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Good News: Print and Mail are Alive and Well

By Nancy DeDiemar, president, Printing Resources of Southern California

It is about time that quick printers got some good news, and here it is:

Print and mail are alive and well!

Contrary to conventional wisdom among customers and even some printers that direct mail is "junk" mail, or "old" technology, or incompatible with environmental stewardship, print and mail remain an important part of any effective marketing program.

In 2009, Target Analytics published the Index of National Fundraising Performance, which analyzed giving via direct mail marketing for 79 of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States. The study included data from more than 38 million donors, and more than 74 million gifts totaling in excess of $2 billion in revenue.

Study results show that direct mail was responsible for 78 percent of donations received, or about $8 of every $10 contributed. This made direct mail the top source of fundraising--ahead of the Internet (9 percent) or telemarketing (3 percent). The study also found that Internet-based giving is increasing (from 4 percent in 2005), and that Internet gifts tend to be larger than those received as the result of direct mail ($79 versus $45).

One particularly interesting finding is that in 2009, 89 percent of all new donors to the nonprofits in the study were acquired via direct mail, while only 12 percent were acquired online.

Local Targeted Marketing
Knowing the national trends in direct mail marketing will help keep you from having to agree with your customers who insist that email marketing is superior to traditional direct mail. Trends may be pointing in that direction, but as shown by numerous studies, today direct mail still dominates results.

This is even more apparent when thinking about marketing locally. An obvious example of successful local marketing using direct mail is a political campaign for mayor, city council, school district, a local bond issue or proposition, etc. For local campaigns, direct mail remains the most effective way to introduce a candidate or an issue, largely because the marketing can target specific blocs of voters.

Likewise, direct mail remains an effective and economical way to reach a small geographic division such as a neighborhood. Many mail list providers now offer online tools to pinpoint a small area such as a one mile radius around a restaurant, or offer list enhancement services (adding demographic information such as household income, gender, race) to enable even better targeting of the audience. 

In fact, the ability to target a specific audience remains a primary strength of direct mail versus other communication channels, including email. Businesses that collect additional information about their customers can develop very personal campaigns based on using variable data printing. Or, the direct mail piece can act as an introduction to Web-based marketing by presenting a PURL (personalized URL) as the call-to-action.

Comparing Direct Mail to Email
Cost alone is not a sufficient measure to compare direct mail to email, because using email introduces other factors that do not apply to direct mail.

For example: With email, the sender has incomplete control over how the message appears to the recipient, both when it is received in preview, and after it is opened. A printed piece does not change based on the type of reader the recipient is using.

Email depends on a variety of Internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver the message, each with its own blocks and filters for email. The USPS® delivers all the mail unless the address is faulty. There are also tools such as National Change of Address (NCOALink®) processing, and delivery point validation (DPV®) to identify undeliverable addresses during mail list processing.

A sender of email risks having his Internet Protocol (IP) address being blacklisted by ISPs. While blacklisting is a useful tool to cut down on spam, the decision on whether a message should be blacklisted rests with the ISP, not with the message recipient. With traditional direct mail, the recipient decides whether to put himself on the "Do Not Mail" list.

When talking about costs, discourage customers from only considering the cost of distribution (i.e.: printing + mailing + postage costs) when comparing direct mail to email. A better comparison is the cost-per-response for direct mail and email--although, as yet, there is insufficient data on email response rates.

The Final Word: Walk the Talk
Printers and mailers can make a strong case for traditional direct mail as part of a marketing campaign, but only if they walk the talk. A printer who relies solely on email to stay in touch with customers and prospects or, worse yet, uses no form of outreach at all, has a serious credibility problem.

This is what it takes to conduct a traditional direct mail marketing campaign:

Get a mail list. Include your Top 100 customers, the prospects for whom you issued a quote for significant work, and all the businesses within a 10-15 mile radius of your printing company that you think you should be doing business with you, or who buy a significant amount of the type of printing you do best.

Design a mail piece. Postcards are a good choice, so is a monthly newsletter. Subscribe to a newsletter service such as Printips and you'll have content to use for the newsletter, a postcard, and email.

Write up a work order. Viewed in the context of walking the talk, your direct mail piece is as important as any work you are being paid to produce. Get it on the production schedule and complete it on time.

Partner with a lettershop or mail at the single-piece First-Class™ postage rate.
If you don't have the skills and equipment to do the mailing yourself, find a lettershop you can subcontract to. Walking the talk is more important than saving money on postage. 

Keep it up. Don't stop. Augment traditional direct mail with email if you like, but don't ever stop using direct mail. Your shop's future depends on it!

---Source: Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com. 

Make Your Direct Mail Flow From Outside to Inside

By Andrea Ratajczak, seasoned marketing consultant & co-founder of PDA Marketing

If you want your direct mail piece to be one of the 66 percent that gets opened and read, rather than the 34 percent that gets thrown away unopened, you'll have to design a compelling outer envelope among many other things. It is hard to say; however, how much of the 66 percent just gets opened and thrown away with no response from the recipient.

One of the most important parts of a direct mail envelope and letter set is that everything on the piece flows. If the outside of your envelope is compelling enough for the person to open it, you don't want to disappoint them with a boring, white letter on the inside, as this will lose their attention immediately. Here are some tips to making everything, and I mean everything, in your direct mail flow:

1) Design your own stamp
While this may still be on the outside of the envelope, it is a special touch you can give the letter, or even postcard, to attract a potential customer's attention. It will showcase your creativity and attention to detail, as most people aren't even aware that designing your own postage stamp is a possibility!

Using a live stamp in itself can greatly increase the percentage of opened letters, but having a personalized stamp says so much more. There are certain USPS® approved design studios that can help you design your own stamp that you can then purchase for a little more than a regular stamp.

