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Direct Mail Myths

Posted On: 2006-01-20
Length: 25:46

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Welcome to corporate America.

And welcome to the 20-Something Marketing Forum everyone. My name is Jared Degnan and you are listening to the most relevant podcast on the Internet for 20-something professionals and those of us who are in the marketing profession. This is an informative, engaging look into marketing, and of course the lives of 20-something professionals dealing with the realities, and of course the drama, there's always drama, and believe me, in the modern workplace. I want to thank all of you guys for tuning in and listening to me. It has been an absolutely fantastic run. I apologize that I did not post this 24 hours earlier, but as I mentioned, those darn copy-eating muskrats. Actually it was because of the fact that some of my very best friends have moved back into town. I don't know if you guys have seen that yourselves, but I find three's a really interesting point that you hit when you're like maybe two or three years out of college. Right when you exit college, everybody moves away, and then for some reason two to three years later, and especially in an urban center like Washington DC, everybody seems to move back. So I've been spending a lot of time with my friends who just moved back into town, and it's truly just been an absolutely fantastic time, especially because of the fact that here in Washington DC we are not always the most privy to fun times. In fact, just so you guys know, Washington is absolutely a mess these days. I don't know if you guys have been following the Michael, whatever the dude with the scandal. See, I don't even follow the shit. What can I say? Anyway, for those of you who don't already know, I am not in the political spectrum. I thankfully, work for a financial trade association as a marketing strategist, so this is what I do. I do marketing. And I dole out my illicit advice that people seem to take. But, I don't know. It's days like this that really do make me want to be in political communication, even though it's like way too much work normally for way too little result. But I mean it's interesting. I mean you look around, the Washington right now which is absolutely like a buzz with what's going to happen. In fact a lot of my friends work for lobbying organizations, people who actually work for lawyers who go to the Hill and try to persuade members of Congress to do what it is they want. And it's funny because these changes are going to affect them very, very deeply. And so me and some of my for-profit friends just kind of like on the sidelines go, Ha ha. I'm kidding. I love all of my friends, and it's, I don't know, whenever you're kind of like looking out on the landscape of your own life, you always think you have it a little bit better, and then all of a sudden you realize that the grass is greener on the other side. But then when you get to the other side, the grass really isn't greener. Anyway, at this point in time this really does show you the fact that I am rambling.

But I do want to make a couple of quick site announcements. As you might have seen, we're doing a little bit, a couple changes to the podcast and the show. The first of which is actually some new voice overs. Thank goodness for Sharon Cassidy over with, gosh, I think she runs her own voice over company, and she is absolutely fantastic. And she's the one who did my voice over, so I'm going to put in Sharon's voice overs, and then I'm also going to put in another guy who came to work from Potomatic.com that I'll talk a little bit later on in the podcast. But I thank both of them for their work in terms of just helping me out, getting some new voice overs and really kind of changing the tone of the podcast for a little bit. Also, for all of you jokers out there who never actually changed your feed as you recall when I switched over from blogspot to my own domain, I switched my RSS fee as well. And I tried to get everybody to get on board with it. But unfortunately that didn't happen. But in case those of you who are too lazy to switch happen to notice, I switched your feeds automatically, thank goodness for iTunes. So no longer will you guys have to worry about receiving those alternate version messages, and I will be able to stop harping on it. Thank you to the folks over at Apple. And also a quick announcement. If you guys are on MySpace, feel free to visit the 20-Something Marketing Forum on the website at www.20somethingmarketing.com and click on MySpace Group, which allow you to subscribe to the 20-Something Marketing Forum's MySpace Group. Now what I'm doing is I'm using this to replace the discussion boards. The discussion boards were plenty good, but I think that this will be able to facilitate some more interesting interaction between the members, especially because it allows you to post your photo, and then you can begin talking about the things you want to talk about. And more freely share your ideas. It's completely unmoderated, so, I mean I hate to say it like that, but feel free to post photos, in the group photo box, ask questions, solicit marketing advice. I've already got a couple of great people on there who are kind of posing some really interesting questions about like what kind of marketing sites they read, what their ambitions are, so I encourage you guys to go out and look at that.

