Tips for Writing Irresistible Direct Marketing Content: Part 1


Keep it Short and Sweet:

178163372 250x166 Tips for Writing Irresistible Direct Marketing Content: Part 1Resist the urge to cram every bit of information into one marketing piece, whether it is an email, flier or direct mail piece.

  • Simplicity is Better: Provide pictures to help your customers visualize the products and services. You can also include a QR Code, taking the user to a mobile site that further engages them in your brand.
  • Ask Questions: Pique interest by asking your prospects a thought provoking question. This method not only raises awareness about your products or services, but encourages customers to read more of the content. Example, “Did you know that Mail Print offers a Marketing Communications Portal?”

  • Highlight Benefits: Do not just write about your products and what colors or versions they may come in. Your content should focus on the benefits of your products and services. Customers want to know how your product will influence their lives.

Follow these simple tips to convert more readers into customers.


Business Card Designs that Work

business cardI have seen thousands of business cards in the last 25 years.  Between you and me, most of them don’t leave an impression.  For most people, they are an after thought; especially in the age of V-cards and contact transfer by “phone bumping”.  I was recently handed a business card that made me stop and take notice.  You can imagine my joy when I realized it was a card that had been produced at Mail Print. Let me tell you more…

Keep in mind that business cards allow you to make an instant impression about your business without saying a word. During the 17th Century business cards were used to announce the impending arrival of prosperous and aristocratic people. Today they can be a powerful marketing piece to get in the front door with prospects.

When retail and restaurant design and engineering firm Larson Binkley moved to a new location, it redesigned its business cards. CEO and President Chris Larson charged his graphic designer to create a card that reflected that his employees were experienced engineers. Larson describes his employees as experience engineers because they focus on the experience a person has in a space they design related to the heating, cooling, lighting, power and plumbing systems.

“We needed something about the cards that is experiential. They had to be easy on the eye and have a nice tactile feel. We also wanted our cards to show creativity and to reflect our understanding of what a business card should be today,” explains Larson.

Larson said his company’s previous business cards were colorful but lacked space to scribble a note or two. He says the text size and type on the old cards weren’t friendly and contained too much information. The back of the card was a black background with white letters (dark, gloomy) and was essentially wasted space.

“It didn’t speak to our core values of sustainability, creativity and purpose,” said Larson.

Using 4 Graphic Elements to Achieve Corporate Image Goals

Larson Binkley’s graphic designer Adam Walker with Sandweiss Koster addressed all the issues that existed with Larson Binkley’s old cards and what they wanted in their new cards.

Walker created a highly-complex print project after much research learning who Larson Binkley was and what they offered. The final result is a double-sided card that showcases sophistication and elegance on the front side and innovation and energy on the back of the card. Here’s how Walker used white space, typography, color and AV coating to build a class image for Larson Binkley.

triangle Business Card Designs that Work

White Space Usage

Walker used ample whitespace on the front of the card electing to not include a mailing address or general office number (direct line only). He showcased the company logo using silver foil and embossing. His use of whitespace would be applauded by other designers that understand the power of leveraging white space.

“Another element to consider is more whitespace is generally associated with sophistication while less whitespace is often associated with cheap design. This helps explain why so many business cards take the simplistic approach and include the basic text, a lot of whitespace, and maybe a few engaging graphical or design elements.”

Typography Selection

Walker chose Trade Gothic font for the front and back of Larson Binkley’s cards. The cards were printed digitally (while there was on option to use variable print to print the names an titles, the file was not set up that way) with six spot colors and a soft-touch aqueous coating on top of the cotton paper to give recipients a stop and take notice smooth feel.

“They all have a completely different vibe, right? One trick for picking a font is to type out certain characteristics you think the font might possess in that specific font. Is it fun, energetic, tense, etc.?

“Seeing the words in the font they potentially correspond with will help you determine if it’s a good match. Also, consider if you can identify the opposite mood of the font. If you can’t, that probably means it’s not very clear and you can pick a better option.”