2) Match the concepts on the envelope and inner letter
Make sure that you use both the inside and outside of the envelope to sell, and make both compelling. (WARNING...if you make false or irrelevant statements to get the recipient to go inside the envelope you lose all credibility and drive the prospect further away. Consequently, you'll never make a sale.)

Be honest from the beginning. Make sure you follow through on the inside with whatever you said on the outside.

3) Graphics match outside and inside
Continuity is the key. The words need to match, and so do the graphics. There is nothing more disconcerting than a complete break between the envelope that first attracted you and the letter you see when you rip it open. Once again, you lose your audience in confusion, rather then reel them in.

Several products can help you put together a super mailer. You can purchase little graphics like hand-drawn doodles (the product named Doodleopes is an example) to go on the outside of the envelope to draw people in, and identical- looking doodles to go on the inside. Not only do these help your direct mail flow, but they attract attention to the correct parts of the sales letter, and make your company seem unique and creative!

4) Name/logo reflective of product
This may seem obvious, but the same product name and logo need to go on every part of your direct mail; from the envelope, to the letter inside, to any postcard you may send. Nothing will make you look more untrustworthy than a weird, disconnected name and logo.

In fact, making your product's name and logo reflective of the actual product is not just a direct mail campaign worry. It's important the name and logo match to increase sales and ensure that the customer knows what they're buying. A confused customer will lead to the direct mail being thrown straight in the garbage can.

---Source: Presort.com May 18, 2010 (www.presort.com). Andrea Ratajczak is a seasoned marketing consultant and co-founder of PDA Marketing, an authorized USPS design studio. Visit http://pdamarketing.net/store_stamp.html to have PDA design your next stamp.
 

4 Tips to Save Money on Printing

By Nani Paape, independent project facilitator

Money Saving Tip #1: Choose an efficient flat size
With paper costs accounting for 25 percent or more of a print job's cost, it pays to be smart about paper.

You will always get a better deal on printing when your piece fits on the printing paper with little off-cut, the part of the sheet trimmed away and tossed directly into the recycling bin.

Right relationship of press sheet size to flat size
The size of paper a printer runs through his press depends on the press size and other factors. Here are some of the common sizes:

  • 17 x 22 inches
  • 19 x 25 inches
  • 20 x 26 inches
  • 23 x 35 inches
  • 25 x 38 inches
  • 28 x 34 inches
  • 26 x 40 inches

When you consider format sizes to fit these press sheets, think in terms of the flat size, the dimensions of the entire unfolded piece.

Regardless of the press sheet size to be used, keep in mind that your design can't fill every square inch of it. Room must be left for grip, the edge of the sheet that the equipment grabs to pull it through the press. Room must be left for color bars, too.

If your design has solid ink areas running right up to the edge, the printer will also need at least 1/8-inch of extra room around each page to accommodate these bleeds.

Infamous and Famous Flat Sizes

Legal size (8-1/2 x 14 inches) is infamously wasteful. That's because it leaves behind a lot of waste when the unused paper is off-cut from common-sized press sheets. See the diagram below. It's not to scale, but it illustrates my point.

ds df

As the second diagram illustrates, 6 x 9- inch pages (a 12 x 9-inch flat size) fit very well, leaving very little waste on the press sheet.

This layout is a money-saver for small, 16-page, self-cover booklets printed on a 28-inch press.

Similarly, eight, 8 x 10-inch pages (a 10 x 16-inch flat size) fit very efficiently on the size of press sheet used on a 40-inch press.

This efficient format for a 16-page, self-cover book will yield savings, especially when compared to an oddly sized one.

Disaster Avoidance Tip
Once you have a specific design format or size in mind, show a quick sketch or PDF to the printer you're thinking of using.

If you follow his or her suggestions and adjust one or both page dimensions--sometimes by as little as half an inch--you are likely to enjoy significant savings.

Money Saving Tip #2: Ask the paper mill for a discount
To calculate paper costs for a print job, a print estimator either looks up the book price or calls their paper merchant to get deviated or discounted pricing. 
Book prices are the standard, published prices a paper merchant has set for the papers they carry.

Talk with the paper mill rep
There's another way to get deviated paper pricing: If you have a specific paper stock in mind for a large project, take the time to get in touch with that paper company's mill rep. For example, if you specified Environment, you would contact a Neenah Paper mill rep.

If your print project involves a large paper purchase, the mill rep may offer you a promotional price deviation. Why is this? Like every other business, paper mills really want your business. I don't advise asking mill reps for paper deals on every little print job, but if you're printing 10,000, 48-page booklets, the mill may be quite willing to sweeten the deal to win your order.

Refer to the mill's Web site, or call a paper merchant (such as Unisource or West Coast Paper) for the regional mill rep's contact information.

Disaster Avoidance Tips
At the time that you request print estimates, be sure to alert the bidding printers that the mill has offered a price deviation, and ask them to instruct their paper merchant to contact the mill for the special pricing.
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If a printer skips this step, you will not get the paper discount the mill rep offered you. Also, if one bidding printer's prices reflect the discount, but another's do not, you won't be comparing apples to apples, and may not get the lowest possible price.

Some printers buy a big volume of paper from one merchant, so they also get a volume discount from that merchant. A paper mill's promotional price deviation may or may not be a better deal than your printer's volume discount, but it's definitely worth asking!

Money Saving Tip #3: Ask for series pricing
Customers who share with their printer their plans to print a project again within a few months' time usually save money on that entire printing series.

Why? Because every company appreciates repeat business, and printers are no exception. Most businesses know that it costs less to retain an existing customer than to land a new one.

So, for example, if you print 10,000 magazines each quarter in 2010, and award the printing for the entire series to one printer, that printer is likely to give you a great price.

