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Doug Dickson, Chief Energizing Officer of Seminar Direct, shares his marketing insights gained from 20+ years of experience using a multi-channel approach integrating direct mail, e-mail and internet SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

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Direct Mail

12
Jun

Increasing Post Card Response Rates

Are your results less than satisfactory even though you have carefully followed design, printing, and mailing tips from a respected expert? If so, you may need to rethink the layout of your postcard or other elements of its design. What works for one company may not work for yours. Successful marketing requires careful testing, so don’t despair if it takes time before you see the results everyone is bragging about. Here are some ideas for redesigning your postcard to maximize results:

Focus on the Back Side of the Card
A large number of mail carriers tend to deliver the mail with the address-side-up. If the back of your postcard contains only the address information, large numbers of your cards will be trashed before a single headline has a chance to be read.  Try testing different layouts with the headline and offer on the back side of the postcard.  Save the front of the card for additional information.

Limit Information
Avoid packing every little detail onto the postcard as this can result in a littered layout and, therefore, hidden message. Cut down the amount of words to include only the most important information. You merely need to cause clients to take the next step, not know every step of the offer.

Make a Unique Offer
If yours is the same as every other business offer, prospects will see no reason use your company above another. Without a tempting offer, an advertising campaign is useless.  The offer is what compels readers to take action. So give clients what they want – the newest, biggest, and best product or service at an irresistible price.

Although printed postcards are one of the cheapest marketing tools, without high results they are not worth any cost, no matter how small. Therefore, test and test again until your direct mail postcards have become the optimum marketing tool that you have read so much about.

What you may not know is that you can often improve your postcard marketing results just by making minor adjustments to your approach. Here are seven such adjustments.

1. A Free Consultation is No Offer
Many agents, advisors and sales professionals like to rely on a “free consultation” offer to motivate their prospects to call.  This approach usually fails because so many have a similar offer and prospects view a consultation as a normal part of the project, not as a free bonus or motivating factor.

Instead of offering a “free consultation”, offer something else the prospect may perceive as valuable.  Offer something that is loosely related to your product or service that provides information, saves them money or simplifies their life in some way.  Guidebooks, white papers and coupon books are perennial favorites.

2. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
Think of your postcard as a mini billboard, something that attracts the reader’s attention while they’re busy looking at something else.  Top advertising agencies understand that the most effective billboards usually contain less than 7 words.  Likewise, postcards should be short and direct. There’s an old saying in advertising, “confuse ‘em and you’ll lose ‘em.”

According to a study commissioned by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), postcards have the highest read rate of all types of direct mail.  Higher read rates lead to higher response rates and greater returns on investment.

To maximize your postcard’s effectiveness, limit your focus to one main idea and keep the language focused. KISS doesn’t mean you should ever talk down to your reader, but must speak clearly so that your reader understands your message upon first glance.

3. Qualify and Segment Your Audience
For top results, use a list that is segmented to be more specific and relevant with your message.  Find logical points to divide it, like businesses and consumers, male and female, old and young, income ranges and other demographics.

By creating narrow market niches within your data, you can be much more specific in your offer, copy and imagery. This produces a much greater connection with the reader which correlates with higher response rates.  That’s just one of many ways to segment your list. You can also break it up by age, neighborhood, buyer vs. seller, prospect vs. customer, home value, etc. Sure, it takes more effort on your part. But in this age of information overload, you have to make your message specific and relevant in order to make a connection.

3. Analyze Your List
Your list connects you with your audience, and your audience determines your direct mail success. So give your list the attention it deserves. Ask all the hard questions: Is my list up to date? Is this the best possible list for me to be using, given my objectives? Is my list too general? Should I segment it into groups?

Optimize your list(s) every chance you get. And make sure you protect it by saving it in various places – on your computer, on a disc, on the Internet somewhere. Can you imagine how devastating it would be to lose a list of past clients?

5. Clarify Your Call-to-action
First, ensure that you have a strong call-to-action. Without this critical element, your postcard is just another piece of paper in a mailbox that doesn’t give anyone a reason to do anything. So, make sure to include a call-to-action on your postcard. Just as important, make your call-to-action clearly visible. Put it in a colored box where it’s just impossible to miss.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll soon find that your response rates are back on track and that your business is buidling once again.