Impact of Color

While it’s possible to color wash the entire business card or print a lighter ink on a dark colored stock, Walker decided to use color as an accent instead of a show stealer. He used Pantone 2196 out of the newly released Pantone Plus Series — never before released Pantone colors to celebrate the company’s 50-year anniversary.

Larson Binkley’s logo was presented in a foil embossed rather than a bright color, which Larson said he liked because to him it reinforces a grey-ghostlike imagery and that ties to the company working invisibly in the background to build out a business’s space.

Print Coatings Can Provide the Finish Touch

If you’re redoing your business cards, don’t neglect to explore the value a special coating can add to the impression your card makes. While aqueous coatings were originally designed to prevent darker cards from showing fingerprints, new coatings are now available on the market. Larson Binkley elected to have a soft touch aqueous coating applied to their business cards. The coating provides a velvety smooth feel to the card that Walker and Larson believe reinforces how smooth it is to do business with them.

With the addition of extra colors, a foiled embossed logo and an extra finishing touch, Larson’s business cards were not inexpensive. Larson is a firm believer that a company shouldn’t compromise where it matters and that business cards and collateral materials should reflect who you are. “Our new cards reflect quality, value, sustainability and creativity,” says Larson.

More Business Card Ideas

Check out these creative business cards that use the design of the card to emphasize the service being delivered.  Poole & Hunter’s card shows they are in the tailoring business with the clever bow tie die cut. Divorce attorney James Mahon printed his card with a perforation down the center showing he helps husbands and wives split up – even implying to give the husband one half of the card and the wife the other.

Tok & Stok, an office furniture company, produced business cards that convert into a chair that can sit on the client’s desk with their name and contact information.

Here are a few more well-designed business cards that do the heavy lifting in the introduction of your company.

What do your business cards say about your company? Ask a colleague at your next business luncheon. You might be surprised to learn what they say.

SOURCE:The Psychology of a Well Designed Business Card (and How to Use it to Your Advantage), Life Hacker.


8 Ways to Improvise Your Way to Success

meeting 250x166 8 Ways to Improvise Your Way to Success

Guest post by Michael J. Pallerino, taken from the April/May issue of our bi-monthly magazine, Connect.

So, how do the worlds of improvisation and business compare? Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications (SCC), shows you eight improvisation techniques that can help your business.

No. 1: Seek Those “Yes, and …’ Moments

Improvisation is about affirmation, creation and mutual support. Its training is built on the concept of what it calls “yes, and” moments. That’s when other members of the group put an idea or proposition forward, the group affirms the proposition, and then additional information is added. This allows the team to reach its full potential before objections derail an idea.

No. 2: Follow Your Fears

Fear usually is an indication that something important is at stake.

People feel fear because they care about an outcome. In improv, actors are taught to “lean into” conflict, not walk away from it. This practice likely reveals something new.

No. 3: Plan Less and Discover More

The less you plan, the more you’ll discover; the more you plan, the less you’ll discover. Every organization wants to be known as innovative and creative. Yet,

most conditions that allow for innovation and creativity seldom are present. Standard routines and processes govern most daily work experiences. In improvisation, the absence of a plan allows room for discovery.

No. 4: Start in the Middle

Improv actors know that a linear, orderly progression makes for a boring scene. In business, people take great pains to lay things out in logical progressions. There is comfort in following the flow. But when there’s a crisis or need to innovate, success sometimes comes from taking leaps and making creative connections in the absence of perfect information and thoughtful preparation.

No. 5: ‘Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral’

Employees don’t like to feel small and insignificant. This causes them to hold back ideas and feedback. In improvisation, seemingly small contributions are important to the whole. If each ensemble member brings something, the collective energy is greater than one person carrying the load. When your contribution matters, you’re obligated to bring something to the game.

