How Cubism Is Like Direct Mail

Do you enjoy viewing paintings by the masters such as Rubens, Michelangelo, and Vermeer? Most people, whether they are art aficionados or not, can connect with these painters, since their style of rendering the figure is very life-like.

What about Picasso, and the style of Cubism? I smile when I hear people who are not trained in the arts say, “I can do that.” And “This painting is not pretty.” But for those who fully understand the intent of a Cubist painter, that changes everything. They understand that Cubism is about multiple perspectives, meaning that it fuses the past and present, and different views of the subject at the same time.


Direct mail also uses a multiple perspective approach, and the most brilliant pieces are not necessarily the prettiest. Sometimes the creative appears so simple that, again, I smile when people say, “I can do that.

For a piece to be successful in direct mail you need to look at past, present and future simultaneously. From the past, you need to analyze the data of what worked and what didn’t. In the present, you plan the timing of the mailing, and how to get someone to open the envelope and respond. For the future, you need to think about how to retain that person for future purchases or fundraising efforts.

In the Cubist painting above, notice the face is rendered in different perspectives. The lips and eyes are drawn as if you are looking straight at the person, but the nose and ears are in side profile. Direct mail requires you to look at different angles also. Angles such as — Who is your audience? What is the goal of the mailing? If it’s for marketing a product or service, what are the benefits and offer, while for a nonprofit, it’s what would make someone feel as if they are making a difference?

When you take this Cubist approach, you too can become a master — a master of direct mail.

Direct Response in Action

What Happened When I Taught My Nephew 5 Simple Tactics

We all know that direct response isn’t child’s play. It’s hard work. Nevertheless, if you keep just a few things in mind, even a novice can make a difference — and the story of my teenage nephew, Ian, and what he was able to accomplish is a good example.

Ian is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. His final project in order to achieve this top rank is to create something for the community that includes a fundraising component. Ian’s idea was big: in memory of a deceased friend he would clean up and upgrade a student community area at the high school his friend loved and attended. This would entail purchasing and installing a new gazebo, as well as adding a picnic table and a bench or two. Total cost: $5,500.

That was a daunting amount for a teenager to raise. But I knew it was doable — as long as Ian followed some basic fundraising tactics on his crowdfunding site and in his letters. Here’s what I taught Ian:

5 Simple Direct Response Tactics That Work

1. Think: Who are you writing to and how do they want to be addressed? It’s important to start on the right foot. Ian was writing Mr. and Mrs. Smith (not real name). I asked if that is how they want to be addressed. Ian said no, by their first names. Then do that, I said. His teacher wants to be called Mrs. Jones (not real name). That’s how Ian addressed her.

2. Tell a sincere story: Show compassion, without ever going over the top. Ian told the story of his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout and his deceased friend simply and from the heart.

3. Give the facts: Where is the money going? Be as specific as you can because people want to know. Ian provided cost figures for each major item on his list.

4. Simplify: Make it as easy as possible for donors to respond. Ian added a form to the letter so people knew what to do next. He also provided a reply device: a postage-paid envelope with his return address on it.

5.  Remind people of tax benefits: Give donors an added incentive to be generous. Let them know that their donation could be tax-deductible. It’s easy to do, and Ian did it.

I’m happy to say that, in a month’s time, Ian exceeded his fundraising goal!

How to Stand Out with More Visual Promotions

Top 3 Reasons for Charts

Did this chart catch your eye?
Today, you may have just a few seconds — maybe less — to grab someone’s attention. Charts (pie, line, bar, and others) are proven attention-winners. Of course, they’re perfect for presentation of data. But, with a little creative flair, you can also employ them to make your most important sales messages pop, online and off.

What makes charts work?
No need to rack your brain — just look at the chart above. In addition to ATTENTION, they provide AUTHORITY and QUICK UNDERSTANDING. A chart speaks volumes, with just a few words. So today’s multi-taskers can quickly say, “Aha, I SEE your point!” Moreover, a chart lends an air of authority to what you’re presenting because it supports your point or actually proves it, when you include relevant data. Add a short caption to your chart and you can be certain it will be read.

