Mind the Gaps

Happy New Year! With 2008 budgets in place and sales goals set, Pat Friesen, president of Pat Friesen & Co., recommends eight retooling ideas designed to increase response and strengthen customer relationships, whether you use direct mail to sell direct, generate leads, or drive Web site or retail store traffic.

How many times have we all heard the dreaded comment, “We tried that before, and it didn’t work”? However, that doesn’t mean it won’t work now and won’t be a breakthrough in 2008.

Caution: Don’t try something just because it’s new or clever or your printing salesperson says it’s a great idea. Always have a strategically sound reason for what you do and test against your control to confirm. With this in mind, here are eight retooling ideas to consider in the New Year:

1. Prospect within your house list. It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations do not have systematic referral programs. Customer-referred prospects convert at a higher rate with a higher average order than most first-time “triers.” Referral programs are a must for B-to-B, B-to-C, and nonprofit mailers. If you don’t have one, put this on your to-do list for 2008. Along the same line, it’s also cheaper to reactivate inactive customers than to prospect for new ones. And how about those leads that didn’t convert? Test formats, offers, and benefit messages to see what it takes to turn them into customers.

2. Never send a mailing that doesn’t ask for a response. This is a key difference between direct marketers and those who “do mailings.” Direct marketers ask for and expect a response. My favorite example is an insurance company that does an annual mailing disclosing the company’s privacy policy. True to form for many insurance mailings, this one looks so boring and impersonal that there’s no reason to read it. Yet, the company spends money on postage to mail it. If I were on its marketing staff, I’d find a way to include an eye-catching insert—one that engages readership and generates policyholder involvement by requesting opinions, referrals, or something else that creates a dialogue and produces response.

3. Check out This USPS Web site is a great time-saver for uncovering USPS information about mail piece addressing, design, ZIP codes, zone charts, and more. For example, you can click on the “Mailpiece Design” link to access contact information for mail piece design analysts in your area.

4. Stand out in the stack. Direct mail always has been visual, tactile, and three-dimensional; now it’s constantly morphing and changing as a result of new technology and new applications for existing technology. Consider testing:

• Translucent vellum outers—with sleeves or traditional envelopes—to showcase the contents of your mailing. These are carriers that double the “wow” power.

• Postcards with a built-in retention piece such as a credit card-thick postcard with a pop-out gift card. It’s unique, tactilely appealing, and encourages retention.

• Cloth envelopes are a standout in even the tallest stack of mail. It’s a carrier that begs to be opened and reused.

• Credibly handwritten fonts are particularly appropriate when used on greeting cards or other mailings that require verisimilitude to maximize their openability and effectiveness.

5. Double the impact of your postage investment. Include “Preferred Customer Only” promotional offers on account statements or bounceback offers in outgoing shipments. These are effective tools for strengthening relationships with customers, generating additional sales and getting more from every dollar you spend on postage.

6. Engage readership and retention with personalization. While a personalized letter once meant including the recipient’s name in the salutation, creative possibilities now abound. For example, you can send a letter with a personalized magnet embedded into it—not glue-tipped onto it. Think of all the ways you could use customer data to provide a “personally meaningful” magnet reminder to, for instance, get an oil change for your 2006 Honda Accord or return for your annual dental exam in May 2008. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity. But remember my cautionary note: Have a strategically sound reason for all that you do; don’t resort to cute and clever for the sake of cute and clever.

7. Use dot whacks or a different outer envelope for follow-up mailings. Keep the mailing contents the same, but change the color, size, die-cut window shape, or texture of the carrier. Or, add a dot-whack sticker with a strong teaser. It’s a cost-effective way to provide a double-whammy follow-up. Make sure to track your results.

8. Recycle, please. Did you know the Environmental Protection Agency has found that direct mail accounts for only 2.2 percent in weight of the total municipal solid waste generated in the U.S.? So, we’re not the landfill culprits many make us out to be. A 2005 USPS study also showed that 85 percent of U.S. households read some or all of the direct mail they receive. This is good, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue fine-tuning our targeting skills and encouraging recycling.

Studies also show there is a perception that direct mail isn’t recyclable. We need to be part of the education process. The Direct Marketing Association, Envelope Manufacturers Association, and Magazine Publishers of America have launched the Please Recycle campaign to encourage recycling of envelopes, cartons, and packaging products. To learn more about the program and use of the Please Recycle logo on your mail pieces, visit

---Sources: Reprinted from Targeting Marketing Magazine January 2008 issue ( Pat Friesen is president of Pat Friesen & Co. Reach her at or by visiting
Melissa Data

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