No. 6: If One Idea Doesn’t Work, Try Another

In improvisation people move quickly. There’s little time to analyze or assess only time to listen and react. Consequently, ideas and inspiration come and go fluidly. Improv actors know that right and wrong usually is a false dichotomy; there are only possibilities and choices. Performers are rewarded by their willingness to support the ensemble and adapt on the fly to new ideas.

No. 7: Try Not to Top Someone …

…at least until you’ve equaled him. Because business usually is a competitive endeavor, people always are trying to one-up each other. This comes out of a fear of looking bad and falling behind in an internal competition. Someone else’s gain means your loss, which creates a stifling environment. In improvisation, the best way to “get fed” is to do some feeding of your own.

No. 8: Make Accidents Work

The world has a tendency to throw curveballs. The key is how you respond to it. In improvisation, the axiom “make accidents work” describes much of its existence. Unlike in variable data printing where every outcome is tightly planned, there is no such thing as a preordained outcome in improvisation. It’s about living in the moment. Learn to embrace the possibilities that “accidents” offer.



Priceless Takeaways from Casino Marketing Award Winners – Part I

This blog post is for you if you run a casino or similar business– hotel, entertainment venue, restaurant or a retail store. You can learn something from Gold River Casino in Anadarko, Okla., and Prairie Band Casino & Resort in Mayetta, Kan., if you need people in your establishment to earn revenue.


river1 Priceless Takeaways from Casino Marketing Award Winners – Part I

Turning a Slow Day into a Hay Day

Gold River Casino employees used to dread Sundays because the floor was barren and therefore food and beverage sales were slow, too. To increase Sunday play, Gold River put a reusable coupon into its monthly direct mail piece.

The additional free-play offer increased revenues more than $200,000 in just one month. After three months, revenues climbed to $300,000. This translated into an increase of 30% more visitors who drove food and beverage sales up nearly 50%.

SOURCE: Casinos Hit the Jackpot with Direct Mail, March 2012. Deliver Magazine

Sunday is now one of the property’s strongest days thanks to adding a food-and-beverage offer. The food piece draws in families who encourage their friends to come with them to catch up on life on Sundays.


band1 Priceless Takeaways from Casino Marketing Award Winners – Part IReengaging Disengaged Customers

Prairie Band Casino & Resort used a total escape package to lure guests back into the casino who hadn’t been in to play in up to three months. The package included a free night’s stay and free-play offer.

To promote the package, Prairie Band mailed a printed luggage tag as the direct mail piece and attention grabber. The results were a 19.1% response rate, an 80.8% lift in incremental guests, and a return on investment of 670.1%.

SOURCE:Casinos Hit the Jackpot with Direct Mail, March 2012. Deliver Magazine

Is there a group of your customers you need to reengage? How about a day of the month you could use a spike in customers? Direct mail works – when executed properly.

Agency Uses Interactive Sitelet to Land New Business

When a Dallas-based advertising agency, VLG, needed to engage prospects, it opted to show off its interactive technology through a sitelet or mini-site. The sitelet used a mock company called Crescent Bluffs to demonstrate the amount of time VLG could engage the prospect in the demo.

I was engaged for 1 minute 41 seconds. I took VLG’s bait of virtually opening a hotel door to a room with a virtual key on the screen. I was then asked to meet them in the lobby and then in the restaurant to have a virtual lunch; and at the end of the lunch a virtual note appeared on the screen announcing how long our business courtship lasted. VLG then asked me on the screen if I would be interested in learning how to conduct my own sitelet campaign to create new business for my company.

check Agency Uses Interactive Sitelet to Land New Business

VLG’s campaign, Accept the Invitation, began by mailing a hotel napkin and faux hotel key with a note that read, “Let’s Meet.” The note sent prospects to a mini or microsite for a faux hotel named Crescent Bluffs. You can walk through the prospect experience here.

Because of sitelet successes such as VLG’s, other agencies and companies are using sitelets to launch a product, provide support functions and for targeted advertising campaigns. By using a separate domain name, you can choose a unique descriptive URL that pertains specifically to the campaign.

