Junk mail. Direct response marketing. Targeted mailing. Whatever
the "experts" and public have been calling it, for the
past five decades, we've been doing it -- doing it well, and doing
Catalogs and card decks. Solo mailings and syndication programs. Bouncebacks and bangtails. Direct response space ads and free standing inserts. Whatever it takes to lure qualified leads or get an order by mail or phone, we've been doing it effectively for clients large and small.
Our direct mail roots go back to the infancy of the practice -- long before there ever was an internet, cable TV, computers or databases. And while we have a healthy respect for the power of these modern tools, we have a deeper understanding of what makes a direct marketing effort effective.
The Immutable Truths of Direct MarketingLong before these "advanced techniques" shook up the industry (and certainly long before general agencies started touting their supposed direct marketing expertise), we learned what we now know are the immutable truths of direct selling. Every time we've been tempted by trendiness or succumbed to clients' pleas to try something different or stray from the well-trod path, we've been reminded just how immutable these truths are. Believe us... we've tried to find more powerful words than "FREE," or "NEW," or "NOW" -- there are none.
What are these immutable truths we keep talking about? We're not about to reveal them all here; not because they're such big secrets (just pick up a book by Stone or Ogilvy). The reality is that knowing these truths isn't the same thing as knowing how to apply them. Decades of doing so -- successfully -- is what sets us apart. Knowing beforehand which will be the most effective type of offer and language for a particular product or audience means that in a way we've "pre-tested" the ads we create.
Control BustersOur direct marketing clients have come to depend on us for creating new controls (the standard of effectiveness for an ad against which all other versions or approaches are tested). Our toughest assignments aren't in trying to improve on the most effective control created by someone else, but in attempting to best our own previous efforts. We do it anyway.
As impressive as this might seem, what we like to point out is the incredible range of products and services for which we are able to make direct selling work so well. Flowers & plants. Home electronics. Craft kits & materials. Magazine subscriptions. Fragrances. Collectibles. Fancy foods. Beauty aids. The list truly does go on and on. As does the list of approaches we've used over the years, ranging from simple self-mailers to space ads to multi-part solos to sweepstakes to full-color catalogs. The media with which we're familiar is extensive as well, including mailing of all kinds, magazine and newspaper space ads, card decks, marriage mail, statement stuffers, etc.
Budget BustersThere's no getting away from it. Unlike other types of advertising professionals, direct marketers are fully accountable for the results of their work -- and what those results cost the client. The larger Michigan Avenue or Madison Avenue agencies who are used to throwing more and more money behind a campaign to marginally improve results are starting to wise up. Our approach has always been to find the better way to get the order -- and in many cases, that means the most cost-effective way. We're particularly pleased if we can get two mailings out of a budget meant for one; we love nothing more than being able to build in a test of an alternate approach or the use of additional media or the introduction of an extra element for the cost of the original program. That means stretching clients' dollars a little further -- and, hopefully, reducing the costs of the results that our work produces for clients.
A Word About the Internet
The Web has finally become a major player in direct marketing. From a medium appealing to niches, particularly those targeted to hobbyists and technonuts, it has grown into a nearly reliable source of leads and sales for marketers from kitchen table schemers and dreamers to Fortune 500 companies.
The appeal of quickly getting your hands on a rare record or out-of-print book has made the desktop computer a venue most consumers consider part of their shopping routine -- but it doesn't yet match the comfort level consumers have with their mail-delivered catalogs, home-shopping TV broadcasts or coupon ads in newspapers and magazines. (And secure transactions -- or the lack of them has, for the most part, become less of a concern.)
When will the internet overtake other methods of selling direct? When it or its equivalent flows as commonly from every TV set as water does from the faucets in our home. Only then will direct sales of this kind approach a significant share of the direct market, or compete in any real way with the retail market.
Until then, what efforts are made in electronic direct marketing cannot be knockoffs of existing mail or space ad efforts. A personal E-mail address has a different sanctity than a person's home mailbox. Web-pages are not catalog pages, and electronic order forms are not direct-mail coupons. Hard-nosed selling has to be balanced with usable content, and the back-end (order processing, fulfillment, customer service, etc., ) has to be firmly in place for any marketer to succeed online.
Electronic direct marketing today is developing it's own immutable
truths -- many of which will prove to be identical to the changeless
natural laws of direct marketing we discovered when "exciting
interactive interface" meant an envelope to be opened.
There's no better way to really see how effective direct mail really works than to see it work for your business. ACT NOW! Just get in touch with us and we'll do the rest!