February 20, 2017

Good thing my Mom doesn’t read my blog because that subject line would have gotten her very worried…

However, the author of that quote (today) is not me…nor is it Mark Twain.

It’s from my good friend “Direct Mail.”

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there is a huge appetite for testing this “new medium” among some very shrewd and successful direct response marketers who until now have been working exclusively online.

What these particular marketers realized was that diversification is always a good thing; and they also realized that to do direct mail right and make it scale, it is way more than “plug and play” (e.g. you can’t simply convert your online promotions to paper).

I have said in the past that direct mail is sort of like making sushi at home…you can do it yourself but why not leave it to experts?

The argument that these enlightened marketers heard to get them more interested in testing direct mail included:

1) A new customer originating in direct mail will be more engaged if the execution is done right.

2) A more engaged customer at acquisition will lead to a higher lifetime value of that customer, even when they “move online” for additional purchases (or to continue the relationship).

3) All of the creative and other assets that made them successful online can be adapted offline (under the guidance of “professional sushi makers”).

4) If the product line was digital only, direct mail forces you to create physical product for the mailing; and physical product can then be used in many other ways and in all other media when the need is “product with a higher perceived value.”

5) All of the creative produced for direct mail can be used online later on…and since we would be using world class copywriters for the direct mail (i.e. one of those “professional sushi makers”), the quality of the copy and offer could easily be repurposed to beat online controls.

6) Direct mail gives you a much better way to sell with trust (i.e. “bill me offers”/no cash or credit card upfront) rather than suspicion (i.e. you don’t get anything until your credit card clears).

Not asking for or requiring cash or a credit card in the initial offer becomes a selling point, not a liability.

7) Because you can sell with a “soft offer” that lets you ship and then bill, up front response rates can be 10 times the response rate with a “cash offer”…and with credit screening up front to weed out those who are most unlikely to pay, pay up with direct mail will be high enough to earn maximum profit with a minimum of bad debt.

8) “Free” can really mean “free”…and if you have confidence you can keep your promotional promises after you deliver your product or service, returns are nothing like we see online.

I could go on.

And remember, direct mail is an “AND” not an “OR” in your media mix. Despite the rumors you hear about direct mail being dead, I maintain it is a very exciting time to diversify your media portfolio to include direct mail.

Now let’s talk about another kind of direct mail…and the focus here is that size does NOT matter.

Mailing millions, thousands or dozens of pieces of direct mail works on all of the same principles.

Therefore, I hope I didn’t lose you in this discussion so far if you thought, “I can’t do direct mail because that’s for the folks who can afford to mail millions of names and invest in paper and postage, two things that are just not in my budget.”

Think again.

Here is the table next to my desk a few weeks ago:










This is exactly one week’s worth of “direct mail” ready to be packed up and mailed out– from me to my most loyal and important clients, mastermind members and family members on this list.

I think there might have even been some disposable razors for my son in Boston (to give him a hint to shave more often).

It’s somewhere around 50 individual packages with a personalized note on each one.

Some bought materials from me on copywriting or marketing…but most are just current VIP’s in my world, who already spend a lot of money with me for all sorts of “direct marketing propaganda”…and I wanted to share more knowledge, wisdom or useful materials to advance what they are doing.

This is a brand of direct mail unlike the millions of newsletter subscription and book offers I sent in my past life…but the thought around matching message to list is the same.

And why wouldn’t we want to treat our best customers even better?

Do you think getting a useful gift or resource will be more appreciated and valued than an email?

I want to tell you a quick story related to this:

I was with a client who sells very high priced products (over $20,000 each)…and while they have a list in the thousands of potential prospects, they also have a very special list of less than 100 people who have spent anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 with them to date.

As we started to put together a “direct mail campaign” for the thousands of prospects, I asked about those 100 “VIP’s” and what they were doing with them.

I thought that even if they are not candidates to buy more products, they are clearly the top advocates for the product…so I recommended a campaign just for them…which included a $200 product related to the $20,000 product they had bought with a personal note asking if they needed more support.

We also asked them in the personalized note which accompanied the high priced gift, if there was a way they could help the company sell even more of their wonderful products since they were in the inner circle and could speak to the benefits better than anyone.

It sounds like an expensive mailing to get referrals and testimonials…but it’s actually quite cheap given the price point of the main product.

One additional sale or client would pay for direct mail like this for a year or more.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg…every business should think about how to go right when everyone is going left…and direct mail is a huge differentiator since no one is doing it.

I’ve talked about this idea before in “Christmas cards in July” and in my interview with Joe Polish…and I will never stop talking about this.

And note that this is not just about sending old school, lumpy packages to people over 50 years old.

Here’s a part of the story I want to repeat from “Christmas cards in July”:

I was sitting at a meeting and asked the youngest person at the table (she was in her mid-20’s):

“Do you know what a mailbox is? The one at the end of your driveway or in the lobby of your building, not the one in your computer?”

When she answered “yes” (and I’m sure she thought I was being a jerk), I asked her if she went to the mailbox and there was a lumpy package in it with an address that was handwritten to her, would she open that package first?

And maybe even before she went back to her email on her computer?

She said she’d open that one before she even got back into her house.

So with my focus group of one, I will extrapolate:

The least crowded mailbox is the one you grew up with (if you are over 40); and for those under 40, that other “In Box” at the end of your driveway is still worth checking!

The possibilities remain endless with direct mail.

I am well aware that you can’t link to a PDF easily or show off your new website immediately when you send a piece of paper to people.

Then again, who is really opening every link you send in your emails anyway?

But if you can dream a little, you will be able to access a medium that has been a marketing workhorse for decades–and one that will differentiate you in ways you never would have imagined.

It’s also a medium that so few are implementing these days: It’s ironic that you now have almost a first mover advantage with something that has been around forever that we know is still effective.

And even if you don’t want to use it as a way to diversify your media mix, you should absolutely use it to treat your best customers like royalty.

Who doesn’t like to get a lumpy package in their mailbox?



P.S. Speaking of direct mail, I have limited copies of two classic books on the subject– from the two smartest men to ever practice the art of direct mail, Richard (Dick) Benson and Gordon Grossman.

Both were consultants and mentors to me…Dick built iconic businesses like American Heritage, Contest Newsletter and two of the largest heath newsletters ever…and Gordon built The Reader’s Digest, one of the most prolific direct marketers in history.

Secrets of Successful Direct Mail by Benson and Confessions of a Direct Mail Guy by Grossman are available until I run out of copies…I have around 25 left of each…and so please go to this special offer page right now.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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