Flash, online databases and advanced programming can be combined to create powerful customer support tools. It is possible to preload your existing offline data or structure an entirely new database.

Another key benefit of using a targeted sitelet approach is that you do not have to significantly modify your existing company website for a specific campaign. You will want to integrate links and content for maximum exposure, but this is significantly easier than modifying website navigation and page structure.

How can you use mini-sites to bring in business?


How to Produce (and Distribute) a Successful White Paper (Part II)

content marketing, content, white paper

In How to Produce a Successful White Paper (Part I) you learned about the three types of white papers, how to launch a white paper like a new product launch and how the tone should be educational so as to position your company as a thought leader. In this follow-up blog, you’ll learn the pros and cons of gating your white papers behind a registration form rather than open access, your syndication options and if an ebook is the new white paper.

Pros and Cons of Gating Your Content

According to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rule of Marketing & PR, there are two marketing camps on the subject of requiring prospects to register before downloading a white paper. The first camp believes a registration form is necessary because it allows your company to capture an email address and convert that person into a sales lead. The downside is your registration/download numbers often suffer because people don’t like to give away their emails, get spammed or lose their autonomy.

The second camp believes it is best to make content such as white papers totally free because it increases the spread of the information and therefore the interest level in their product or service.

Now let’s look at some very interesting math that Scott used when he was arguing his preference for non-gated content with a HubSpot in-bound marketer, who is in the first camp.


Gated Content with Landing Page Totally Free Content (no form to fill out) 

10,000 people saw white paper offer (form) 10,000 people saw white paper (no form)
x 5% register and download content X 50% downloads
+ Zero social shares + 10% shares and 5,000 more downloads
500 email leads captured, 0 shares, 0 links 10,000 downloads, 500 shares, 25 links

As you can see above, the gated content only got downloaded 500 times, whereas the non-gated content received 10,000 downloads, 500 social media shares, and generated 25 backlinks to the company’s site or landing page. Of course you have to factor in that the free downloads may be less valuable than those willing to give their email address, but does the sheer volume and viral effect make up for this difference in your multi-channel marketing?

Perhaps you should test both in your next campaign and determine this for yourself. It’s worth a look because Scott says opening the gates to your content can increase download volume 16x what you were getting when it was gated.

Are You Syndicating Your White Papers?

Okay, so you’ve invested in a research firm, copywriter or journalist to write your library of white papers, which are posted on your site. Now what? According to Ryan Malone, founder of Smart Bug Media, you need to syndicate that white paper. Syndication generates additional leads and you can use both free and pay sites to maximize reach and interest in your product or service.

White paper syndication services exist in just about every niche, including banking, technology, business, and IT. Here is a brief list of syndicators to consider:

http://www.bankinfosecurity.com (banking)

http://www.cmp.com (technology)

http://www.cnet.com (business)

http://www.findwhitepapers.com (general)

http://www.idgconnect.com (IT and tech)

http://www.industryweek.com (manufacturers)

http://www.knowledgestorm.com (business and IT)

http://www.netline.com (trades)

http://www.retailwire.com (retail)

You can find additional white paper syndicates listed at Marketing Sherpa, Netline or through Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers.

arrow chart How to Produce (and Distribute) a Successful White Paper (Part II)

Source:Savvy B2B

White Papers vs. eBooks

No surprise that Scott thinks eBooks will eventually replace white papers. He feels this way because too many companies are churning out poorly written, researched and packaged white papers. He says too many white papers are more like warmed up sales sheets. Readers are becoming fed up with the bait and switch, giving companies their confidence and emails, only to be hammered by a hard sell or flamboyant hyperbole such as flexible, scalable, cutting-edge, mission-critical, world-class, etc.

Scott goes on to say that white papers still have a purpose, but because they can’t go viral because people won’t share them, they weaken your marketing efforts.

Ebooks, on the other hand, appear to be the more vogue and hip medium of business communications. Check out the top 10 ebook downloads on Ebook3000 and answer when the last time one of your white papers got download 22,548, 16, 639, or 13,821 times.

