Monday, November 30, 2009

Tale of Two Direct Mail Campaigns

Received two direct mail offers on the same day. One was from a well-known East Coast telephone company, the other from a national chain of bedroom, bathroom and kitchen stores.

The one from the phone company was a beautifully rendered, tastefully designed personal invitation. The stock of the envelope was of the finest quality. The font chosen for the address made it look somewhat less mass-produced than you would expect.

I knew it was from the phone company because they did not try to hide it – the logo was plain in the return address block. I normally toss mail like this, but this one was intriguing. The quality definitely scored on job one: saving the piece from the recycling bin.

So I opened the envelope. Score one for the phone company.

Inside was a top-fold card of exquisite stock and print quality, not unlike an engraved wedding invitation. The color on the front panel was rich and the message was embossed. It was an expensive piece.

So I opened the card. Score two for the phone company.

That’s when the trouble began. The gist was pretty clear. The phone company wanted me to “come home.” The mailer was sent to former customers whom had since switched to different carriers. And what incentive do you think they used to persuade me? A personalized note? A special offer set aside just for me, maybe? Guess again. It was the same hackneyed BS the phone company trots out everywhere else you look: “We have phones!” “We sell phone service!” “We are the phone company!”

Alert the media.

The piece offered absolutely nothing except tasteful design. Not even a free phone, for the love of Mike.

Score zero for the phone company.

Then I saw the bed and bath piece. It was an oversize postcard, no envelope, Nicely designed, great type treatment, but no embossing, foil stamping or linen, laid-finish 100 percent rag stock. It wasn’t even four color. Uncoated. Cheap. The message – “bring this card to the store and get 20 percent off any one item.” Period.

Guess where the phone company’s mailer ended up? You got it – the big dumpster in the sky. And the bed and bath piece? At the local franchise, where I hand carried it and cashed it in.

The real irony? At the moment, we’re not exactly enamored with our new phone company. There we were, ripe for the picking – a viable candidate to boomerang to the old carrier. But the phone company did nothing to reel us in. The obvious option would have been to pay the penalty our current company will charge for terminating the contract. It’s no secret that this is a big impediment to switching. Had they offered that – or something as appetizing – I probably would have made the call.

There’s a lesson here. When it comes to direct marketing, think long and hard about giving your prospect a compelling reason to take action. Don't get me wrong – as any of the designers I've worked with over the years will attest, I am a huge fan of good design and a vocal detractor of the sloppy.

But good design without the right message is like a bad movie with great special effects. When you're trying to close a sale, pretty pictures alone will never cut the mustard.

©2009 Briarpatch Creative

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