Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Power of Positive Marketing

Do you remember Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh stories? Eeyore was the “gloom and doom” or negative voice in most situations. He said things like, “We’re never going to make it.”

Negativity can be emotionally draining and often deters people from the task at hand. It’s harder to be persuaded or moved to action by a negative message. A positive message evokes enthusiasm and carries its own energy. Think of The Little Engine That Could saying, “I think I can. I think I can.”

Negative language stops communication. Positive language encourages an open dialogue. You may have noticed that when you are in a meeting and a coworker phrases something in a negative manner, it brings the flow of ideas to a halt. However, positive wording is more open ended and allows others to build on and expand ideas. Here are some examples of phrases you might hear around the office. Note how the negative wording ends a conversation abruptly while the more positive response opens up communication.

Negative: “That’s not how we do it.”
Positive: “Here’s what we do.”

Negative: “I don’t like that idea.”
Positive: “How about…” or “What if we…”

Negative: “That won’t work.”
Positive: “Here’s something that might work.”

An important aspect of your marketing materials is the copy. The language you use sets the tone for your direct marketing efforts and helps position your company and your brand image in the minds of customers and prospects. Positive language will enable you to control or frame your communications. Using upbeat, declarative language and power words creates an image in the minds of your readers.

Compare the impact of these negative sentences and their more positive counterparts.

Negative: Don’t delay. Supplies are limited.
Positive: Please hurry! Order now to reserve your limited-edition copy.

Negative: Don’t hesitate to call me.
Positive: Feel free to call me, I’m happy to talk with you.

Negative: You can’t live without our widget.
Positive: Make life easier with our amazing widget.

People are more likely to listen to an enthusiastic person or message. It’s easy for marketers to become complacent about what they do. Marketers become so familiar with their own products and services, they can forget what is exciting and great about them. Take some time and write down the exciting, unique, and beneficial aspects of your product or service from your customer’s perspective.

Think about the ways that your company improves customers’ lives. It may inspire you to look at your products or services in a new light.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Are You Putting Your Customers First?

What is your company’s most important asset? Your first thought may be your employees, products, or services. But, it’s actually your customers.

And your customers want you to put them first. In fact, a survey by Forrester Research found that “customer advocacy” — a consumer’s perception that a firm does what’s best for its customers, not just its own bottom line — is the strongest drive of customer loyalty.

By its very nature, direct marketing speaks to customers more personally than mass media advertising. The key to effective communications is relevance. Direct marketing typically uses highly sophisticated database marketing strategies to gain better insight into customers and prospects. Marketers have the technology and data to get to know their customers on a one-on-one basis.

But amazing software applications and customer insight are only the beginning. It takes marketing skill and finesse to use this customer and prospect information to create communications that engage readers and persuade them to respond.

Now more than ever, we need to take a customer-centric approach to marketing. The product-centric and campaign-centric models of the past are losing ground with customers.

With a well-organized database, you can slice and dice your data to create virtually any type of segmentation. You could pull demographic information to vary your message based on small age bands. For instance, many companies are finding that everyone over 55 is not alike. If you target a senior market, you may find that younger seniors respond to different messages and approaches than older seniors. You might promote easy-to-use, interactive online tools to younger seniors and mail paper worksheets and brochures with dedicated call center information to older seniors.

Even moms are not the same these days. A mother of toddlers could be in her early 20’s or early 40’s. There are working moms and stay-at-home moms — and virtually every combination in between. There are moms who lead the trends and moms who follow. You may want to segment moms based on age, age of children, buying habits, buying lifecycle, or other variables.

Shifting away from focusing on the products and services you offer to focusing on how customers interact with you can help you build and grow customer relationships.

Most marketers concentrate on two key target areas: gaining new customers and growing existing ones. It is a well-known fact that it is more cost-effective to keep existing customers than to attract new ones.

That’s why it’s important to nurture your customer relationships. Using customer-centric communications will help you do that. By providing relevant information at the right time to the right customers, you will build more loyal relationships.