Take a cue from infographics: Get MORE visual!
You’ve heard of Information overload? Maybe that’s why infographics are now so popular in content marketing. They break things down with visuals, including charts, and a pinch of razzle-dazzle. But you don’t have to go that far in your promotions — a simple, unstuffy chart will be just as effective, whenever you want to:

Make a strong price or savings statement
Provide competitive product comparisons
Visualize a problem/solution
Show a relationship
Highlight a trend

Try it! Charts might be just the thing to make your promotions stand out. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Raise Response with Email + Direct Mail

When email and direct mail join forces, their combined strengths can really put some POW in your response rates and give your business or nonprofit greater ROI. Here’s how:

Email first, followed by direct mail

Time Inc. sent prospects an email announcing a special subscription discount offer that was coming in the mail soon. The email showed a picture of the direct mail package so that recipients would take more notice of it when it arrived. The package was sent about a week later. Result: Greater response than if only email or only direct mail had been used.

Direct Mail first, followed by email

Email marketing is so popular these days that cluttered inboxes are becoming a problem. Plus, research shows that emails are opened at much lower rates than direct mail. How do you fight those obstacles? Some marketers are sending direct mail — such as a postcard — to alert prospects to a special offer, followed soon after by an email with all the details. Result: Improved email OPEN and CLICK-THROUGH rates, and improved response.

Powerful takeaway for you:

Today, to get people’s attention, it pays to give your message double exposure by synchronizing email and direct mail so they work in tandem. You gain more mindshare, too, when you brand your campaign with a consistent look and feel across channels!

8 Ways to Make a Great Thank You Deliver

Direct marketers know that FREE, FINAL CHANCE, and ACT NOW are some of the most effective words to get someone to respond to your solicitation. Today, I’d like you to consider the power of a simple THANK YOU.

People like to feel appreciated. And when you show your appreciation with a personal note, they feel a closer connection to your business or non-profit organization, which can prompt another purchase or donation.

The above statement is especially true in fundraising. Tests done by a major fundraiser reveal that quality thank-you letters outperform the typical when it comes to rate of renewal and average gift value**. Another fundraiser made almost $450,000 more in gifts with the inclusion of a thank-you note!***

Now, you’re probably thinking, what makes up a quality thank-you? Here are some DO’s and one big DON’T that will make things very clear – and quite possibly improve your donor retention rates.*

DO:
1. Send a REAL letter: No preprinted card or boilerplate copy. It must be personal.

2. Get to it right away: That means within days (not weeks or months) of the giving.

3. Use the name of the person who gave the donation. You’re starting a relationship, so no “Dear Donor” or “Dear Friend.”

4.Inform: Thank the donor for the gift and give details on how the funds will be used to make a difference.

5. Deepen the connection: Let the donor know when to expect an update—and keep your promise.

6. Be warm & positive: Invite the donor to contact you directly for more information. Or include the name and phone number of a staff person to contact at any time.

7. Make it short: A one-sided letter that speaks sincerely and succinctly will do the job.

8. Honor your donor: Get someone high in the organization to sign the letter.

DON’T:
Do not sell, do not send a survey, do not ask for another gift. Save that for another time.
So, start writing those great thank-you’s now. And if you’d like to have my team evaluate them, send them to me. We’ll be glad to take a look.

 ***Tom Ahern article: “No thanks? No, thanks!”; **Tom Belford article: “OK, Thank You!”;
*Penelope Burk article: “Thank You Letters: Powerful and Profitable”.

One Minute Critique

Take a look at this magazine subscription card above that I came across (I removed all references to the title and publication).

While keeping its simplicity, the above card can be improved dramatically to elicit a stronger response. I took the liberty to rework it below. Here’s what I did.

1. Knowing there are only seconds to grab someone’s attention, I didn’t want to hide the best component of the offer. It needs to be emphasized. A proven way to do that is with a burst.

2. “Free” is hidden under the “Yes” copy. I moved it to a more prominent position and made it much bigger. As all direct marketers know, “Free” is a very attention-getting word.

3. I emphasized the “Free” component even more by adding an image of an iPad. This gives prospects a better idea of what they will receive.

4. The title, “Special Subscription Offer,” is fine. If you can give a sense of timeliness to it, even better. Is there a holiday coming up that you can tie it to? Here I changed the title to “Special Holiday Offer.”

5. There are two offers on this simple card: one on the top and one on the bottom. Also, the strong selling point “SAVE 69%” is smaller than the rest of the copy. If someone is considering the offer, I want to make it as easy as possible for the person to select the best option. Therefore, I put both offers together and enlarged and bolded the “Save” copy.

