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Part 2 of 3: When is a control not the best direct mail package a marketer has to offer?

Posted by Ron Jacobs on May 27, 2014

In the first part of this blog post, I described how I look at the promotional direct mail that arrives in my mailbox. I mentioned a direct mail package from a roofing services company I received many times before but never opened. I described how I look at the outer envelope for clues, details and “tells” about what may be inside.

In this case, it hardly matters what is inside the envelope, as I am neither a prospect nor a decision maker for roofing services. If I looked at it as a decision maker might, I would just toss this direct mail package. If my assistant screened my mail (she doesn’t!), I would likely never see a mailing like this.

Opening this direct mail package: Was it the big reveal?

Nonetheless, I finally looked inside this lead generation effort. If you were hoping that inside the envelope there was redemption for this direct marketing effort, think again. I was not surprised that all I found in the outer envelope was a non-personalized letter printed on one side. It is an illustrated letter (one with a graphic printed on it), but for me, the illustration created more confusion and did not help the flow to a response.

The mailing contained no brochure, no response device and no business reply or convenience envelope. There was also no buckslip repeating the call to action for an irresistible offer! In fact, there was no irresistible offer. And, no marketing call to action. There was a plea to go to the company’s website and call for a “no obligation” quote. Sadly, this letter was not much better than the misdirected outer envelope.

A lead generation direct mail package can have just a few elements. It still needs compelling copy!

I will grant that most lead generation direct mail packages don’t include all the elements of a classic direct mail package. The goal of a lead generation mailing is not to sell, but simply to get someone to raise their hand and identify themselves as interested in a product or service. While the physical elements of a lead generation direct mail package can be spare, compelling copy with prospect benefits, calls to action and an appealing offer are not optional. This is the bare minimum of what it takes to get prospects to respond.

After reading the letter in this direct mail package, I asked myself why marketers continue to send out direct mail that seems to avoid any semblance to the best practices of direct marketing. This is not limited to B2B marketers. Sadly, many B2C marketers don’t seem to have an idea how to apply the tools and techniques of direct marketing either. But, I may be getting ahead of myself. Below is a copy of the letter.

At the top of the letter front was the roofing company’s logo and a three-word tagline that help define what type of roofing the company believes it provides … “Commercial – Industrial – Single Ply Membrane.” It was clear that this company was not targeting residential roofing decision makers. Maybe their targeting is better than I thought.

Along the left margin of the letter, was the company’s address. Below the address was the number “2014.” Not a date. Just the year. I can’t be sure if the year was included for readers of the letter or to provide an instruction to their lettershop that this is the letter they planned to mail during the year 2014.

Below the year was a preprinted salutation, “Dear Potential Roofing Client.” I repeat that I am not a roofing decision maker. Most non-decision makers would stop reading at this point. A personalized letter, one with my name in the salutation, would have at least gotten me to read further. How much further? At least to the headline. The headline after the salutation? It’s not what I recommend. Generally, readers expect the headline to come before the salutation. Of course, I can’t tell if this was a crafty move to get attention, or done by someone who didn’t know the difference. All I can say is I would not recommend it.

Unexplained and superfluous elements in a letter are just that … superfluous!

Let’s take a look at the headline … “Dura-Ply Roofing flies above and beyond other roofers!” On its face, this headline does not have a strong benefit. The copy does not explain why the reader should believe this claim. However, below the headline is a four color picture of the company’s sign, with the legend “Dura-Ply Roofing Corporation,” and below that, “Dura-ply HELIPORT,” along with the company address. I am not sure what a heliport has to do with roofing. The letter doesn’t explain it. Helicopters are not something I think of when I think of roofing.

It seems like helicopters may be something the owner of the company enjoys. Note that there is a helicopter over the name on the signature line at the bottom of the letter. But it has nothing to do with roofing, and the letter does not mention it. Both helicopters and roofs are in the air, above ground level. But, there is no benefit to roofing in helicopters. Nowhere in the copy does it attempt to make that connection.

This seems very incongruous and has no place in a business letter, in my opinion. At best, the picture of a heliport sign and the line drawing of a helicopter interrupt the flow of the letter and raise questions that may very well derail a prospect in the act of responding. Worse, it might depress response and hurt business if prospects think the company owners make so much profit from roofing that they can spend freely on toys and hobbies.

So, how about the copy in the letter? Let’s hold that thought until the third installment of this blog post.

Anatomy of a Direct Mail LetterApplying best practices to direct mail letters can help improve performance. Download J&C’s The Anatomy of a Direct Mail Letter to learn how each part of the letter is strategically designed to impact decision making for optimal results.

Topics: Direct Marketing

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