Customer-centric direct marketing can help you:
• Increase program ROI and get more results while mailing less
• Increase message relevance, accuracy, and time to market
• Increase lead generation response rates and resulting sales
• Increase client loyalty and grow existing business

It’s time to pay more attention to the customer experience, and adjust your marketing practices to send fewer, more relevant messages that reflect the overall relationship your company has with its customers.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tips for Using Teasers on Envelopes

One of the main goals of the envelope and the teaser is to get the envelope opened. A teaser should give a benefit and talk directly to the prospect without giving away too much.

Here are some more tips on how to use teasers:

Keep it short. You only have about three seconds to get your reader’s attention. So, be as brief as possible while still getting your message across.

Answer the question, “What will it do for me?” People want to know what you are offering them. What is the benefit from their perspective?

Be honest. Never mislead or oversell with a teaser. Your envelope contents should always deliver as much or more than you promise.

Pay off early. Whatever idea you set up on your envelope, it should pay off at the beginning of your letter. If your outer says “Free Gift,” make that the first item of business inside the package.

Experiment with windows. Windows can be used to isolate important things about the mailing. For instance, a free bonus, deadline date, dollar amount, or “pay to the order of” line.
This information can be printed on the letter or brochure and show through a window for an extra tease.

Try using key words. Some key words that almost always work well in teasers include personal, free, and new. "Private information," a variation on "personal," also works
since "personal" has been somewhat abused.

Think about teaser placement. There’s a theory that to the left of the address panel is the best placement for teaser copy. The left eye is controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain, and the right side of the brain is responsible for emotion. It’s also a good idea to stay above the bottom line of the mailing address because the teaser can interfere with the USPS optical character reading equipment used for mail sorting.

While these are some guidelines for using teaser based on years of testing, basically, it's up to you. If you use a teaser, make sure it adds to the likelihood that the outer envelope will get opened. Tease the reader into wanting more. And, test. Try your package with and without a teaser and experiment with different teasers to see what works best for you.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When Should You Use a Teaser?

Teaser copy has been around as long as advertising. Teaser copy is so much a part of our everyday lives that we often overlook it. It’s the 70% OFF sign in the store window. Or, the description on the back of a book jacket. It’s even as simple as the headline on an ad.

How the outer envelope is treated can be the difference between the success and failure of a direct mail program. Here are some examples of when I recommend to put teaser copy on the outer envelope:

A mailing to non-customers.
People who aren’t your customers won’t recognize your company and may not feel the need to look at your mailing. A teaser is necessary to help draw them in.

A highly promotional offer. If you’re mailing a free sample or a sweepstakes offer, it seems silly not to blast that fact on the envelope.

An oversized mailing. A mailing in an oversized envelope is more likely to be opened and read if it has teaser copy on the outside. Because of the odd size, the recipient is going to recognize it as something promotional.

Here are some examples of when I might NOT use teaser copy:

A mailing to customers.
Teaser copy may not necessary on mailings to established customers. Name recognition is enough to get the envelope opened. In fact, a teaser will tip them off that you’re sending promotional materials. However, there are times when you can be promotional to your customers. For instance, if your offer is special or exclusive to customers or if you’re promoting a customer contest.

A mailing to businesses.
It might be good to keep your mailing low-key to make it past the office gatekeeper. If it looks too much like advertising, it may get trashed. However, on the reverse side, your envelope may need to get attention in order to make it through to the recipient. It often requires some testing and past experience to determine which approach is right for a particular situation.

A mailing with name recognition.
If your name is powerful enough, any additional copy on the envelope may sap out strength. For instance, a mailing with The Attorney General, Joe Smith–Chairman of the Board, or a
nationally known corporate name in the return address corner may be able to stand on its own to get the mailing opened. I would recommend a test to make sure the name can stand on its own.

In fact, even these examples of when to use teasers and when not to may not be right all the time. It really depends on the circumstances of your mailing. I always recommend testing your mailings and your teaser copy to see what works best for you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Should You Bend the Branding Rules?