Disaster Avoidance Tips
  • You may be tempted to have your printer purchase all of the paper for the entire series at once to save more money. However, this is not always wise, given how quickly a company's quantity needs can change. Once you buy that paper, you own it, whether you use it or not. Owning cartons of unused paper is a big pain! (Where will you store it? Under your bed?)
  • Re-bid your print series once a year. Getting bids from more than one printer will give you a negotiating advantage, even if you hope to stick with the same printer.
  • Ask the printer to alert you when a paper price increase is on the horizon, so that you can lock in the lower paper price for the next issue.
  • Remember, the most expensive jobs are one-off, hair-on-fire ones, handed to the printer at the last minute. This is especially true for printing that needs to be completed in three days flat. It never fails that these are the jobs that contain errors that require a re-do scramble for which you have allowed no time!

Planning ahead saves both money and aggravation, while increasing the odds that your printed products will be error-free.

Money Saving Tip #4: Be buttoned up
Back in my ad agency days, one of the highest compliments you could pay someone was to call them buttoned up. Buttoned-up people are organized. Together. On top of things. No missed details. No "oops!" moments.

You will save money on printing by being buttoned up--both when you place your printing order and at every stage of the print production cycle.

Buttoned-up jobs go more smoothly than disorganized, scattered ones. And printers like jobs to go smoothly just as much as you do!

Button up your print job with these Disaster Avoidance Tips

When you release the job:

  • Review your initial written specifications and bring them up-to-date. Be sure the quantity has been confirmed.
  • Supply these specs to the printer along with the job. No, everything the printer needs is NOT "in the file!" Include the shipping information, too. Few people do this, but it eliminates last-minute panic calls: "Hey, we are ready to ship your order today, where are these going?"
  • Spell check one last time, after those last, tiny text edits are made. That's when errors tend to sneak by everyone.
  • Release clean and complete files to up the chances that your job will proof without a hitch: Remove unused fonts and colors. Re-check your measurements. Be sure colors and special effects have been applied consistently throughout the document. Include all links and be sure that they are up-to-date.
  • If you've manipulated any images significantly, be sure to supply the camera raw or original PSD files. That way, they will be close at hand if needed. (Some designers manipulate their files right out of sufficient data without realizing it--until they see a disappointing proof).
  • Supply a folding dummy that shows exactly how you want the final to look when it's trimmed and finished. Many a revise will be avoided with this step.

When you review proofs and press check:

  • Allow sufficient time to review color image proofs thoroughly without rushing. If you spot every change you want to make during your first viewing, you'll save money. Whenever possible, discuss image proofs with your rep as you mark them up, so he or she will be able to interpret your wishes to the prepress operator back at the shop.
  • When reviewing composed proofs and bluelines, again, do not rush. Be sure that everyone who needs to approve them sees the proofs and signs off on them before they go back to the printer. I can guarantee that the one person you leave out of the routing will be the one who insists on a crucial last-minute change--the kind that costs money.
  • Show up for press checks on time. Then once you're press-side, review everything carefully, but don't dally indecisively. Time really is money.
  • Approve a printed, finished sample before your client sees it.

If you do all of these things, chances are good that your clients will receive their printed products on time and as expected. They may even say, "Boy, you are so buttoned up!"

And here's the bonus: The next time you ask that same printer for a bid, he is likely to recall that working with you was painless--and give you a price without (as one friend calls it) the pain-and-boredom surcharge.

---Source: Nani Paape is an independent project facilitator who provides print production management, marketing writing, and creative project planning to design firms and creative companies. Read more about Nani's print management philosophy on her blog, Printing Disasters--and How to Avoid Them, at NaniPrints.wordpress.com. © 2010

Print Planning at the Arm-Waving Stage

By Nani Paape, independent project facilitator 

I like to get in the loop with a print project while it's still at the arm-waving stage. That's the time when designers are just beginning to dream up design solutions, but haven't done too much designing. Sometimes the entire design team gets together at this point; other times it's just me and the lead designer. It's a great time to include the electronic production artist, too. Don't forget to bring the creative brief!

At an arm-waving stage meeting, designers ask me questions like:

• "Have you ever seen..." or 

• "Is it possible to print silver ink on top of 4-color images?" or 

• "Can you find me some printed samples of black and metallic copper Duotones?" or

• "How many pages does a book need to have in order to be perfect-bound?"
I review the creative brief and ask questions to help me understand the designer's creative intent, too. With this understanding, I can often suggest techniques and structures and start thinking about workarounds for must-have design features that may pose manufacturing challenges.

Things print managers think about
Are there finishing or mailing considerations? Does the piece need to fit into a particular size of envelope or weigh in under an ounce? Will the reader want to write on the paper? Where will the pieces be shipped to and when do they need to arrive? Will posters be folded or rolled?

All of these questions need to be considered during design, but can be easily missed. Asking them before design begins, helps avoid future revisions.

Pesky budget details that influence design direction
At this meeting it's good to review any budget information that's available. We might want to sketch out rough specifications for pre-design, budget estimates.

We can also discuss which ideas would be likely to fall into VW, Ford, or Rolls Royce price ranges. For example, a plus-cover brochure on premium uncoated paper will be more expensive than a self-cover brochure on a number 2 coated paper. A design that includes 20 photos will cost more than one that includes 10.

When the preliminary estimates come in, you'll know whether an approach you're considering will fit the budget the client has in mind before you've spent time and energy going down that design path. 

Some designers worry that a production manager will be a naysayer or budget gatekeeper. I don't operate that way. I rarely advise designers to kill any idea at the arm-waving stage. After all, finding ways to produce cool designs within budget is a big part of the fun!

Early is good
I usually leave these sessions with a list of samples to track down, technical questions to research, and budget bids to send out. 

