Talon Mailing & Marketing, Inc.
561 Acorn Street, Deer Park, NY 11729
Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing May 2003 Newsletter:
By Susanna K. Hutcheson.
A lot of folks spend a ton of money on Web site design. But it's not the design that makes you money. It's two other things
1. The first thing is excellent writing.
2. The second thing is usability.
What's usability? Simply put, it's how easy it is to navigate a site. That determines how you experience the site and whether or not you might make a purchase from that site.
The truth is, most sites are simply trash! The code is bad. People try to be cute with flash and graphics and color. They don't think of visually impaired or disabled people who use their site. Nor do many people who put up sites consider the aging eyes of Baby Boomers. Small type is not welcome to the aging eye. Nor are loud colors in the background.
People put things on their sites which are useless like horoscopes and news, forums no one uses and classified ads. They put up banners that send people flying off to some other site and look ugly in many cases.
We have to make it easy for people to use our site. Faced with any sort of technology, very few people take the time to read instructions. As Steve Krug says in his marvelous new book, "Don't Make Me Think", "instead, we forge ahead and muddle through, making up our own vaguely plausible stories about what we are doing and why it works."
How do people really read Web sites? Studies show that we first look at the upper left. We scan to the bottom right and back to the center of the page. We seldom read every word unless we're reading a news item and then we usually print it out for later reading.
So what's a webmaster to do? The usability experts at Future Now and other places suggest we put important words in bold.
On my site, I've put words and phrases in bold that go from upper left to lower right and back to center. If you read nothing but those bolded words, you'll get pretty much the gist of what I'm trying to tell you. And it works.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't use long copy when it's called for. But it does mean that you must design your pages for the average reader who isn't really a reader but a scanner. Get it? I know it sounds nuts. But that's how it works.
But there are other items to be considered too. For example, hyperlinks. People expect to see hyperlinks in blue and underlined. They should also change color when they've been visited so folks will know they've been there.
In addition, hyperlinks to your most critical pages should go at the end of your first page, not near the top. You don't want to chance losing visitors even on your own site. There are certain things you would prefer they read before moving on --- even if they do scan and not read.
How much money should you spend on usability? In terms of gross averages, Jakob Nielsen, a highly respected usability expert, estimates that spending about 10% of a project's budget on usability activities doubles usability.
He recommends spending 10% of a project's budget on usability, but within a few years optimal ROI will probably require spending 20% or more. Next let's discuss writing for the Web. When you write your pages or when someone writes them for you, does it read like a dull brochure? Well, it shouldn't. No one wants to read that.
All anyone cares about when they hit your site is what you can do for them. If all you talk about is you and how great you are, they'll move on. Tell them what you can do for them. Don't "me me" them to death. "You you" them into doing business with you.
To see how your site scores on the We We scale (Really known as The Customer Focus Scale) go to Future Now. It will open your eyes. I guarantee you!
What you want your site to do is convert visitors into buyers. I had a client tell me that before he used my service he had 1000 hits per day and about one small sale per week. Astounding isn't it?
But it happens all the time. It's very easy to get visitors. You simply pay for inclusion in search engines. You'll get all the visitors you want. But visitors don't pay the bills. Buyers pay the bills. Visitors who don't buy or fill out your forms or request your newsletter are just using your money. Each visitor costs you money if you pay for hits like most people do.
So you can't afford to have a lot of hits and no sales. That's just not smart.
I know you've heard before that you don't write for the Web the way you do for print. Well, it's true. When people have a mouse in their hand and a ton of sites to choose from, they're not going to stay on yours unless they have a compelling reason to do so.
So you have a few seconds to make a very grand impression. You have a few seconds to let folks know that they need to stick around at least long enough to see what's in it for them.
Your writing has to be quick and lively. It should lack hype. People hate hype on the net. They don't believe it. They won't read it.
They'll accept it on the radio or in print ads. But they won't accept it on the net. They want solid information to base decisions on.
People do buy on the net. They buy big time. And words are what they look at first. They look at graphics, if at all, only after the words and then only graphics that are important to the words. Many folks turn off graphics in their browsers all together.
And you must remember, most people still browse using a 28k modem. So if a graphic or a site takes more than about ten seconds to load, they're gone. And if you expect them to download a plugin to see your cool flash entry graphic . . . sorry! It's not going to happen. Not unless you're giving away a Cadillac to every visitor.
