Postal regulations are complex. If you’re doing any large quantity mailings, review your options before you design your mailing. Review the regulations at ups.gov for Americans or canadapost.com for Canadian mailings.

If you intend to do a large mailing, it’s best to hire a lettershop to assemble it for you. They will actually save you money, as they can put your mailing together the best way to suit the postal regs. Make sure your materials will fit their equipment and your envelopes. For ease of insertion, your envelopes should be 1/2 inch longer and 1/4 taller than your material.

I intended to give you the whole story in this article, but I realize I’ve carried on for quite a long while. I’ll finish my story of direct mail in Direct Mail the Numbers Game, Part Two, where I’ll talk about sales letters, response devices and brochures.

Get the Hands Involved and Improve Your Marketing

Years ago when I was relatively new in direct mail I had a chance to tour Metromail’s old lettershop in Seward, Nebraska.  It had some of the most amazing inserting and affixing equipment on the planet.  The mechanics at this cavernous mail center had built machines that could affix nearly any small object to paper.  Pennies, stamps, cards; you name it and these folks could stick it on a piece of paper and get it in the mail to you.

But why go to the hassle?  Why increase production costs by making a direct mail piece interactive at all?  The answer was simple — the longer you could keep the mail respondent involved with the direct mail piece, the greater your response rate.

Get the hands involved in your next promotional piece.  How often do you walk into your grocery store on a Saturday and are offered a free sample of cake or sausage or juice?  Does your favorite local coffee shop offer to give you a free taste of the flavor of the day to help you decide what to drink?  Car dealers almost wet their pants in anticipation of getting you in the car so you can take a test drive.

There is no substitute for putting a person’s hands in touch with an object; not only does touching get them involved it opens their minds to the possibilities of how they will use your product.  There is a feedback from the brain to the touch mechanisms in our fingers. We are tool users, and the hands are the manipulators of the tools…the hands are the brain’s number one tool, actually.  It is just so incredibly vital to get the person’s hands involved.

But what about engaging the intellect…overcoming objections with logical sales presentations and expressions of the facts?

Sure, that’s great and necessary.  People don’t buy on either emotions or reason alone.  Go ahead and answer the objection in your promotional marketing …but at the same time get their hands involved and engage their brains on another level.  While their hands explore their imaginations kick in.  They imagine how good that coffee will taste; they imagine how good they will look driving that car around….they imagine what they can do with your product.

Now, how do you do that on the web?  You have to get their hands involved with the keyboard… give them a chance to interact with your product as much as possible.  Allow them to comment on your blog or rate your product or customer service.  The more you can entice people to become involved with your site and hold their interest, the more you will sell them.