Including print and production resources at the arm-waving stage gets everyone thinking about the project and beginning to draw up our internal checklists and ideas, as they relate to our areas of expertise. As one printer's CSR is fond of reminding me, "a print job well-planned is a job already half-done." Well, maybe not half, but you get the idea.

---Source: Nani Paape is an independent project facilitator providing print production management, marketing writing and editing, and creative project planning to design firms and creative companies. Read more about Nani's print management philosophy on her blog, Printing Disasters--and how to avoid them, at NaniPrints.wordpress.com. © 2009 Nani Paape

11 Tricks for Getting Your Envelopes Opened

By Dean Rieck, direct mail copywriter

You should not expect an envelope to position your product. You should not use it to show off your design skills. Its job is not to entertain or amuse. You are not required to cover it with clever copy to impress a client. Aside from holding together the contents until delivered, an envelope only has one job: to get opened. 

Here are few simple ways to do that:

• Follow headline rules to write teaser copy. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside. Teaser copy acts like a headline and leads people to read the letter.

• Use teaser copy to select your audience. It should be clear at a glance that your message is addressed specifically to your reader. Use key words that relate to your prospect's interests or identity, such as "Exclusive offer for golfers inside" or "For serious investors only."

 Refer to the contents of the envelope. Tell your reader there's something free, valuable, new, or exclusive inside. If you've actually enclosed something--such as a sample, booklet, checklist, discount coupon, how-to guide, or newsletter--say so. 

 Use directive language. If you want something, you have to ask for it. So prompt your reader to open the envelope with copy such as "inside," "see inside," or "open immediately." Combine this with a benefit to jump start your sales message. "FREE Recipes! Look inside..." or "How to pay $0 in taxes! See inside for details...." 

• Fully develop your "envelope real estate" to sell the sizzle. If you have a flashy, desirable product, you can crank up the excitement by using every square inch of your envelope, front and back. Show the product. Bullet point benefits. Starburst your special price. Hint at a special gift for immediate orders. This works best for consumer offers that are proven sellers needing little explanation, such as books, software upgrades, fact-packed newsletters, etc.

• Use illustrations or photos. If you're spilling your guts on the envelope, you might as well go all the way and show your product, premium, gift, or whatever. Simple pictures communicate instantly. A photo of a book with the word "FREE" next to it is better than lines and lines of clever copy. 

• Consider involvement devices. Stickers, tokens, stamps, coins, scratch-offs, lift-up tabs, attached notes, seals, and other widgets can be used to good effect if you have the budget, if they can boost response enough to justify the added cost, and if they fit with the feel of your message. 

• Put your deadline on the outside. Inertia is your enemy. Action is your friend. Deadlines induce action. Therefore, if you're sure about your mailing date, a deadline can prevent your prospect from setting aside your envelope for later. If you're using a window envelope and personalized letter, you can print the date on the letter to cut envelope costs for future mailings. (I prefer real deadlines over arbitrary ones. It's more honest and will preserve your believability if you're mailing often to the same lists.)

• If you're mailing to a business, use a low-key approach. Most business-to-business mail is intercepted by a secretary, assistant, or mail room. If it looks too much like advertising, it may get trashed. You stand a better chance of reaching your prospect if your envelope looks personal, important, and businesslike. Less is also more for offers that may meet some resistance at first glance and need more selling, which is best done in a letter. 
By Dean Rieck, direct mail copywriter

You should not expect an envelope to position your product. You should not use it to show off your design skills. Its job is not to entertain or amuse. You are not required to cover it with clever copy to impress a client. Aside from holding together the contents until delivered, an envelope only has one job: to get opened. 

Here are few simple ways to do that:
• Follow headline rules to write teaser copy. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside. Teaser copy acts like a headline and leads people to read the letter.

• Use teaser copy to select your audience. It should be clear at a glance that your message is addressed specifically to your reader. Use key words that relate to your prospect's interests or identity, such as "Exclusive offer for golfers inside" or "For serious investors only."

• Refer to the contents of the envelope. Tell your reader there's something free, valuable, new, or exclusive inside. If you've actually enclosed something--such as a sample, booklet, checklist, discount coupon, how-to guide, or newsletter--say so. 

• Use directive language. If you want something, you have to ask for it. So prompt your reader to open the envelope with copy such as "inside," "see inside," or "open immediately." Combine this with a benefit to jump start your sales message. "FREE Recipes! Look inside..." or "How to pay $0 in taxes! See inside for details...." 

• Fully develop your "envelope real estate" to sell the sizzle. If you have a flashy, desirable product, you can crank up the excitement by using every square inch of your envelope, front and back. Show the product. Bullet point benefits. Starburst your special price. Hint at a special gift for immediate orders. This works best for consumer offers that are proven sellers needing little explanation, such as books, software upgrades, fact-packed newsletters, etc.

• Use illustrations or photos. If you're spilling your guts on the envelope, you might as well go all the way and show your product, premium, gift, or whatever. Simple pictures communicate instantly. A photo of a book with the word "FREE" next to it is better than lines and lines of clever copy. 

• Consider involvement devices. Stickers, tokens, stamps, coins, scratch-offs, lift-up tabs, attached notes, seals, and other widgets can be used to good effect if you have the budget, if they can boost response enough to justify the added cost, and if they fit with the feel of your message. 

• Put your deadline on the outside. Inertia is your enemy. Action is your friend. Deadlines induce action. Therefore, if you're sure about your mailing date, a deadline can prevent your prospect from setting aside your envelope for later. If you're using a window envelope and personalized letter, you can print the date on the letter to cut envelope costs for future mailings. (I prefer real deadlines over arbitrary ones. It's more honest and will preserve your believability if you're mailing often to the same lists.)