6. Finally, I added an arrow next to “Best Deal.” Arrows have a way of attracting attention–let’s use them!

Fall email2

Now look at both cards. Can you see that the bottom card’s message is much stronger and easier to figure out quickly? These changes are just a starting point. Even more can be done.

Direct response creative (whether it’s email, direct mail, a landing page or banner ad) can be a very effective tool in bringing in new revenue, subscribers and members to your organization–when done properly.

Don’t Litter Between 11AM-12:30PM?

Look at the above sign. All other times it’s okay to litter?

We all know that can’t be and for those of us who live in New York City this is a very familiar sign — it’s the alternate side-of-the-street parking sign. But in this email the sign appears to be about littering, not parking. You may even wonder what the “P” stands for.

This is a perfect example of why these 3C’s — Context, Conciseness and Clarity — are so important in all creative. Let me explain how it applies to the above image:

CONTEXT — This sign is taken totally out of context. It’s not hanging on a pole on a New York City street and you’re not trying to find the best parking spot. When you are parking your car and quickly looking at this sign your eye only goes straight to the hours, because that’s the only thing you are concerned about.

CONCISENESS — This sign has two messages. “DON’T LITTER” is really not necessary.

CLARITY — The lesser message “DON’T LITTER” is really overpowering the real message. This is due to the strong design element of a broom popping out and directing your eye to the words “DON’T LITTER.” This confuses the real message of the sign.

These parking signs are bolted to steel poles, therefore they are only going to be seen where they are. But not all messages are like that. Always keep the 3C’s in mind with your direct response creative. Ask these questions:

1. How or when is a customer receiving your collateral? If it’s moved to another context will it have the same meaning? Also consider who and when your audience will see your mail piece. If people are reviewing their email quickly on their smartphone, is your message right to the point in the least number of characters?

2. Can you get your message down to its core? If your mail piece needs to have a second message, make sure it does not fight for attention.

3. Is it clear? I recommend getting a fresh set of eyes to review your message — ideally a person not at all connected to the project.

We’d love to help you improve response. Let us be the fresh set of eyes to review your current creative message.

Ugly and Unorganized Worked!

The artist and organizer in me is always looking for ways to make things attractive and neat. But if there is one thing I’ve learned early in my career in direct response: pretty and organized creative is not always what gets the highest response.

My early work experience at Time Inc., when sweepstakes were a driving force in obtaining subscriptions, made that clear to me. As I was reviewing one of their controls, I thought: This is one of the most unorganized mailings I’ve ever seen! Place this sticker somewhere to get the extra $10,000 bonus … place another sticker on some other form to get the free gift … here’s a list of your prizes, but if you want this specific prize then check a box, etc.

CONFUSING, BUT IT WORKED! Why? Because the customer was thinking: “If I can figure this out, I really might be a winner.” However, what worked for this particular sweepstakes package won’t necessarily work for the direct response pieces we mail today. Each kind of piece draws its own emotional response from the customer. To find out what elicits the right response in your customer, you must follow the direct mail mantra: Test, test, test.

An Easy Trick to check U.S. Letter Mail Aspect Ratio

Here is an easy trick to check U.S. letter mail aspect ratio. Just divide the width of your envelope or postcard by the height. If your results are great than 1.3 and less than 2.5 you are good.

Why is letter mail aspect ratio important? It’s the key to getting the lowest postage rate, by ensuring the package can run through the USPS automated mailing equipment. When considering the aspect ratio you must also follow the sizing guidelines from the USPS.

Please use this as a guide only. To make sure that your documents follow the proper sizing guidelines check with your local post office.

Curiosity Opens the Envelope

Using Feel to Get the Envelope Open

A credit card company recently mailed me this envelope, which looks like a package due, to the label and kraft color. Upon touching it, I felt some padding inside. It certainly piqued my curiosity and made me think: Is there something special inside for me? I opened the envelope to find just a prominent credit card offer and some bubble wrap. Question: The package look and bubble wrap can certainly get people to open the envelope, but is the offer strong enough to get people to act? And will enough people respond to get a great ROI?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I will say this: including the padding in the envelope is a great trick to keep in mind, if you want to get people to open what you send them – which, as you know, is a critical first step to any successful direct mailing.