Welcome to the Talon Mailing & Marketing November 2003 Newsletter:
By Dean Rieck
A famous chess player once told me how he wins so many games. I had expected some arcane theory or secret formula. However, what he said was this: “I try to avoid making mistakes.”
I’ve never forgotten that bit of wisdom. And I’ve turned it into a personal mantra that has served me well, especially in direct mail: “Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance.”
What sort of mistakes? After working with nearly 200 clients in every imaginable industry, I’ve seen lots of smart people doing lots of stupid things. But there are a few things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time:
ü Stupid Thing #1—Hire a “general” agency to create your direct mail.
One of the world’s largest chemical companies sent me a self-mailer to review. I could tell at a glance that a mass market agency had created it. The copy was cutesy, full of pun-heavy, meaningless headlines. The design was garish, with wild colors and hard-to-read type styles. The offer was hidden. The response elements were buried. The central message was disjointed and unclear.
My review consisted of two words: “It stinks.”
I have nothing against agencies that specialize in mass market or brand advertising, but most of them simply can’t do effective direct response advertising. So keep a safe distance between your direct mail and any agency without a direct marketing track record—say 500 miles or so.
ü Stupid Thing #2—Plaster a clever teaser on every envelope you mail.
A teaser is a technique, not a requirement. But some people seem to experience physical pain at the idea of mailing a plain envelope. A financial services firm asked me to write a lead generation package. I delivered it, and my contact called to say some of my copy had been lost.
Client: Yes, there is no teaser copy for the envelope.
Me: I didn’t write any.
Client: Well the envelope can’t go out like that. What would the board of directors say?
Me: Are you mailing it to the board of directors?
Client: No, but they want a professional-looking package.
Me: Really? They should want a package that gets the best response possible. And in this case, I think that means using a plain envelope.
Client: Okay, well, our designer can come up with some teaser copy I guess.
The decision about whether to use a teaser depends on what you’re selling and your relationship with your prospects. And it depends on whether you want your ad to look like an ad. Sometimes it should. Often it shouldn’t.
ü Stupid Thing #3—Spend two weeks on the flyer and two hours on the letter.
The old saying is still true: “The letter sells. The brochure tells.” So if you spend all your time on the tell, you just aren’t going to sell.
A newsletter publisher sent me a sample of a direct mail package that wasn’t working. The problem? The letter was a four-paragraph snoozer—little more than “Enclosed you will find, yadda, yadda, yadda.” The company president said his secretary wrote it.
Look, if it’s in an envelope, it needs a letter. And if you enclose a letter, it should sell. That’s where you make the personal connection. That’s where you make your pitch. That’s where you close the deal. A package can work without a brochure, but it will seldom work without a good letter.
ü Stupid Thing #4—Buy first-class postage and third-class creative.
One New York publisher had a trade magazine they wanted to sell. Could I help them? Sure. So I gave them a quote for a package, but they said it was too much. To save money, they did it on the cheap with some local people.
I talked to them again some months later and guess what? The package bombed. Their “economy” mailing wasn’t very economical after all. They admitted this and said that’s why they were calling. Could I help them? Sure. So I gave them another quote. Again it was too much. They said they were on a tight budget because the first mailing didn’t do well!!!
Just shoot me. Do you want the cheapest brain surgeon? Do you shop for economy parachutes? Do you pinch pennies on rattlesnake venom antidote? You get what you pay for.
ü Stupid Thing #5—Guess, guess, guess instead of test, test, test.
Despite the image our industry has for being a bunch of bean counters, a frighteningly large percentage of businesses don’t test. Or don’t test properly.
One guy wanted me to help him sell a software product. He was using a self-mailer, but I thought he needed an envelope package. He said he had tested envelope packages and firmly stated that they didn’t work. But after asking a few questions, I discovered that he had done just one mailing….with a new offer…to an untried list…during a bad time of the year…without mailing it against his control.
Stand me up and shoot me again. I don’t care how smart you are or how well you know your market or product. Until you run a properly designed test, you don’t know jack. And even then, you should test again just to be sure.
Avoiding stupid mistakes won’t guarantee success. But like the chess player, you will reduce your losses and thereby increase your wins.
Dean Rieck is an internationally respected direct response consultant, copywriter, designer, and president of Direct Creative. E-mail him at DeanRieck@DirectCreative.com or visit www.DirectCreative.com.
The national do-not-call list is now in operation, raising the hopes of millions of Americans who want to be rid of those annoying telemarketing calls.
The national do-not-call list is now in operation, raising the hopes of millions of Americans who want to be rid of pesky and annoying telemarketing calls.
But those who signed up may be disappointed when some calls continue. That's because there are loopholes in the regulations that can allow some companies and organizations to continue to call. Meanwhile, the telemarketing industry - which temporarily blocked the "Do Not Call" implementation last month - is still in court challenging the regulations.