• If you're mailing to a business, use a low-key approach. Most business-to-business mail is intercepted by a secretary, assistant, or mail room. If it looks too much like advertising, it may get trashed. You stand a better chance of reaching your prospect if your envelope looks personal, important, and businesslike. Less is also more for offers that may meet some resistance at first glance and need more selling, which is best done in a letter. 

• If you use a blank envelope, make it completely blank. Not a single word of teaser copy. No graphics. Perhaps not even your logo. Just a street address in upper left corner and your delivery address. You might include the letter signer's name in the corner card, particularly if that person is well-known. This makes your mailing look personal and is almost certain to get opened.

• Be careful with "official" envelopes. Faux express envelopes, government notices, invoices, and other formats can be used to great effect. However, be clear about your intentions. If it's just part of the theme of your message, and people are clear about who you are and what you want, that's fine. If you're trying to trick people or pose as something you're not, that's unethical. If you have to deceive people to get response, there's something wrong with your product or service. 
---Source: Dean Rieck is a leading direct mail copywriter . For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean's FREE direct response newsletter or visit Pro Copy Tips.
• If you use a blank envelope, make it completely blank.Not a single word of teaser copy. No graphics. Perhaps not even your logo. Just a street address in upper left corner and your delivery address. You might include the letter signer's name in the corner card, particularly if that person is well-known. This makes your mailing look personal and is almost certain to get opened.

• Be careful with "official" envelopes. Faux express envelopes, government notices, invoices, and other formats can be used to great effect. However, be clear about your intentions. If it's just part of the theme of your message, and people are clear about who you are and what you want, that's fine. If you're trying to trick people or pose as something you're not, that's unethical. If you have to deceive people to get response, there's something wrong with your product or service. 
---Source: Dean Rieck is a leading direct mail copywriter . For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean's FREEdirect response newsletter or visit Pro Copy Tips.

Improving "Glance Readership" in Post Cards--Part 3

By Jeffrey Dobkin, marketing consultant, author, and professional speaker

Let's see, where were we...oh yes, you were complaining that your post card wasn't long enough to sell your products, and I said you're right - it isn't. The ONLY job of the post card is to make the reader pick up the phone and call YOU, then, YOU sell your products. To do that, offer something FREE. 

A FREE CAR is good, but wait--it's expensive. A FREE Mont Blanc pen is nice--but wait, heck that's expensive, too. 

Hummm...if there was only something that we could pique the reader's interest in so keenly and drive him to the phone. If there were just something we could describe in one or two lines, so that if he wanted it, needed it so badly that if he threw out the post card, he'd wake up in the middle of the night and come running down to get the card out of the trash and respond.

Oh, if there were only some information that we had, crucial information that he needed so badly that he would call and ask for it; critical information that...what? Wait. Wait a minute. Information? Did I say "Information?" "Information the reader needs?" That's it! Information he needs. Information he needs badly! By Jove, I think we've got it! 

We'll offer information. An informational booklet! A FREE informational booklet. They'll call for that, hmm...if we can just make it sound interesting.

Maybe if we write a catchy title--something our clients really, really want...and need. Certainly something they'd dive in the trash can to recover. More than that...Something they'd drive across town to find out! 

Maybe...Information they'd need and want so badly they'd swim across the English Channel to get. Information they'd sell their spouse to acquire! Information so valuable they'd take my wife and keep her. You'd have to be crazy to...never mind. OK, maybe this last idea was a little much. But certainly information they need and want.

So, settled! We'll offer information. Information about how they can easily resolve their wants, satisfy their needs. It's a good thing your products and services can do exactly that. If only we could figure out how to make them pick up the phone and call...

But wait--I just had an idea! How about a booklet titled "How To Solve your Biggest Wants and Needs." Nah...too general. 

How about offering a FREE 'Informational' booklet? Yes with "FREE" written in all capital letters. Maybe a title with the number of ways readers can solve their most pressing problems? 

"How To Solve Your 9 Biggest Headaches." Excellent! How about "FREE BOOKLET Shows You 9 Ways to Solve Your...!" Yes, even better! Just fill in the blank part yourself--with exactly what your customers are looking for. 

Solve a specific problem: "9 Ways to Cut Your Employee Payroll Without Layoffs!" Yes! "How to Increase Your Profit Without Increasing Your Sales!" Yes! "12 Different Ways to Instantly Find a Leak in Your Roof!" YES! "7 Easy Things to Check When Your Car Won't Start...and 5 Ways to Get it Started!" 

Just "Call Now for Your FREE Booklet!" (Don't forget to tell readers exactly what you want them to do. "Call now and get...")

Booklets are cheap to produce, easy to change, light to ship, and make excellent giveaways that your customers will hold onto for years if you provide valuable information. And they'll call if you can hit the title on the money by offering information your readers really want.

You see, it's the TITLE of the booklet that makes it valuable, irresistible for the reader, and makes him call. It's not really the booklet itself--just the title. People call just because of the title. They don't see the booklet until later. By that time, the booklet title, and the post card worked.

The best way to create a title for your FREE informational booklet? Yep...Same way you came up with your headline, The Jeff Dobkin 100 to 1 rule: (Remember the deal we struck-up from the first article--you were going to send me 5 bucks each time you used this?) Write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one. Best way to create the most irresistible booklet title. 

Article Summary 

1. Get your post card through the first round of Glance Readership by having a super-compelling headline, tightly written sub-headlines, and outstanding graphics. 

2. Get the objective right: The objective of the post card isn't to sell your product or service, it's to generate a phone call. 

3. Make the phone ring by offering something irresistible, for free. I mean for FREE (all capitals)! 

4. FREE informational booklets work really well. 

5. The title generates the call. The title owns 100% of the responsibility of driving the reader to the phone to make the call. The better the title = the more calls. When the phone rings, the card worked. 