Principles of Corporate Finance (22548)

The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive (16639)

Principles of Microeconomics, 4th Edition (13821)

Agile Project Management with Scrum (12727)

Guide to Financial Management (11006)

Principles of Macroeconomics (10941)

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual E (10830)

The One Minute Manager (10507)

The Interpretation of Financial Statemen (8894)

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do (7961)

Your homework is to go through your existing white papers and tweak headlines, copy, graphs, cover pages and then submit and redistribute them as a press release to a syndication site or directly to a media outlet to ask for an interview slot on an appropriate business channel or radio talk show. Tell us about your repurposed success in the comments below.

How to Produce a Successful White Paper (Part I)

SEO Content white paper

White papers originated from governments in the roaring 20s as a way to share government policy preference prior to the introduction of legislation. Fast-forward to the ‘90s and marketers began using white papers as a way to communicate research findings about their products, services or technologies.

Used as marketing tools, these papers allow companies to help their customers solve problems. The big distinguisher and reason they are so popular is that the information is presented with an educational rather than sales twist. Facts opposed to propaganda. White papers work because buyers want to make up their own minds, do appropriate research and not be sold.

The proper definition of a white paper is an educational document that is approximately five pages long and written in a straight-forward manner with factual, well-sourced copy and graphs that establishes the company or person as an expert or thought leader. There are three types of white papers

  • The Backgrounder. Describes the technical or business benefits of working with a vendor.
  • Numbered List. Presents a number of points, questions or tips about a business issue.
  • Problem/Solution. The classic case study format is used to walk a prospect through a solution to their nagging business problem.

Written correctly, white papers remain the most relied on content tool used by B2B marketers today. A good paper is laser-focused, clear, understandable and sanitized of any propaganda or sales speak.

“White papers remain the most effective piece of marketing collateral, with 86% of respondents finding them moderately to highly influential in the purchasing decision,” according to a Eccolo Media study reviewed inB2B Magazine.

Headlines and Wording for White Papers

The headline is imperative in your cross-channel marketing. Make it easy to scan and understand. Save your cleverness for your advertising pieces because a play-on-words doesn’t go over well in white papers, according to Marketing Sherpa. Five pivotal pieces of advice Marketing Sherpa offers are:

1. Use clear, but non-salesy wording

2. Shorter is better

3. If you must use a long headline, break it into a headline and sub-headline

4. Add “ing” to your titles. Prospects want to achieve something such as eliminating, preventing, defending, implementing, ect.

5. Run some marketing searches and statistics before naming your white paper

Think Like a Product Launch with your White Paper

According to Ryan Malone, writer for The Source for Writing and Marketing White Papers, you should think of your white paper the same way you would a new product launch.

Here is Malone’s 7-step launch process that he says will make your white paper a smashing success:

1.Create a strong landing page

2.Share your white paper in press release format on the wire

3.Distribute pitch letters to reporters

4.Get it placed in a publication as a bylined article

5.Pitch speaking opportunities

6.Syndicate your white paper (covered in Part II of this blog here)

7.Leverage social media

Make sure to read our Part II of this blog coming later this week, which goes into the pros and cons of giving your white papers away vs. gating them behind a form and what experts say about the effectiveness of a white paper compared to a blog.


Plans to Cease Saturday Mail Delivery Comes to a Halt (for now)

Post officeIf you or your company loves Saturday postal delivery, rest easy. Saturday deliveries will continue based on a decision made April 9 by the Board of Governors of the United Postal Service.

By using restrictive language in its resolution, the Board of Governors in essence have prohibited a new national delivery schedule that would have ceased Saturday mail deliveries (excluding packages) starting August 5, 2013 (even though 75% of the American public was for the change).


A Temporary Vs. Permanent Reprieve

While this decision temporarily puts the brakes on postal delivery changes, reducing delivery days is still part of the larger five-year business plan to restore the Postal Service to long-term financial stability. The Board still supports the shift to a new, reduced postal delivery schedule to save approximately $2 billion in annual cost.

