Creative & Copywriting: Using Creative to Power the 1-2 Punch of Mail and Web
The most substantial fallout from postage increases, higher costs for paper and printing, and a weakened economy is the reduced use of mail in cross-channel marketing campaigns.
It seems like an obvious move … until you look closely.
Some cross-channel retailers who haven't been able to dissect their housefiles into different segments of responders have suffered to the point that they've thrown out the baby with the bathwater. They've completely eliminated mail from their mixes and rely on e-mail alone to make most of their contacts.
The cost of printing and postage has also discouraged pure-play retailers, who prior to this might have tried the powerful one-two punch of mail and Web.
With mail continuing to provide the best return on investment of any prospecting medium, and with the power it can have on a housefile, it's a shame to abandon it completely. Even if you can't afford to put a bigger piece (i.e., a catalog) in the mail, there are affordable alternative mailers that can work well if used as part of an integrated marketing strategy.
While this column isn't about segmenting your customer list to determine who to send catalogs to, it does examine what to do in lieu of sending catalog or direct-mail packages to customers. Appropriate copy and design are essential to that strategy.
You may have noticed some pretty big changes in your mailbox this year. Mine, which used to be loaded with catalogs, pales in comparison to the old days. This isn't a bad situation, however, if you're using mail as part of your marketing mix. A thinned-out mailbox means there's more attention for your piece of mail.
Some years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a travel group called The Wayfarers. It had a sumptuous, perfect-bound catalog that cost a few dollars per book to produce. The group was using its catalog as a prospecting tool and losing its shirt — getting a 1 percent response to cold lists made it prohibitive to send even though its typical tours cost thousands of dollars.
As a creative consultant who's well-versed in mail, catalog and Web, it's easy to see that there's a great alternative: direct mail. Not only would it cost Wayfarers less to create and print direct-mail pieces, it would also provide the brand a chance to introduce itself using a piece that's a quick and easy read.
Writing and designing a four-panel, roll-folded mailer, Wayfarers concentrated on highlighting its unique selling propositions, including gourmet cuisine and an intimate travel experience that provided both outdoor time and a chance to hang out with the locals.
Wayfarers also developed a special offer for the direct-mail campaign: a free booklet on how to prepare for a walking tour, which was one of the hurdles the company needed to overcome before someone even signed up for a tour. This kind of "paper premium" is inexpensive to produce, but it does require some thought and talent into making it a valuable gift. Great content is what gives these premiums their value.
This campaign from Wayfarers produced a 5 percent response rate in the mail to cold lists and generated high-quality leads that converted at a strong rate.
I've been watching retailers' efforts in this arena too, generating mail pieces for prospecting that will encourage walk-in traffic at brick-and-mortar stores or offering specials for Web-only purchases.
That's the beauty of a market-driven offer — when you use them wisely, you can control what happens and how it works. For mail and every other promotional medium, the offer is what should lead the charge.
For a retailer who wants to drive traffic into its stores, as Starbucks does, a postcard with an offer for retail is perfect. Starbucks takes it a step further and provides an offer to try a new product it's carrying, such as oatmeal. Meanwhile, Banana Republic wants sales anywhere and anyhow it can get 'em. A recent mail campaign from the apparel retailer had a coupon card inside a minicatalog that any recipient could take advantage of, regardless of where they shop.
Of course, if you send mail to drive Web traffic, as do the folks from Flowerbud, it's a nice idea, except that without an offer it becomes a "so what?" I'm a customer of Flowerbud, but these mail campaigns never get me shopping. They don't give me a reason to.
Many retailers use e-mail to achieve this same goal — to get consumers in action. But based on response numbers, mail is often a more powerful vehicle and something that should be included in the mix to create a synergy to grab consumers' attention. There are some weeks when I don't look at any promotional e-mail when I'm really busy, regardless of the subject line. But if I get a mail promo that same week, I'm more likely to notice it.
It's really all about synergy — never letting the customer feel like they've seen it all before. Keep them on their toes with a variety of offers from multiple media sources. This is why the combination of mail and Web can be so effective.
If you've tried mail as part of your marketing mix and it's not working or hasn't worked in the past, look at your campaigns to ensure you're using best practices. Do you have a great offer? Is the piece easy to read? Is there a connection between your print, Web and e-mail promotions? If you can answer yes to those questions, you're on your way to creating a powerful one-two punch!
Carol Worthington-Levy is the founder and creative director or Worthington-Levy Creative, a multichannel marketing creative consulting firm. Reach Carol at email@example.com.