6. Finally, when the phone rings, YOU sell your product or service. 

Glance Readership: The better your graphics, the better your headline, the more people read your post card. The more readers, the more opportunities you have to offer something for FREE. The better your free offer as determined by the title of your free booklet, the more calls you receive. The more calls you receive, the better the post card worked, the more business you'll enjoy. Any questions?


---Source: This is the finale of "Glance Readership," a 3-article series written by Jeffrey Dobkin. Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, speaker, and direct marketing consultant. Call for his free instructional booklet of direct marketing tips: 610/642-1000 or visit his Web site at www.dobkin.com 

Improving "Glance Readership" in Post Cards--Part 2

By Jeffrey Dobkin, marketing consultant, author, and professional speaker

In part one of this article, we discussed creating a great headline to drive readers into reading the rest of the post card text. This was by using the Jeff Dobkin 100-to-1 Rule: write 100 headlines, go back, and pick out your best one. Hey, I didn't say you'd like it, I just said it was effective.

Here's how to continue to drive readers further into the copy of your postcard to fulfill your post card's objective. You do know what your post card's objective is, don't you? Or... do you?

So, at a glance, your reader reads your headline. Bam. Kapow. Zzzip. Your reader was instantly dazed, dazzled, and driven to continue reading. Yes, just like that. In under 2 seconds. 

OK, don't lose him now -- to sustain readership, use bold sub-headlines. You know, the couple of sentences scattered throughout the body copy to break it up----with bold, large type that's not quite as large as your headline. Yeah, use two or three of them.

Today's skimming readers will pass over smaller type to read the bold subheads before going back to read the regular text. Man, those subheads need to be G-R-E-A-T. And, just like the headline, this is NOT the place to sell your product, either. It's the place to further increase readership. That's the only objective of the subhead copy. Keep the reader interested, keep him reading.

Your post card's sub-headlines create a fascinating but short storyline of brief bits, bullets, and bites of boundless bulleted information. Sorry, I got caught up in my own alliteration. 

The subheads, as we call them in the business, continue to fascinate your audience and make that final push to get readers to read the rest of the copy, the dreaded "tiny type" us older folks can't really see without bifocals; the meat of your post card. 

The tiny type is the last holdout, the final frontier for selling on your post card. And do you actually sell anything here? No. This is still NOT the place to sell your product. 

What?

"EXCUSE ME!" said the client, "I paid good money for the creative, the printing, and the mailing. What's this guy talking about? When do I sell my product?" Sorry. The entire post card -- that isn't the place to sell your product either. 

My client was mistakenly correct. "That's exactly right!" I reply. "YOU sell your product. The post card does not sell your product." The post card is not the place to sell your product. 

Your post card is simply the place to ask for someone to call you. That is the objective of the card: generate a phone call. If I send you a post card and you call me... that post card worked really, really well. It did its job, 1000% successful. Any questions? And now, it's time for you to do your job, to sell your product.

How to get someone to call.
While you can get high response rates by making a great offer to your own hand-carved specific list, I'll make a generality here: To get readers to call, you can be most effective by offering something for FREE. 

Face it - when you wrote your post card, you kept complaining "Oh, there isn't any room to sell anything to anyone!" Good thing I was listening - because you were right. The limited space of your post card really isn't enough space to sell anything. And frankly, it isn't the place to sell anything.

The Objective. 
Remember the objective? All writing is drafted to fulfill a specific objective. 

There is only one objective of your post card: make the reader pick up the phone and call you. That's all. If the reader makes the call, the card succeeds. If he doesn't, the card fails. If the reader calls, YOU sell your product. 

One final thought: to make the reader call, offer something FREE. It's the last piece of the puzzle, what you should offer. Know what it is? Hint: Fulfillment cost is under a dollar - and it works better than anything else in its price range. Here's another hint: get our FREE Booklet: "The BEST offer you can make to increase response from your post cards!"

Call 610-642-1000 for your FREE Booklet. Any questions?

---Source: This is the second part of "Glance Readership," a 3-article series written by Jeffrey Dobkin. Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, speaker, and direct marketing consultant. Call for his free instructional booklet of direct marketing tips: 610/642-1000 or visit his Web site at www.dobkin.com

Improving "Glance Readership" in Post Cards--Part 1

By Jeffrey Dobkin, marketing consultant, author, and professional speaker

Face it: most people sort their mail over the trash can. 

This process works fast. Think back: you are a kid and a friend is showing you baseball cards for possible trades: gott'em, gott'em, need'em, gott'em, gott'em, need'em, gott'em. 200 cards, 50 seconds. Today's mail...same thing. Bulk mail credit card offers, magazine subscriptions, insurance solicitations, penny stock hawkers all get the briefest attention before being trashed. 

But, post cards add another dimension to the view-and-toss sorting process. Readership can be quite high, instantly. Because - it's all right there, right in front of the reader--in his hand. Post card readership is actually defined by how great the creative is for your card. The fate of your card starts in the hand of the mailer, which I believe is you, isn't it?

I call it "Glance Readership," a term I coined, well... just now, to explain what happens the moment a post card lands in a reader's hands. Glance readership is the less-than-2-seconds spent on reading your headline: 1 second on topic; 1 second on copy; and the blink of an eye on graphics unless they're really dazzling. 

Like an ad in a newspaper (remember them?) you only get a second or two--readership reviews can be brutal and end in the briefest of time followed directly by the sudden downward spiral or your mailpiece--and your money - into the circular file below. 

Or, you can instantly get extremely highly-rated reviews and have your postcard placed in the pile of "read with the rest of the important mail." It's your choice. So...what's it gonna be? Right now, you've got to ask yourself, "Am I feeling lucky?"

When your recipient gets a good look at the card, you get either opportunity. Pass or fail. The decision is immediate. 