Let's see. Today's topic. Today's topic is going to pertain to this large pile of crap that I have on my desk right now, and I'll take a couple photos of it and post them later on in the week just to give you some examples of some of the stuff I'm going to talk about on today's show. But the topic of today's show is direct mail. Now we all hate to get junk mail in our regular postal mail, and it seems like it's a growing fad that you have email communications, otherwise known as spam. Now here's the thing. I found that email communications actually work better in terms of getting people to act. However, direct mail is still going strong and I think it's a really interesting aspect for us to look at in terms of us just understanding all aspects of marketing. Direct mail is one of those mediums that are never, ever going to go away. And I hope it doesn't go away in particular industries, in certain financial sectors especially the credit card industry. Direct mail is very, very important and it gets the message out there and I think that it has some real potential. And the more that we are able to understand it, the more we are able to kind of work through things. Cause I mean of course the 20-something professional is not always going to be the VP of marketing, so unfortunately we're never always going to be the person who says, ok, this is the medium that we're going to go with. Sometimes your boss just comes to you and says, well we're going to do a direct mail letter and you have to really kind of abide by that and just go forward. And the more that you know about direct mail, I feel the better that we can become at it. And also I'm going to post something a little bit later on this week that I'm going to call the chorus factor, which is kind of a tactic for effective persuasive marketing copywriting. Which I think is really interesting. So this will kind of all tie in to like a direct mail week here on the 20-Something Marketing Forum. So if you guys have any stories about the direct mail, please let me know. But other than that, I really do, I want to thank you guys for listening and ask you guys to pull up a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, cause this is episode #22, aptly named "Direct Mail my Ass."

The 20-Something Marketing Forum. Your vision, your voice.

All right, everybody. I'll tell you what. I'm going to keep the show relatively short today just because I know you guys have better things to do. But I do want to go ahead and get out the kind of, the tactic that I want to discuss today. Now everybody knows direct mail. Everybody receives junk mail. And I think one of the most interesting aspects of direct mail advertising is that sometimes it's looked down upon, a lot. In fact in his book, Dry, Augustine Burrows basically relates direct marketing as the pits of marketing. And it's like, if you are going to do something, don't do direct marketing because it's just going to annoy the person. However, people, and professionals all across the industry are saying that's not the case. Direct mail plays a very important role. It plays an important role because it is one of the most easily accessible marketing elements. It is a way for you to get bunches of material out to people. It is not electronic, so it does kind of get it into their hands as a physical entity. And I think that when we look at a lot of what's going on in the marketing realm, that personal touch is going to get more and more important, and as we kind of look at the tactics that we take and the channels that we pursue, direct mail is just going to get more and more important because it's going to become that last bastion of human contact. Now, however, it doesn't feel like that when you open up your mailbox anymore. But it, just I mean think about the last time when you opened one of those spam letters and that I think is the number one lesson we have today. Is just getting the fricking thing opened. I actually received a letter from, I think it was Citibank, and they had clearly attached a post-it note to the front of the envelope, which made me kind of like, you know what, I know no one actually took the time to hand write a million of those things and post it to me, but I do know that that got me to take a second look at the piece. And I think that's the first component of a good direct mail piece. And that's just getting you to open it.