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31
May

Improving Direct Mail

Keys to Successful Direct Mail
Small business owners have more challenges with direct mail than with any other part of the marketing process. Unfortunately, it is also a key to their success.

“The success of your seminar begins with a successful mailing.”
- Doug Dickson, The Art of Seminar Marketing

The reason that so many struggle is that they simply don’t have the background, experience and skill set to create effective direct campaigns.  In general, they are unbelievably talented, well educated on their products, but simply don’t know the secrets of writing great copy, how the eye tracks through a mailing piece and what will get prospects to pick up the phone and respond.

At the same time, they are competing in the mailbox against New York advertising firms with full time professionals who mail every day and are the very best in the world at soliciting a response.
To compensate for a lack of experience, many will “copy” the look, feel and layout of a competitor or colleague. This seldom produces an effective mailer because it ends up looking and reading like every other tired mailing piece. It also creates a huge liability with copyright, trademark and trade dress liabilities. Individuals do get sued and pay damages for stealing other’s work. It just isn’t worth the risk. For these reasons, we suggest working with a professional. It will save you time, money and allow you to focus on your own area of expertise.

Regardless of your choice to use a professional seminar marketing services or not, we want you to be successful. An understanding of the elements of a successful direct mail campaign is important.

1.  Use a Quality Mailing List
Your mailing results can only be as good as the mailing list used to solicit attendees.  We have found that poor quality mailing lists are the number one factor contributing to poor performance.  You can have the best copy, the best offer and the perfect look, but if you mailing don’t get to the right people at the right address your results will be a miserable failure.  We provide the highest quality mailing lists with a guaranteed deliverability rate of 98% or above.

Questions you MUST be able to answer about your mailing list:


How current is the mailing list?
How often is the list updated?
Who compiled the list (actually put it together)?
What guarantee of deliver-ability is provided?
How do know the individuals on the list meet your criteria?
Can the list be edited to remove our clients?
Does the list provide key information such as age, income and net worth?
Does the list also provide telephone numbers scrubbed for “Do Not Call?”
Will an electronic version of the list be provided to you upon request?
Do you have permission to use the list in the future for other mailings?

2.  Have Great Copy and Design:
The wording of the mailer and its layout are absolutely critical.  If you know your mailing list is solid, this is the area to focus upon next.

As your potential prospect reads the mail piece they are seeking the answer to two basic questions: 

Who sent this to me?
What is all about?
 
You have milliseconds to capture their interest while they scan your invitation for these answers.

Hit the reasons that prospects respond:
1.  Fear.
2.  Greed.
3.  To gain control.
2.  Personal achievement.
3.  Fun and novelty.
4.  To learn something new.
5.  To solve a specific problem.

Secrets to Direct Mail Success:
Have a headline that hits them hard and sparks their interest
A secondary or subtitle should be used to reinforce the headline
Bulleted items should list factors that are compelling to the reader
A brief description of the speaker and his qualifications is mandatory
A pleasing layout that looks “easy” to read works best
Avoid long sentences with flowery descriptions, use text that sounds like you are speaking. Make the text easy to read and flow from paragraph to paragraph.
Limit your fonts to two, three at the most on the page.
Use action words that inspire the reader
Use present tense whenever possible.
Speak to their interests, fears and concerns

If you feel you are not able to write great copy, enlist the services of a professional copywriter or use a seminar marketing company like Seminar Direct.

Maintain a narrow and direct focus. Never forget, with direct mail a 98 percent to 99 percent rejection rate equals success. You need only a few responses out of 100 to be successful. Here’s how to stay focused:

Ask your readers to do only one thing (e.g., ask for information or fill out a survey — not both), so they don’t get confused, which can negatively affect response.

Focus the message on the target audience’s pain-points, not everything you know about the product or service. That means benefits, not features.

Don’t try to handle objections in the mail package.

Avoid the smorgasbord approach to direct marketing — don’t create packages that have something for everyone.

Avoid self-mailers. A letter package will out-perform a self-mailer by about 100 percent. Packages work better because important mail tends to come in envelopes. Envelopes get opened because it’s hard to distinguish the purpose of the communication without going inside and looking through the contents.