It’s so tempting. What if we move the logo this one time? Can we change the voice of the copy in just this piece? Before you know it, you’re bending branding rules and guidelines left and right.

Is it okay to bend the rules? As with most direct marketing questions, the answer is complex and may even vary depending on the circumstances.

When to follow the rules.

The branding guidelines help keep the brand focused by ensuring that the logo or “signature” is used consistently and that the marketing materials you produce have a synergistic appearance, tone, and brand message.

I believe it’s important to have branding guidelines that can be used across all types of media. Your company’s print ads should convey the same image as your direct mail. Your website should feel and look like your television ads. It’s especially critical if you are communicating across different marketing channels. For instance, if your TV ads are driving prospects to your website for more information, you want them to immediately know they’ve arrived at the right place by having the visuals and message of the website match the TV ad.

Direct mail, websites, and email communications are the areas where companies are most likely to slip and forget to adhere to the brand. Ask yourself these questions to see if your
direct and Internet marketing materials are on track:

Direct Mail
• Are you consistent with type fonts and treatments?
• Do you use photography and images that follow brand guidelines?
• Do you maintain the “voice” of the brand in copy?
• Does the content convey your unique positioning in the marketplace?

• Is your core message immediately clear to site visitors?
• Is your brand image consistent throughout your site?
• Does your website work in harmony with other media channels?
• Do you keep your promises on your website?
• If you removed your logo, would your customers know it’s you?

• Do you use a consistent email template for all your emails?
• Do you follow the branding guidelines for subject lines, signatures, and email content?
• Do you adhere to graphic standards, including font choice, color palettes, and images?

When to bend the rules.

Let’s face it, direct marketers like to bend the rules — a little bit. For direct marketing, some of the typical rules of advertising don’t apply. Or, they might need to be reshaped.

Sometimes, it may be necessary to “bend” the branding guidelines or to expand on them in order to take full advantage of the marketing tool being used. Here are some examples of when you might bend the rules:

Direct Mail
• Photography or imagery that works for print or television may have less impact in direct mail. The product may need to be demonstrated, or for a service, a feeling may need to be portrayed.
• The copy tone is often more urgent and expressive in direct mail. It may require more emphasis and a drive to spur consumers to action.

• The Web offers a unique opportunity to speak to many audiences. For instance, if you want to reach customers, prospects, and a sales force, you may need to adjust the copy tone and appearance of different sections of your website to provide more relevant information based on the audience.

• An email must be quick. While it’s important to be professional, you may need to be more abrupt and to the point.
• You must be careful using clever wording, double meanings, and puns online. Consumers are more wary of email messages and may question your credibility.

Building the image and brand presence of your company and its products or services takes patience and time. And, it requires the ability to remain consistent. It’s easy to become bored with the same logo and message, but that adherence to the brand is what will eventually make it stick in consumers’ minds. Following the corporate branding guidelines and standards will help you remain loyal to your brand.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Boomers Give Direct Marketing Punch!

What age group has the most upside market potential? You may be surprised to learn it’s people over age 50. They have more spending power, are in better health, and are more active than ever before. Are you effectively reaching these older adults with your marketing efforts?

In sheer numbers, older Americans dominate the marketplace. We are in the midst of a “boom” in the aging population. As Baby Boomers enter their 50s and 60s, they are breaking through the stereotypes of what it means to age. Many are working longer and delaying retirement. They may be active in the lives of their grown children, have grandchildren, and may be caring for aging parents.

Many elements of effective direct marketing apply to all age groups. Direct mail, email communications, and your Web site are excellent direct marketing tools for reaching older consumers. Yet, it’s important to consider your audience when creating the strategy, copy, and design. Overall, older adults require more subtle and thoughtful approaches.