The second part of this is how much value does it add? I mean everybody can like get pissed off at direct mail, but how many times have you actually opened up a letter and it enhances you in some way. It has a freebie. It has a post card. Now let me give you an example of a direct mail piece that I saw that was not great value add. This example came from Business Week. Business Week sends me lots and lots and lots of junk mail trying to get me to subscribe to their particular publication because of course, I actually subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and a couple of different publications, so I think it's just, I must be on a mailing list or something. However, when I look at the envelop it says, "do not bend" and I think that's almost rush copy. That's almost like the envelopes that you see, "open now, expires like September 22 or something." I don't know. But the idea is that it makes you want to open up the envelope to see what the hell's in there. And you open up and you expect, you know what, usually when it says do not bend it's like some sort of photo. But on what I have to say is kind of a glossy card stock is a Business Week, and I can only guess that this thing is most often used as a bookmark. And that just, it's kind of like, what the fuck am I supposed to do with this fricking bookmark? And that's just not value add. However, in a B2B setting, it's funny cause I actually have, I was requested to do a piece of direct mail last week, and I mean, it's one of those things where you can roll your eyes at it, oh god another direct mail piece, and that's kind of, I mean, that's lock and stock for most 20-somethings, especially if you're a copywriter like I am. But it's, I took a second look at it and realized that this is an excellent opportunity to deliver information. Now we have an event coming up in about I guess it's about two and a half months. But it's our major marketing event of the year. It's our chance to get in front of all these different constituencies, and the challenge with that is to make sure that during this like three to four day event that these guys are where we want them to be and touching base with the people that we want them to touch base with. So I was asked to do a three piece direct mail series, which is one mailing two weeks delay, one mailing, delay, another mailing in the next two weeks. So there are three in total. And what I did was, I kind of went outside the balance of the normal direct mail letter. Direct mail, and when you think about it, it doesn't just have to be a letter. It can be a post card, it can be a newsletter. It can be a package. And I think that so many times we get hung up on the actual letter portion of the piece, that we forget there's so many other things. In fact I took about maybe about 25 minutes, came up with a basic layout in Pagemaker, which I guess is now In Design, but my company is too cheap to put out for In Design for me, at least at this point in time. I'm kidding boss, I love you. Please. Anyway, I'm probably going to cut that piece out. Anyway, the idea being that I took a look at it. It took me about 25 minutes. Used a pre-formatted template, and I created this newsletter-esque type of a piece and I put it into I guess a 9 inch by 12 inch envelope. So it's not your traditional direct mail piece. And I came up with the name for it, a Convention post. So you know it's directly associated with the convention. So it's in a plain white envelope. It does not have our logo on it at all. However when you open it, you realize ok, I've been duped, it's not really anything. It's not really a newsletter that I subscribed for. However what it is is really a kind of colorful newsletter piece that I had come up with that featured three stories, or "stories" with different events that we wanted them to go to at the convention. Now I had felt pretty good about the piece when I had put it out, just because I was happy with it. It looked good, it was something that was definitely going to get attention. And it also was value add. It was specifically like, you know what, we're going to get you exactly what you need. I specifically told them, ok, this is what you're going to get if you attend this piece. And this is how much you're going to be able to save. And this is what we're going to be able to do to help your bottom line. And though it was a promotional piece, it still was a little bit interesting. And it was presenting the information in a way that was not normal, but which was innovative. That was completely just very, very interesting, I think. And what's really funny about this is that this past week I was talking to some of my coworkers and one of our other divisions had requested a mailer go out. And of course this is just like, this is a marketing strategist and a marketing coordinator's nightmare, because you never ever, ever, ever want to overload people in direct mail. And I guess that's another lesson. However, it turned out that this division actually needed this format. So what I'm doing, is that in the second piece, even though I was just going to repeat what I said in the first place, maybe with some different information, I'm now able to leverage this piece that has become value added to the receiver and I think that's really where we can differentiate ourselves in direct mail.

Now lastly, and this is probably the most important piece of a direct mail letter, and it's the most important piece for any marketing device, and that's the action statement. It has to be actionable. So, what I had to do was say, ok, well XYZ, this is what is going on at this event, but here's how you actually attend it. And you always want to put like a website. You always want to put a phone number, and you always want to kind of give them that next step in any piece whatsoever. However, I think that in the actionable portion of your direct mail, it's always great to have that link to a website and as my job includes a lot of different things, I am actually trying my hand at re-designing some of our web copy and the way that people flow through our website. So what I'd love to be able to do, and what I'm doing and I'm structuring this, is taking the, a look at all of our direct mail pieces. I'm taking a look at our newsletters. I'm taking a look at our true conventional direct mail which was that newsletter that I had mentioned earlier, the ones that just directly go towards a recipient for the sole purpose of advertising. And then potentially even some of our newsletters that go out on a normal basis, which is like the mail pieces. But the idea is that you want to direct them to a central site. And I've got one of those, my company has one of those website that has this complex program that you never can really get a clean email address, like 20somethingmarketing.com/store. You really can't get that with this particular website. So what I'm doing is I'm revamping the site to include a page which will allow me to give people easy access to that action item. So the action item will quite literally read "visit X website" and click on X. So that gives them a single landing page, and it also gives them an easy click through. And that is what you call actionable. Because direct mail is great, but as we see so many times within so many different pieces of marketing collateral, it has to be layered. So you put that direct mail piece, that physical mail piece on top of the website which I just, I find that it's incredibly efficient and very, very effective. So next time you have to kind of look at a direct mail piece, kind of consider what more you can do. And just to give you a quick review of that, we have a little acronym that I came up with. And you want to make sure that your pieces get a standing ovation. That's right. A standing ovation. That's O V A. Stands for Openable, Value-Added and Actionable. That's OVA. So you can get OVA your direct mail phobia. You can get OVA the idea that direct mail isn't effective. And you can get OVA the fact that I am a complete and utter idiot with this show. So I am going to say that this segment is OVA, and remind you that it's OVA. Openable, Value added, Actionable.

