Talon Mailing & Marketing, Inc.
561 Acorn Street, Deer Park, NY 11729
Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing July 2003 Newsletter:
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by Nancy Harhut
According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), this year direct marketing represents the biggest share of business-to-business advertising budgets. This is good. But taken to its logical conclusion, this means we have increased competition out there. Not as good.
Then add the fact that business to business direct marketing brings its own set of challenges. Mail is screened by the mailroom. In fact, some Fortune 500 companies actually instruct their mailrooms to dump third class mail. It’s even more aggressively screened by secretaries and administrative assistants (AAs), people for whom the pieces were never crafted for to begin with. And finally, business to business often requires multiple contacts to multiple people before any business ever gets done. (The typical business executive receives 175 mailpieces a week).
All this means that your business to business creative must be smart if it hopes to get read and responded to. And one of the first places you can start injecting some smart thinking is in your formats. What your piece looks like can have a huge impact on whether or not it makes it to your intended recipient, and whether or not that recipient engages with it. Following are 13 smart format options worth considering:
• Send something completely unexpected. Say it with flowers, or ice cream, or a cake. Some companies send their messages attached to a spring bouquet, or tubs of ice cream, or even decorated onto a sheet cake. It certainly makes an impact, and has the added value of reaching numerous prospects at once. Check out www.cakesacrossamerica.com for some edible options.
• Mail something unexpected. The idea here is to stand out, which can be done using paper and the USPS, too. As part of a campaign my agency did for computer storage company EMC, we sent a mailing in a brown paper lunchbag. Another arrived in an envelope made of bubblewrap. And still another was a selfmailer that was closed with a band-aid, instead of fugitive glue or wafer seals. The campaign generated a 50% response rate.
• Take your postcards to a higher level. If you want your postcard to pass the screening test, try making it unusual. Marketing communications company Sullivan Creative sends out wooden postcards. Temporary staffing agency Aquent has sent furry ones, with the non-address side completely covered in brightly colored fake fur. And I received a postcard from production company B. Moss that used a “venetian blind” technique. The card showed one picture, but when you pulled a tab, another was revealed.
• Go oversized. Bigger pieces stand out in the mail. And they can suggest importance. Try using the slightly larger #12 envelope instead of the standard business sized #10. Or for real impact, custom design your oversized mailing. My agency recently created a mailing for Puritan Bennett targeting physicians, who receive an abundance of mail. Our envelope measured a foot and a half across, and 10 inches down.
• Use a dimensional mailing. Yes, they’re more expensive, but the object here is to get through. According to production firm Structural Graphics, dimensional mailings average 96% awareness ratings, 72% message retention ratings, and pull up to three times the response of flat mail. They’re also more likely to be delivered to the target, because no mailroom employee or AA wants to discover they tossed out something important. So test mailing a box or tube. Just remember to put something besides paper inside, or you’ll disappoint your target. In fact, for real impact, try including half of something inside. In a mailing targeting high level supermarket execs, S&H Greenpoints sent a box containing a walkie-talkie. If the supermarket executive agreed to meet a sales representative, he or she received the other walkie talkie. A whopping 35% did just that.
• Send a box with a box. Capitalize on the power of box mailings by sending one addressed to your target, attached to another addressed to your target’s AA. The first contains your sales message, the second contains a small gift for the AA as thanks for delivering it.
• Include an involvement device. Try having a “yes, no, maybe” sticker show through your outer envelope. Or include a scratch-off. While not right for every business to business target (C-level springs to mind), these involvement devices have been proven to lift response in this environment. In fact, although you might intuitively think offering someone a “no or maybe” option would depress your “yes” responses, tests repeatedly indicate this is not the case.
• Look like you mean business. You can’t deny that Federal Express, Priority Mail, and even Western Union all suggest important, time-sensitive communications worthy of your attention. Test them to see if the added lift they provide pays for the extra expense. My agency used both Priority Mail and Western Union in a very successful campaign for NeuLevel, launching the .biz domain. And remember, you don’t have to send everything next day. Two day delivery is less expensive and still buys the impact of the format.
• Look like you mean business for less. Even less expensive than the above courier mailings are padded jiffy bags, kraft envelopes and 9 x 12 envelopes, all generally associated with business mailings. Definitely formats worth testing as you try to get through to your target.
• Make your cornercard work for you. People pay attention to the return address. So when you’re sending out a mailing, think about whose name and title should be in your cornercard. Dreyfuss Hunt, a publisher of employee health newsletters that targeted small to midsized companies, used the fact that their publisher was also a medical doctor. Their acquisition control package had Arnon I. Dreyfuss, M.D. in the cornercard. The same approach would work for an attorney or CPA. Mailings like these would be much less likely to be tossed by the mailroom or screened by the AA. Consider sending your mailing from an important executive or department in your company. Or, having a celebrity spokesperson sign your letters and lend his or her name to your cornercard.
• Skip the name and title. Sometimes no name and title can work well to get your piece opened. Industry trade magazine Advertising Age mails their subscription control with only their street address, city, state and zip code in the cornercard. Since recipients can’t be sure who the piece is from, they may not risk throwing it out without opening it.
• Make a business mailing appear personal. A personal-looking mailing in a business environment can stand out. Addressing in a font resembling handwriting or marking a piece “personal and confidential” will achieve this effect. (Only use the personal and confidential line if the contents justify it). Another technique to test is to “type” the sender’s name under the company logo and return address in the cornercard. This bit of personalization has lifted opening rates in tests.
• Use an unusual envelope. Envelopes that stand out are often opened first, and this applies in the business to business environment, too. An outer envelope with two windows, an envelope with a side-zip opening, or an envelope with a rubber stamp or seal on it will make your mailing different from the rest of the day’s mail. So, too, will envelopes made of translucent, textured or heavier stocks.
As with all direct mail creative, you should test your business to business formats to see what works the best for you. Your test results, along with your timing, budget, and competitive arena, will lead you to your best business to business format options. Just remember, with all the competition out there, you really need to think about the format your mailing will use. Because that will have an impact on your recipients that could very well determine whether or not they even see the message inside.
Nancy Harhut is senior vice president and creative director at Mullen, Wenham, MA. Her e-mail address is
Talon would like to welcome the following new clients this month to our growing roster of clients:
New Mailing Lists Housed at Talon (we house over 600 mailing lists)
· Metrostar Distributors
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