Direct Mail
Direct mail is ideal for reaching an older demographic. Older adults are more likely to open and read direct mail. They will review larger amounts of material if it is interesting and personally relevant. Here are some guidelines for direct mail to the 50+:

• Soften the sell. Older adults are more sensitive to being sold. If you give the information they need and communicate clear benefits, they can make their own decisions. Scare tactics and hype are less effective.
• Simplify the presentation. While direct mail is notorious for multiple inserts, flyers, response stickers, and more, you may want to consider a more simple, straightforward package. A letter that looks like a letter, color brochure, order form, reply envelope, and possibly an insert that provides additional information to support the main message.
• Use straightforward teasers. If you use a teaser, keep it simple. Focus on the offer or the main benefit readers will receive from responding to this package. Older consumers are more wary of hype and unreasonable claims.
• Make a connection. Be as personable as possible with your letter and additional copy. Be respectful and tell your story in a conversational manner. Establish trust and start a relationship between the reader and your company.
• Consider testimonials. Hearing the story of someone similar to them helps readers make a personal and emotional connection to your product or service. Reading about a real person’s experience purchasing insurance or making a planned gift is highly compelling.
• Think about design. Make copy as readable as possible while maintaining a traditional letter format. Unlike younger generations who have grown up with MTV, video games, and quick snippets of information, older adults typically expect a letter to be a letter. Break up text with subheads, bullets, indents, and call-outs to increase readability. Also, use serif typefaces and keep font size at least 12 point or larger.
• Make an offer. Even though your approach should be more of a soft-sell, the offer should be obvious. Ask them for action. Give a no-risk offer where they can receive something of perceived benefit. And, make it easy to respond with a clear, simple reply device.

Email Communications
The age 55+ group is the fastest growing segment to embrace computer technology. To reach an older audience with email, you may need to rethink your creative approaches. If you’ve ever watched a teenager talk on the phone while eating, flipping through a magazine, listening to the radio, and watching TV, you know that they are adept at managing chaos and clutter. Older adults respond more positively to simplicity and clearly stated messages.

• Use a direct, compelling subject line. Avoid hype or grandiose statements in the subject line. Older readers are wary of online scams.
• Create an appealing offer. Before you write a word, consider your offer. Whether it’s free information, a free consultation, or a special price offer, make sure it will appeal to your audience.
• Make it easy to read. Keep the copy brief and concise. Clearly state your offer and the primary benefits.
• Keep the design clean. Make sure graphics are supporting the message and any images are representative of the target audience. Or, try plain text as an alternative.
• Provide links to more content. For those readers who are interested in more detail, provide a link to additional content on your Web site. Be sure to create a landing page that will take them directly to relevant content. Design the landing page to look, feel, and sound like the email they received.
• Make it easy to respond. Provide clear directions for how readers are to respond to the email. Use as few steps as possible. The more complicated it is, the more chance that you will lose them along the way.

Web sites
The 50+ age group spends $7 billion online annually. They are researching, gathering information to make offline purchases, and buying online. Make sure your Web site is designed with older users in mind.

• Keep the navigation simple. Make your Web site very easy to navigate. The more flat the navigations, or the fewer “clicks,” the better. Limit the use of complicated technology.
• Explain Web site functionality. Use action words to direct consumers through the site. Make clickable areas larger and make it obvious when text is clickable with color or underlining.
• Make it easy to read. Use larger type or provide the option to enlarge the type size. Use less content and provide plenty of white space and breaks in the text. Avoid dark or patterned backgrounds, reversed out type, italics, or sans serif fonts.
• Provide content specific to older consumers. If your site is designed to target a variety of age groups, consider creating a section with information that’s relevant to an older audience.
• Use personal stories. If you are already selling to older consumers, add testimonials with photos from supporters that will give credibility and sincerity to your content.
• Prominently display privacy and security policies. Older adults are more skeptical and wary about the accuracy of information online and are concerned about identity fraud. Being honest and upfront will help you establish trust with older surfers.

If have products or services that are targeted to older consumers, are you speaking to them in the right way? Or, do have products or services that are not necessarily related to age? Could you be marketing them more effectively to an older segment?