I've just touched the surface of things you need to consider when putting up your Web site and maintaining it.
You also need to consider making sure the html code is good and load time fast. You need to know that it can be seen the way you want it seen in all browsers. For that you can check it out at Net Mechanic. and the most important of all for certification go to The W3C site. Another good resource is Cecil Craig's site. This is a one-stop site that you don't want to miss.
Your site is some of your most valuable real estate. Even if you have a brick and mortar business, your site represents you and it's critical to your business life. It can be a moneymaker or a money loser. It can make you look terrific and successful or it can make you look like a bum. It's up to you.
Isn't it time you gave your site a kick start? Check it out carefully and critically. Go to StickySauce.com and visit the "Review my Web Site" forum in the Web site Design section and talk to the folks there. They'll help you see your site as it really is.
Don't put it off. Remember, the competition has access to the same information you do. If they don't, they soon will. The net is big business and you can either be part of it and make money from it or just gather cob webs. It's totally up to you.
Susanna K. Hutcheson is a professional advertising and direct mail copywriter. She was the first copywriter to utilize the Internet as a place to market this type of service. Susanna has clients all over the world. She writes everything from Web site content to direct mail and radio spots. Visit her Web site at http://www.powerwriting.com. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: (316) 684-0457.
By Alan Rosenspan
Letter packages almost always outpull other formats. Boxes are more innovative and attention-getting. Can simple postcards really work, and when is it appropriate to use them?
Here are some examples of how to make postcards work:
1. Postcards to build awareness. We've used this technique a number of times and it's always been successful.
The idea is to send three postcards to the same person within a short time period. How short? A week or 10 days is best. Any longer, and the person may not remember receiving them.
The cost for the three-postcard mailing will be approximately as much as one full direct mail package - but you create far more attention and awareness. It is a perfect way to launch a new product, or even a new company.
We did a campaign for a software company named Dataware, where each postcard focused on a different client of the company - all big, recognizable names. We used the technique for PictureTel videoconferencing, with each postcard showing a different case-history, versioned by industry. And for New England Funds, each postcard had a different headline from our campaign, "Where the best minds meet."
2. Postcards to increase frequency. A simple postcard can be an excellent, low-cost way to extend a campaign or keep in front of a customer on a timely basis.
One freelance copywriter I know built her business by sending out postcards from every exotic location she traveled to. "I'll be back on June 3rd," she'd write, "And I'd love to do a project for you."
3. Postcards to reduce costs. We did a test for one high-technology client where we split the list in two. Half received our full-blown direct mail package; half received a postcard.
While the postcard did not pull as much as the direct mail package, it did produce a significantly lower cost-per-response. Our strategy then became: mail the more expensive direct mail package to highly qualified lists; mail the postcard to less-qualified lists in larger numbers.
4. Postcards to take advantage of timing. If you have a timely offer, or news that your market has been waiting for, a postcard might be the fastest thing you can put in the mail. It may also produce the most response.
We did a teaser postcard to announce the latest version of a software product from Lotus - just to buy time while we created the big, complicated, expensive direct mail package. We actually got more sales from the postcard than from the direct mail package that followed.
What Mistakes Should You Avoid?
There are three mistakes to avoid when you're planning a postcard campaign.
A. Postcards that Tease and Don't Tell
Have you ever sent out a postcard to "pre-announce" a direct mail package? It sounds like a good idea - because then people will be looking for the follow-up. It has never, ever worked for me. If you insist on testing this, make sure the "teaser" postcard has enough information for the prospect to respond. Don't make them wait for the direct mail package. The same is true of follow-up postcards.
When you use the three-postcard technique, the temptation is to "build" the campaign. "By the time people get our third one, they'll really be excited!" you say. Not likely. They may not even realize they've received three. But some people would have responded to the first or the second one, if only you had given them the information they needed.
B. Postcards without Visual Appeal
"Why should we confine our message to just the back of the postcard? Why not use both sides?" you may ask. However, one of the advantages of the postcard is that the visual and the message can work together. Almost like a billboard. Otherwise, you're just sending a sell sheet through the mail.
C. Postcards with too much information
If you need to tell a longer story, don't use a postcard. They are best when you have a simple message, or a powerful offer and that's all. The more you cram onto it, the harder it is to read, and the fewer people may respond. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally a postcard is little more than a billboard in the mail.