You're listening to the 20-Something Marketing Forum.

Ok. I know this show is getting way too interesting for it's own good, so I will quickly, quickly wrap it up with what we like to call the game plan. That's right, it's the moral of the story, if you will. Kind of things to take away from you. And because I gave you guys the nice little O-V-A, the OVA acronym today, I think that kind of gives itself a self-explanatory note in terms of a tactic you can take away with you. However, I do want to kind of focus in on one thing that's kind of going on in my life, and one of the reasons why I am so bloody off schedule this week is because, as I mentioned, I've got a lot of people who are just moving back into town. And also, I mean, I'm kind of in the middle of a weird situation in my life, and I really apologize for kind of going all Wanda Wisdom and I guess Willing Warrior on this element, cause I really don't' like to do too much introspective rambling stuff, but I do want to kind of comment on it. Everyone once in a while you kind of take a look at your life and you say, where is this going. What's happening. Am I meeting the expectations that I have laid out for myself? And I think that, especially folks in our particular line of work, really do kind of focus in on how much we're liked and how much we're doing, especially because a lot of us are very, very ambitious. In fact I got interviewed this past week by a guy who is working on a self-help book. And I really had a great conversation with them and it's one of those things where he asked me a lot of questions about what I thought about 20-something life, different delivery channels just within 20-something marketing. Of course we wrapped up the conversation with me giving him a healthy dose of a free advice. But I just kind of thought about it, and I kind of thought about some of the things that I'm doing right now, and I've been in the situation where I've been looking for a significant other, a boyfriend, for a long time. And essentially I've been kind of going from person to person trying to find what it is I'm searching for. And I realized the other day that I am searching validation in one way, shape or form. I am constantly checking the stats on the web site, I am checking your comments. I love your comments. But I'm almost like relying a little bit too much on them. So I get to the point in time where I have this massive, massive amount of anxiety when it comes down to dating, just because I want people to like me so much. And I think, the moral of it is just, faith in your own identity. I woke up this morning feeling great. Feeling, you know what, I had just kind of like, given up on dating this guy or not dating this guy. I didn't even go out on a first date with this particular guy. And I just, I did not need to feel validated. And then of course I got a text message from him later on in the day which completely screwed everything over, and made me feel very much like I needed to continue on trying to get him to approve of me by quite literally getting a second date. But I mean, it's funny, cause I ended up the day, and I found out that one of my really good friends has just moved back, Wesley, and if there's anybody who I want on this show, it's him, cause he's just absolutely insane. He's unfortunately straight, or at least that's what most of us think. But the fact of the matter is guys, I notice that a lot of my good friends are moving back and I couldn't be more welcome with this. The moral of the story, guys, is that as marketers we're out there to get people to notice us. We're out there because we're attention whores. We're out there because we want to make a name for yourself. The moral of the story and the action item that I'd like to present to you guys is go out and find a reason to believe you yourself that is only your own. Go out there. Ignore your success rates. Ignore your response rates. Ignore any compliments that you get from other people. And I'm not saying those are not important, and I'm not saying that I want you guys to stop emailing me, cause I think it's very important that I constantly improve the show and get feedback from the show. However it's also important that you stand on your own two legs and it's not being hard-hearted at all. It's being, it's openly acknowledging that in a professional sense, and in a personal sense, you're doing what you're doing. Because I think that as we get older there are a lot of pressures to let the flame die, fall into line, do whatever the hell it is that everyone else does. But that's the point. We're new generation. We're new. We are constantly pushing the envelope. And we should never lose that. And I think that if we need to take a week off and just, not like taking a week off from work, but taking a week off the craving of attention and validation, I think that's an incredibly important and very useful thing. So folks, I want to wish you a very, very happy week, a great and illustriously relaxing weekend. I know I'm probably going to have one myself. But I want to thank all of your guys for listening again. Forward any of your comments, questions over to jared@20somethingmarketing.com, and of course on the web at www.20somethingmarketing.com. I appreciate all you guys for listening and for putting up with this rather interesting show. But this one will go down in the record books. So I want to wish you guys a very, very, very great time. Keep on listening to the show. Keep on forwarding your comments and as always, I will catch you on the flipside.

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