For us on the creative end of direct mail, it just can't get any better. Buy the right list and get one of my cards into the correct reader's hands: that's all I ask--I'll get him to read it. Your direct marketing agency will too, and if they can't, find another agency--plenty of good ones out there. Or call me--I can use the money.

OK, so your potential reader is now standing there with your card in his hand and that, my friend, is where the chicken crossed the road...er, the rubber meets the road. Or hit the road, or something about the road. I forget--I have Alzheimer's. But...at least I don't have Alzheimer's!

Here's where you need to force the reader to read the card: compelling headline, followed by intriguing copy and great, great graphics. Spend a little more time and money here and what happens? The reader reads the card.

Now, some nitty-gritty. How to do it.

"Glance readership" is 100% based on your headline hook, appropriateness of subject to your audience, layout and graphics, and certainly the value created in your offer. Wrap all these elements in great graphics and now your post card is presented in a fast 2-second visual bite. Visually it's the print version of flipping channels on TV. The audio version is the sound bits you hear on the evening news or promos for the shows on MTV; which, come to think of it, appear to be written by the same writers. 

While each post card reader has his or her own mental preference files that compels him or her to stay tuned into your card, some commonalities exist. Wait. Wait just a moment. This gender thing of saying "Him or Her" all the time has got to go--it's too clunky to keep saying "him or her, him or her," - so let me clear this up. I'll just place everything in the male gender until I get complaints from, well, you know...

Glance Readership & the first round of sorting
So right on the top, your headline needs to be great. If you have a good headline, ummmm--no. No! Here, good is actually not good enough. You need something more than just good, you need "exceptionally great!" Create this one line correctly, viola--instant maximum readership. 

The first work-order of the day is to create an unbelievably great, maximum-interest headline so the reader stays in the copy and continues reading. That's the goal of the headline, nothing more: keep the reader reading. No selling.

Since your opening headline needs to be G-R-E-A-T, use the Jeff Dobkin 100-to-1 rule for creating G-R-E-A-T headlines: write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one, and use that. Oh, you like this idea?! Plan to use it? OK, send me ten bucks. Yeah, each time you use it. And you're getting away cheap. OK, just kidding. Just send $5. 

The founding principle of high readership: Headline = Great, or else. The objective of the headline is to grab the attention of the reader and yank him into the copy. This is NOT the time you sell your product.

The first glance is the pivotal point in your presentation that the reader has no commitment to read further. He hasn't invested any time in your copy; he isn't intrigued by whatever you're selling at whatever price; he hasn't seen your electrifying offer; he hasn't followed your storyline for 10 paragraphs and wants to finish the other three to see how you close the sale or the story finishes. Nothing. No commitment - right now you're just another piece of paper with no heart, no soul. Man, these first 2 seconds are critical.

At first glance, the card can be tossed without regret if the headline sucks. Kindly recall that the reader has lots of other mail, and has years of practice of a fast standing-there-over-the wastebasket first sorting time. You need to instantly deliver: survive this cut or your mail piece suffers death-by-wastebasket. Along with your money. It's the changeover point where your post card stops being an "investment" and becomes an "expense."

The second round of sorting
Ok, like my first wife said about our marriage, let's get past this. Oh well, I thought it was a good first week. Then I found out while only some women marry you for money, they all divorce you for it.

OK, so you and your post card made the first cut. Congratulations. Great graphics, hellatious headline, compelling, convincing copy; opulent, irresistible offer. Having survived the first cut following the "Glance Readership" rules, your card now sits comfortably at the reader's desk with the rest of the "important" mail. Nice.

This "Second Look" opportunity gives your post card the luxury of more time now that the reader has taken it back to the comfort of his office, a comfortable chair, a couple of beers, some good smoke, and a little more time to invest. Or is that just me? Anyhow, to survive the first glance means the reader has made the decision he has an interest in what you're selling or at least in what you have to say. Congratulations. Welcome to level two.


---Source: This is the first part of "Glance Readership," a 3-article series written by Jeffrey Dobkin. Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, speaker, and direct marketing consultant. Call for his free instructional booklet of direct marketing tips: 610/642-1000 or visit his Web site at www.dobkin.com  

7 Ways to Trim Production Costs

By Tracy A. Gill, Ballantine Corp. 

When it comes to direct mail, everyone wants to find a way to get the same return on less investment. As one of the biggest expenditures in a direct mail campaign, production is a logical and easy place to start. Tracy A. Gill reveals seven simple things any company can do to trim some of the fat out of its production budget. 

1.) Use standard-size envelopes. With the right creative, #10's, 6" x 9" and the like, have just as much mailbox impact as their custom counterparts for a fraction of the price. To keep standard-size efforts from falling victim to fatigue, without a major redesign, try folding the contents in different ways to fit into other standard size envelopes.

2.) Work with print vendors to determine the sizes and shapes that will make the best use of their printing sheets. By trimming a quarter of an inch here or an eighth of an inch there, you may be able to print two or three pieces across the form, resulting in less trim waste and less time on press. When that math doesn't work, use the extra room to print freemiums, lift notes, or other ancillary pieces.

3.) Don't be afraid to commit--to your production. Buy paper in bulk, rather than on an as-needed basis, to get better rates. Consider using your best print vendors on a contract basis; many will offer discounts if you do.

4.) Use four-color printing sparingly and supplement it with less expensive two- or one-color designs. For example, impose a brochure so that one side features all the images in stunning four-color, while the reverse features one-color type. Avoid spot colors unless they are absolutely necessary; that one extra color adds many extra dollars to your budget.

5.) Look for inexpensive bells and whistles to add interest to a direct mail piece. For example, rather than using a costly scratch off to get prospects to interact with a reply device, have them play a matching game or sign a "special offer acceptance" agreement.