Delaying changes to the current Postal Service business model only increases the potential that the Postal Service could become a taxpayer burden in the future. (Currently, the Government only subsidizes discounts given to non-profits, mailing privileges for Congress, and other revenue foregone.) Therefore, the Board has directed management to reopen negotiations with postal unions and consultations with management associations to lower total workforce costs.

In addition, the Board urges Congress to quickly pass a comprehensive postal legislation allowing the Postal Service to establish an appropriate, financially sustainable national delivery schedule.

The next meeting for the Postal Board of Governors is set for May 10. What’s your prediction to how this might play out? Will it affect your direct mail efforts?

To Pick the Right Campaign Metrics, Ask the Right Questions Prior to Launch

157000899 250x170 To Pick the Right Campaign Metrics, Ask the Right Questions Prior to LaunchSavvy marketers who wish to remain employed measure the efforts of their email, print and multi-channel campaigns. Amateur marketers wing it or use the wrong metrics in an effort to make the right decisions.

Visit any social media or integrated marketing agency lunchroom and you’ll hear the words click-through, long-term bounce rates, subject line pull, open rate and conversions being passed around like salt.

Walk into a top 50 mailer and you’ll hear teams talking about churn, expense-to-revenue ratio, repurchase rate and lead-to-sale conversion.

The best marketers select clear, concrete goals for their campaign and then choose the metrics that tie directly to these goals and set tracking mechanisms in place.


Direct Mail Campaign Metric Rights and Wrongs

The problem with only focusing on response rate as a metric is that it doesn’t tell you much about campaign effectiveness, according to Ruth Stevens of the Lenskold Group.  There are simply too many variables involved:  the list, the offer, and the creative.

Stevens suggests focusing on a more useful metric, like cost per lead.


Metrics for B-to-B Direct Marketers

Lead Generation Direct  Sales
, E-commerce, Mail Order Retention Marketing
Response rate Response rate Repurchase rate
Cost per lead Cost per order Lifetime value
Inquiry-to-lead conversion rate Average order size Churn
Lead-to-sales conversion rate ROI
Expense-to-revenue ratio (E:R)

SOURCE: LENSKOLD GROUP, 5 Essential B-to-B Direct Marketing Metrics by Ruth Stevens, June 8, 2011


Beware of Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics sounds good but mean little. They are slung around in client meetings like Stoli in a Mad Men scene but they are more intoxicating than business

sustaining. Vanity metrics, including

  • How many names on the email list?
  • How many likes on Facebook?
  • How many followers on Twitter?

It doesn’t matter if you purchased an 80-million name email list for $800 if 80% of those names haven’t looked at an email in the past year or only 5% of the contacts match your Ideal Customer Profile. The metrics that might matter more across the sales pipeline, according to Hugh MacFarlane, author of The Leaky Funnel, are:

  • Sales qualified leads
  • First meetings
  • Proposals
  • Closed Deals


Proxy Metrics Can Help if Agreed Upon Upfront

What is a proxy metric? It is a metric used to “stand in” for a direct measure, when direct measurement is not possible. For example if a PR  or marketing company places a story in the New York Times and in the Waste Management trade journal, The New York Times carries more influence and clout for the client and his product than does a trade journal because of reach, readership, credibility, etc.  Therefore the agency can plug in an arbitrary number in its client reporting valuing this placement as compared to an easier to obtain trade journal placement with less customer focused impact.

In a B-to-B environment the revenue pay-off can take many months or even years. Proxy metrics come in handy to assess campaign productivity before the sales cycle has ended.

Robert Reneau of National Semiconductor assigns dollar value to each interim campaign outcome, long before the activity has resulted in a sale. When a customer downloads a piece of collateral, for example, they credit the campaign with $1,000. A product sample request? That’s $5,000. A lead entered into the sales force automation system earns $50,000. Though these numbers seem arbitrary, over time they have helped National correlate actual sales results.