More than 50 million Americans have signed up for the do-not-call registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC predicts that more than 60 million residential phone numbers will be on the list before year's end. Consumers can add their numbers online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222.
Companies selling goods and services by phone must delete registered numbers from their call lists or face fines of up to $11,000 per violation.
Still, many telemarketers will be able to continue calling because of exemptions in the rules. Charities and other nonprofit groups, such as college alumni associations and public radio stations, are exempt, as are pollsters and political campaigners.
In addition, a company may call consumers if they have bought, leased or rented from the firm in the previous 18 months or if they have inquired about or applied for something during the past three months.
Americans who continue to receive unwanted sales calls can file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, said FTC spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane.
The Talon newsletter will be sure to keep you posted as situations develop.
Think the price of houses has become costly in your neighborhood? Check out the rankings below of the most expensive homes in America.
Introduced by the U.S. Postal Service in 1963, zip codes were designed to make mail delivery faster and more effective. Zip codes, an acronym for zoning improvement plans, quickly developed a different sociological meaning: because zip codes often separated one neighborhood from another, they became indicators of wealth and status.
There are tens of thousands of ZIP codes across the country. Some have become fashionable and desirable, while others are on the perimeters of prestige -- or even further down the property pecking order.
Living within a desirable ZIP has its advantages, but it also has some drawbacks; property taxes can be higher, and residents usually become targets for every cold-caller and mass-mailer in the country.
Fame May Not Equal Fortune
When Forbes Magazine set out to determine the 10 most expensive ZIP codes in the country, they were surprised to learn that many of the most famous and most fashionable ZIPs didn't make the ranking. To compile the list, Forbes used median home prices for 2002, the last full year for which numbers exist. Forbes also interviewed dozens of local real estate agents, boards of Realtors and multiple-listing service providers, as well as third-party data providers (DataQuick Information Systems of La Jolla, Calif.).
What ZIPs failed to make the ranking? Beverly Hills, 90210, for example. Thanks to the popular TV show of the same name, this is may be the most famous ZIP code in the country, with a median home price of $1.042 million in 2002, but not pricey enough to break into the top 15.
The reason that Beverly Hills doesn't rank higher is that even though it may contain some of the world's most expensive properties, many homes there are also more modestly priced. Several of the ZIP codes on the list are smaller communities, where the real estate is limited and the zoning laws are predisposed to favor the affluent.
A Few Homes Can Influence The Rankings:
If there are relatively few property sales in the most exclusive communities and they have a high price tag this will keep the median home price in these ZIP codes especially high.
This partially explains why the most expensive ZIP code on our list includes Jupiter Island, Fla., where the median home price came in at $5.6 million. Jupiter Island (33455), which is a winter escape for some of the United State's oldest and richest families, isn't the only island: the ZIP which includes the five-mile-long enclave of Sea Island, Ga. (31561), also meets the requirement for the most expensive ZIP codes, thanks in part to its natural beauty, Addison Mizner-designed buildings and famous golf links.
Centre Island, N.Y. (11771), where Billy Joel reportedly bought a $22 million mansion last year, isn't the only ZIP code in New York state to make the list; Old Brookville (11545), also on Long Island, ties with Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (92067), with a median home price of $1.7 million.
Although the list is dominated by California ZIP codes, the Gold Coast of Chicago (60611), where the median home price is $1.39 million, was a close runner-up, as was Purchase, N.Y. (10577), where the median home price came in at $1.348 million. Other New York runners-up include Rye (10580) in Westchester County and Sagaponack (11962) in the Hamptons, both of which ranked in the top 50; their median home prices were below $1 million, at $950,000 and $915,000, respectively.
It may be a consolation to 90210 residents that their ZIP code isn't the only famous one to be excluded: The 2002 median home price on Manhattan's Upper East Side (10021) was $727,500, and in Medina, Wash. (98039), it was $860,000, so neither of those reputably wealthy communities made it to the top.
Here is the list compiled by Forbes Magazine.
The most expensive ZIP Codes:
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems of La Jolla, Calif.; Palm Beach Association of Realtors; the Northwest Multiple Listing Service; the Long Island Board of Realtors; Multiple Listing Service of Long Island; the Chicago Association of Realtors/the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois; the San Diego Association of Realtors; the Corcoran Group; the Houston Association of Realtors; Newport County Association of Realtors; Aspen Board of Realtors; Bill Fandel of Telluride Properties, the Telluride Association of Realtors; the California Association of Realtors; Jupiter - Tequesta - Hobe Sound Association of Realtors; Realtors Association of Maui; Greenwich Association of Realtors; Miller Samuel Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Report; Sea Island Company; LINK, Listing Information Network
Talon would like to welcome the following new clients this month to our growing roster of clients:
· Commercial Security
· Affordable Designs
· SSP International
New Mailing Lists Housed at Talon (we house over 600 mailing lists)
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