Double Your Postcard & Double Your Response:
Double Postcards are two cards attached with a perforation that have the name and address of the person printed on both cards. The person simply rips the cards in half, checks a box, or moves a sticker, and then drops one of the cards back in the mail. Double Postcards are so easy to respond to that they can sometimes create problems for the company that uses them. For example, many magazines use them to get subscribers, but then find that the "pay up" rate is low. Other companies may not be prepared for the volume of response that they get. I gave a seminar in New York in May where one attendee reported that she got four times as many leads from a Double Postcard than from any other mailing.
Double Postcards are most effective when you have a free offer from a well-known company. I've seen recent ones with stickers and even a hologram.
But if you're looking for a lot of leads, and you don't want to spend a lot of money, you might consider testing this format.
Three Innovative Postcard Ideas:
I received a series of mysterious postcards that were printed in a handwriting typeface. They were from "Bob." The first one had Bob decked out in a loud Hawaiian shirt in front of the Eiffel Tower. The quintessential ugly American. The message read "Dear Alan, Paris is awesome. The food, the museums, the people. Having the time of my life! Haven't had to call the office once. Can't believe how relaxed I am. Say Hi to everyone for me. I'll write from my next stop! Bon voyage, Bob."
Who is Bob, and why is he writing to me?
Next I received one of Bob in front of the Acropolis in Greece, and then the Taj Mahal in India. The last postcard - from Florida - revealed the story. Bob wrote, "I never would have had time for this trip if I hadn't contacted Logogram to handle all my promotional items.
Aquent is a freelance talent agency in Boston that places copywriters, designers and even production people with their clients. Naturally, you'd expect them to be very creative about their own mailings. But what can you do with a simple postcard? They sent out the world's "hairiest" postcard - a postcard with an orange fur-like substance on one side. It felt really, really weird and was one of the most unusual postcards I've ever received. The other side asked, "Are your design and production projects getting a little hairy?"
The Involving Postcard
In my opinion, the very best postcards of all time were done for Smartfoods popcorn by their agency, Herring Newman. The campaign consisted of several postcards with strategic die-cuts that served as an involvement device. When you put your fingers up against the die-cut on one side, it gave the other side a whole new meaning. One postcard read "Fishing by Moonlight." Another said, "Beach Bums." The copy was also terrific. The first postcard read, "Greetings from Beantown! We made it! Just had a frosty at your favorite bar. Actually found my old dorm room. It's co-ed now. Tried my key. It still works! Boy were those two surprised! See ya, Ken. P.S. Sending you a souvenir." The next card read, "...Yo! Spent today in Beantown. Went to a wild party last night near Bunker Hill. I still can't see the whites of my eyes. P.S. Did you get your souvenir yet?" Then, a few days after that, the souvenir arrives. It's a sample of Smartfoods popcorn. And there's a third postcard that reads as follows: "Hey, this is me at work. This is what I do when I'm not partying or fishing. I make Smartfood brand popcorn. Instructions: Open bag... chow down...wipe hands on pants. Just kidding, use somebody else's pants. How come you never write? I'll make it easy. There's a card in here some where. Just fill it out and drop it in the mail. Let me know what you think."
The enclosed survey makes it a lot of fun to get on the Smartfood data base. For example, it asks, among other things, "I like Smartfood Popcorn better than... a root canal... eating sand...broccoli...my job...sex...life itself." And it doesn't just ask for your name and address. It says, "If I wanted to send you a million dollars where would I send it?" This wildly entertaining campaign created enough demand to put Smartfood in most grocery and convenience stores in America.
Alan Rosenspan is the President of Alan Rosenspan & Associates, a direct marketing creative services and consulting company. He and his teams have won over 100 awards for creativity and results, including 18 DMA Echo Awards. He has also been a judge of the Echoes, the Caples, the EDMA Best of Europe Awards and the international judge of the RSVP Awards in New Zealand. Contact Alan at: ARosenspan@aol.com
Talon would like to welcome the following new clients this month to our growing roster of clients:
· Damian Jewelers
New Mailing Lists Housed at Talon (we house over 600 mailing lists)
· Primedia - Electrical Marketing (we house over 100 Primedia lists)
· Primedia - Isecurity
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