“Have you heard this new song?”
“That’s not a new song,” I reply.
“But it just came out.”
“I used to listen to that when they made real music,” as I explain how her “new” music is really just remakes from the 80’s.
As it turns out, most of the stuff I listened to as a kid, was also stolen from before my youth. The same is true of marketing. What was once new, becomes old, and is then reintroduced as new and exciting again.
The popularity of the internet has revolutionized marketing by decreasing costs and expanding reach. It’s almost free to use email as a marketing medium, but the low cost creates it’s own problems.
When email became popular, marketers began using it and now email in-boxes are cluttered making it difficult to get your message noticed.
Not only is it hard to get your email noticed, very few of the messages sent reach their audience because of SPAM filters. But this has created a “new” opportunity.
Because email is so cheap, everyone is using it, which has made postal mail less popular. Ten years ago your mailbox was overflowing with “junk” mail like your email inbox is today. But today, there are far fewer advertisements in your post mailbox.
Although snail mail is less crowed, more often than not, it doesn’t work for advertising. Compared to email, snail mail is very expensive and is usually done terribly wrong. Marketers can afford to screw up email, but try sending 10,000 pieces of mail a few times and see how fast the price adds up.
Today I’m reviewing a piece of mail I’ve received each month for the past three. There are many valuable lessons in it that you can apply to all of your marketing regardless if you use post mail or not.
The most important part of any marketing piece is to quickly hook the reader with a strong emotional benefit. More often than not, we follow our emotions rather than making rational decisions. This postcard from my Alma Mater does an incredible job at capturing the emotional benefits the school provides and it does so brilliantly with an image rather than a headline.
The real benefit students get from college is the diploma to put on their wall. Students do not go to school for any other reason than the diploma. They do not go for enlightenment, education, or anything else. Well, perhaps for the parties, but there are cheaper ways to do that.
People want the diploma whether to get a job or to fulfill some insecurity. It’s the diploma they want and it’s rare when college advertising focuses on emotions instead of other more logic based benefits.
The most prominent “headline” in this piece is my name printed on the diploma, centered on the postcard. This is brilliant. It does two things. It personalizes the message so it’s specifically for me and it adds the emotional benefit by showing me what it would feel like to have my name on a diploma. That is powerful.
Call to Action
The overwhelming majority of all advertising lacks a clear call to action. This piece makes it crystal clear what I’m supposed to do next. It directs me to RSVP by calling a number or visit a website. The postcard goes a step further and personalizes the call to action by including my name, which testing proves increases response. This post card has my name printed in three places, which will capture my attention far better than if addressed to “Resident.”
The University of LaVerne is doing well by segmenting their mailing list, presumably getting my name from their alumni list, instead of mailing to one giant list of prospects and past customers. They have, at the very least, divided their list by alumni and are sending targeted mailings to them.
This is where most business owners fail. The majority of small business owners do not even have a list of their current and past customers, let alone prospects. The further segmented your lists, the more effective you can be at sending targeted advertising messages.
List segmentation can be labor intensive without software. The most powerful tool for dividing various customer and prospect lists is Infusionsoft. This is without a doubt the best tool I’ve used for automating this process. Aweber is a less expensive choice with far fewer options, but it works well for small businesses only using email marketing.
The back of the postcard lists all of LaVerne’s degree and credential programs; eight of the nine are undergraduate programs with only one master’s level program. I suspect they are cutting corners here and using the same postcard, for every prospect in their list, alumni or not.
There are times that saving money makes sense, however this is not ideal. If this postcard is only going to graduates of their bachelors program, it would be more effective to only list their graduate programs. They are either cutting costs, unaware, or there are more people that pursue second bachelor’s degrees than I realize. Presumably they know their market better than I.
You can learn a lot from observing companies that use the same marketing media repeatedly. Direct mail is expensive, so if a company uses it repeatedly over time, you can assume it’s profitable or it comes from a large bureaucracy with deep pockets that doesn’t track the return on their marketing dollars.
This postcard is good, so I suspect its working, but you never know with universities that tend to run more like government than a lean small businesses.
Common ways to track results are to use a unique phone number or web address for each different advertising medium. For example, this postcard could direct prospects to a unique web page that would only be available to people that received the postcard. If they had a newspaper ad, that would direct people to a separate web page. This allows you to measure the number of people going to the page and the amount of sales or prospects each different advertising medium from your marketing plan generates.
Accurate tracking is the only way to do advertising without losing a ton of money.
How you can profit from this
One secret to effective marketing is to take what is already working from another industry and adapt it to your business. This is a good marketing piece, so carefully adapt it to fit your business.
What is the most powerful emotional benefit you provide your customers? Whatever it is, make it the front of your postcard. On the back, provide an irresistible offer and a deadline and put it in the mail. Test and tweak it until you have a profitable marketing piece. Let me know how it works and be sure to put me on your mailing list so I can see it.