Be unique. You know that old saying, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!” Well, this holds true for direct mail. At the end of last year, we reviewed 20 packages: our 10 best and our 10 worst. The one thing that stood out was this: The best performing packages contained elements that looked very different from one another. They all used different-sized packages, a variety of shapes, paper colors and typefaces. Conversely, the worst performing packages all had very similar looking components. Also, most of the poor performers were packages that closely followed brand guidelines, where a consistent look and feel is highly valued.

Longer letters generally produce higher response rates. When the goal of the longer letter isn’t to provide more information, but to create higher perceived value, you’ll increase the chances that the recipient reads parts of it. Most direct marketing letters tend to be one page or (at the very most) two pages.

The belief is that nobody has time to read a long letter — they’re too busy. This is true, but if you can use the letter to create higher perceived value, you increase your odds of getting the reader to say, “Wow, they’re sending me a four-page letter, so they must have important information to communicate.” Remember, you need only two or three out of 100 individuals thinking this way to be successful. Just this last year, we tested a four-page letter against a two-page letter and got about a 20 percent lift in response with the four-pager.

Repeat your offer throughout all the package elements. If you can count the number of times you mention the offer and call-to-action in your package on one hand, you need to go back and add more. Don’t assume that recipients will work hard to find the offer or call-to-action. Don’t assume that recipients read your mail package front to back. Make it obvious by repeating it throughout all elements — the letter, the brochure, the reply form, even the business reply envelope. We had a client that felt repeating the offer was offensive to the readers’ intelligence, so we tested it. One version repeated the offer twice. The other version repeated the offer seven times. The version that showcased the offer seven times had a 24 percent lift in response.

Provide multiple response options. To lift response, you have to make it convenient to respond to your mail packages by providing multiple options: mail, phone, online and fax.

Testing increases response rates. Testing in-market is the only way to really determine what people will do. Most marketers do not test enough. The excuses are plentiful. Maybe they don’t test because the target universe is limited and mail quantities are small. Others believe that their personal opinion is enough to create a successful approach. The truth is that even with a small mailing you can test. For example, with a 1,000-piece mailing, you have the opportunity to test two to three variables. Your results may not be statistically valid, but they’ll provide directional information, which is better than learning nothing because you failed to test.

Use relevant messaging. When mailing to seniors, telling them that “seniors face multiple challenges” buys you nothing. Your reader already knows it. Instead, tell them something relevant. Express how you understand precisely the challenges that they face, and show them how you can help them overcome those specific challenges.

Mail again to previous responders. Responders from previous campaigns can be low-hanging fruit.
 
3. Get the Envelope Opened:
There are many strategies to get it done, but getting the envelope opened is the number one goal of every marketing piece.

Wedding style mailers - having an envelope that appears to be an invitation to a party or wedding is an effective technique.

Creative copy – teaser copy on the outside can be unbelievably effective. It must be written well or no increase in opening rates will be seen.

Colored envelopes – colored envelopes are opened more than white.

Handwritten fonts – fonts that appear to be hand written are more effective than computer looking fonts. They work because they feel more personal.
Stamps – using stamps beats indicia imprints or metering. Once again, because it looks the mailer looks more personal. 

Avoid standard #10 envelopes – the standard envelope that all your bills come in is called a #10 envelope. If you want to be noticed you need to be different, use something like a full window envelope, . Don’t use a standard #10 envelope for this reason.

Colored inks – people respond more to colors than they do to black ink. The colors that gain the highest response rates are constantly changing. This happens because colors tend to change like fashion and whatever is different will pull a slightly higher response rate.

Avoid looking like “junk mail”- prospects are experts at sensing whether a letter is direct mail or not. Avoid these tell-tale signs:

4.  Avoid Looking Like Junk Mail

When looking through the mail, prospects generally sort it into an “A” ad “B” pile. One pile is for bills, important mail and things that interest the reader; the other pile is heading for the round file (trash can).  There are a number of factors that readers use to determine if something is “junk mail” or not including:

Carrier Route Codes
Indicia
Meter Marks
Postmark Cancellations
Black Ink
Computer Fonts
Return Address
Additional Items on Envelope

Review these items carefully so you can avoid appearing as a solicitation and you’ll dramatically improve your results.