6.) Print on lighter paper to reduce both paper and postage costs. Glossy papers are a good candidate for this, because they reflect more light and therefore can be more forgiving of quality. 

7.) Get it right the first time. Author alterations--or even worse, reprints--are killers to both your time line and your bottom line. 

---Source: Ballantine Corporation 2008 (www.ballantine.com).

6 Stupid Things Smart People Do to Screw Up Their Direct Mail

By Dean Rieck, direct mail copywriter

I once asked a young chess player how he wins so many games, often against older and more experienced players. He just smiled and said, "I try to avoid making mistakes."

That's a great piece of advice. And it works in direct mail as much as it does in chess. If you avoid obvious mistakes, you stand a pretty good chance of coming out a winner. 

What sort of mistakes? After working with over 200 clients in the U.S. and abroad, I've seen lots of smart people making lots of stupid mistakes. But there are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time: 

Stupid Thing #1--Having the artist design the piece first, and the writer fill in the blanks later. 
I've been in this situation more times than I care to admit. And the result is always bad. It's usually an agency. And it's usually right after they've won a client's business with the aid of a few funky design mockups. Trouble is, when clients are acquired that way, they want to see a final product that looks like the original concept. The format is selected and the layout is created before any thought is given to the actual message. 

Like the time an agency sent me a mockup of a three-dimensional mailing to announce a trade show. The copy areas were indicated by neat little gray boxes here and there in the design. My job: fill in the blanks. But, I asked, what about a response form? What about a letter? What about ... "no, just fill in the blanks, thank you." 

Design is a vital part of every direct mail piece. But it's the copy that sells. Always start with the copy and let the design serve the message, not the other way around. 

Stupid Thing #2--Plastering 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 me to say some of my copy had been lost. 

Me: Lost?

Client: Yes, there is no teaser copy for the envelope. 

Me: Oh, well I didn't write any. 

Client: Didn't write any? (Long silence.) 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? I would think they want a package that gets the best response possible. And in this case, I think that means using a plain envelope. 

Client: (Another long silence.) Okay, well, our designer has some ideas for teaser copy, so we'll come up with something. 

The decision about whether to use a teaser depends on what you are selling and your relationship with your prospects. And it depends on whether you want your mailing to look like advertising. Sometimes it should. Often it shouldn't.

My rule for teasers and graphics on outer envelopes is simple: When in doubt, leave it out.

Stupid Thing #3--Spending 2 weeks on the flyer and 2 hours on the letter.
I know. Brochures are sexy. Letters aren't. But the old saying is as true as it ever was: "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 like they thought it should. I could see one big problem right away. The letter was a four-paragraph snoozer--little more than "Enclosed you will find yadda yadda." The company president said his secretary wrote it. 

Sigh.

I could go on and on about the importance of letters, but here's the bottom line. 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. It's the most important part of every direct mail package, and you should allot your time accordingly.

Stupid Thing #4--Playing hide and seek with the order form, guarantee, and testimonials. 
A software company had tested a half dozen versions of the same mailer. 

All of them had performed poorly. When I got the samples, I could see why. The order form was hidden on the last panel of the brochure. The guarantee -- one of the strongest I've ever seen -- appeared in only one place in the middle of some text. And the testimonials were merely filler for a few open areas in the design.

An order form is not a piece of extra paper. A guarantee is not a necessary evil to jam into the copy. Testimonials are not a design element. Each of these is part of the skeleton of your direct mail message. Without that skeleton, the body of your package collapses into a lifeless mass of paper.

Whenever possible, make your order form a separate piece. If you have a strong guarantee, highlight it on every piece to assure your prospect of your integrity. And group your testimonials so they make a stronger impression. 

Stupid Thing #5--Buying first class postage and third class creative.
If ever there was a definition of false economy, it's this. One New York publisher is typical. They had an expensive, specialized industry publication 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. That 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's too much. They claim they have to save money because the first mailing didn't do well!

Look. If you've spent months developing the product, researching lists, spying on the competition, setting up fulfillment services, and getting all the particulars in place, then why would you suddenly get cheap on creative?

Do you want the cheapest brain surgeon? Do you shop for economy parachutes? Do you pinch pennies on rattlesnake venom antidote? If something is important, you want the best. Right? 

Some of the best creative talent in this business is freelance. And most of those people command much more than the $50 an hour types who are just looking for some work between agency jobs. Professional-level copy and design for a typical direct mail package can easily cost $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on size and complexity. But it's never cheap. 

I know you can't judge quality solely on price, since there are hacks at every price level. But you can be sure of one thing: if the price is low, there's a reason. If you need brain surgery, you don't want a doctor who is paid $15 an hour and drives a rusty Pinto. And if you need effective direct mail, you don't want cheap creative talent either. 

Both will make your brain hurt.

Stupid Thing #6--Guessing, guessing, guessing instead of testing, testing, testing.
This is probably the stupidest thing of all. And I run into it all the time. Despite the image our industry has for being a bunch of number-happy 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 determined that they don't work. 

But after asking some very specific questions, I found out he had done one mailing. With a new offer. To an untried list. During a bad time of the year. And didn't mail it against his control. In other words, he did a lousy mailing, got lousy results, and concluded that envelope packages are lousy.

And you would be amazed at the businesses I talk to that don't test at all--respected, household names you probably think are testing their socks off. Some of the worst offenders are big companies that have direct mail programs, but don't rely on them for their success. (Yikes! You're probably borrowing techniques from these people!)

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. 

Is testing expensive? Let me put it this way: it's less expensive than rolling out a mailing that is destined to flop. So make this your mantra: Test. Test. Test.

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 a leading direct mail copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean's FREE direct response newsletter and get a free report, 99 Easy Ways to Boost Your Direct Mail Response.
 

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