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31
May

How to Market Your Seminar

If no one attends your event, it isn’t a seminar, it’s an expensive lesson.  When seminars fail, the cost if far more than just the expenses relating to the event itself; generally the most expensive part is the loss of the revenues that should have been received.  Fortunately, with good marketing your event can be consistently filled with well qualified prospects.

There are many different mediums for marketing seminars. We have listed them for you in order of their effectiveness:

Direct mail
Newspaper advertising
Telephone soliciting
Television
Newspaper inserts
Radio
Public relations (PR)
E-mail
Billboards

As you can see, direct mail is by far the most effective advertising vehicle from a cost and time perspective. The main advantage it provides is the ability to target your prospects.

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31
May

Why Use Direct Mail?

A recent study confirms that direct mail is still the most effective form of marketing available today. The study, created by Fournaise Marketing Group, evaluated and compiled the marketing campaigns of over 3,000 marketing professionals from businesses of all sizes and concluded that direct mail constitutes 35% of all marketing spending worldwide.   According to Jerome Fontaine, CEO of Fournaise, “If you listen to the industry hype, it’s all about online advertising and emerging mobile advertising. If you check where marketing budgets are mostly spent, it’s still all about traditional media such as TV and newspapers.  But when it comes down to effectiveness, while it may not be the most glamorous and talked-about medium, marketers are telling us DM is still the best platform for delivering results.”  Direct mail marketing was rated as the most effective means of marketing in both the business to business and in the business to consumer marketing sectors.

What is it about direct mail the makes it so effective?  There are 8 powerful characterstics that are key to its success:

1. Direct Mail is Personal
Unlike an advertisement in the newspaper or other media that can be read by anyone, your sales letter arrives as a piece of personal communication addressed specifically to a well qualified prospect. Unlike other mediums, direct mail can be personalized (Dear Mr. Jones) and customized to each reader (“As a retired investor, you know that… “), showing your prospect that you know them by name and are somewhat familiar with them.
 
2. Cost Effective
Advertising by its very nature is expensive. To reach a lot of people, you need to spend a lot of money. Direct mail, on the other hand, only targets the prospects you want to reach. Instead of pitching your product to a huge audience of potential buyers, you aim your sales message only at prospects most likely to buy.

3. Breaks Through the Marketing Mess
Your ad can easily get lost among all of the competing ads in the newspaper, phone book or internet. Likewise, your message can be easily forgotten on radio or television unless you repeat it many times, which is incredibly expensive and out of reach for most companies.  With a simple letter, addressed to your prospect by name your message cuts through the media clutter and has an opportunity to get their attention.

4. Measurable Results
Direct mail is one of the best mediums for measuring the financial return on your marketing dollar. Simply find a method for uniquely identifying the response and you’ll quickly be able to determine your cost per lead and net results.  This can be done using a unique phone number, business reply cards or even by using a code name like “Sam” who prospects are instructed to ask for when responding.

5. Predictable
One advantage of knowing the success rates of your past mailings is that you can predict the success of future mailing. If you mail the same package with the same offer to a similar group of prospects, you can acurately predict how many responses you will receive and how those will translate into sales.

6. Improves with Testing
Because you can measure your direct mail results, you can also test the variables used within your mailings. Test one version of copy against another, one list against another, one offer against another and you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. This allows you immediately improve your results and to spend your marketing dollars where they are most effective without relying on guess work or hunches.

7. Immediate Results
General advertising, sometimes called “branding”, builds product or company awareness. There is no direct action that is requested in branding, only presenting the product to potential prospects, hoping that it will result in long term familiarity.  This is an effective approach, but it can take months, even years to produce results.  Direct mail asks for action now and explains the advantages of responding today.

8. Secret
If your tired of having your competition steal many of your good marketing ideas, direct mail can help keep them more private.  While it is still possible for a competitor to see your direct mail, it makes it much more difficult than an ad in the newspaper of similar mass media approach.

These 8 factors come together synergistically in direct mail, creating an incredibly effective form of marketing.  To further enhance the effects of direct mail, try incorporating it into a multi-channel approach also using the internet, e-mail or PURLS.

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