The sun peeks through the trees. A hush hangs over the stadium. Off to the side, one or two intrepid janitors are starting to clean the debris off the seats while concessions wobaseball, teams, uniforms, brand recognitionrkers start scrubbing out the kitchens.

Baseball season’s almost here.

So who’s your team? The Orioles? The Red Sox? The Royals? I’m a Yankees/Mets/Rangers fan myself.

Walk through any frenzied crowd on game day and it’s not hard to tell who’s out on the field. Sports teams are a phenomenal example of consistency in print marketing. From team colors to logos to mascots, each team has its own unique look branded across everything they do.

 Location, Location, Location? Doesn’t Matter If They Can’t Tell Who You Are

Companies spend billions each year generating customer loyalty. If you’ve done your job they’ll recognize your logo from the Interstate, fly across four lanes of traffic and cause a ten car pileup in a dedicated effort to get to you. Just because you’re there.

How do I know? That’s the kind of passionate response I have to seeing a Starbucks sign five hours into an eight hour road trip. (Minus the ten car pileup, of course.) They shamelessly use our caffeine addiction and the fact that the wrong coffee tastes absolutely horrible to breed customer loyalty habits that bring on a response faster than opening a can of tuna in kitchen full of cats.

I have three of them. That’s pretty darn fast.  

Now that you’ve worked so hard to build brand awareness you want to make sure you’re communicating it in every piece of marketing that goes out to your customers. Right?

This is where too many print marketing pieces fall apart. Companies build brand loyalty. They commit countless hours and innumerable resources to identifying key target markets. (Don’t worry, someone’s keeping track. Just ask your accountant.) They’ve dedicated themselves to building the perfect mailing list.

Then it all falls apart when they develop their print marketing pieces.

What They Read vs. What They Throw Away

Far too many companies find themselves sacrificing consistency in print marketing in an effort to stay fresh.

While a crafty graphic might catch the consumer eye, direct marketing is all about offering value. Value driven pieces from a company to whom they already feel a certain amount of loyalty not only receive more attention, they’re more likely to be acted on. Creative, clever pieces that don’t play on customer loyalty can cause brand confusion, even when it’s from the same company, and make customers less likely to act.

Think of it as a baseball team that packs up, moves to a new location and gets a whole new look. Sure, they’re still your team. But will you eat Ramen for weeks on end so you can get your hands on a new, autographed baseball cap?

Probably. But not as quickly as you would if they were still running around sporting that look we all know and love!

Pavlov knew what he was doing. If you consistently deliver quality product along with the visual symbols of your brand customers will react on instinct, your print marketing materials will send their salivary glands into overdrive and your direct mail piece will be a direct call to action. Or it can make its new home at the country recycling center without being seen by a single human eye. It’s up to you.

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According to a huge percentage of the world, Americans are just a giant bunch of workaholics. Yep, that’s right. We work longer hours so we can buy more stuff that we don’t have time to appreciate because we have to work more to pay for it. There are great debates out there on this! But every once in a while you stumble across the unique opportunity to turn your passion into your day job.

You’ve signed the paperwork, crossed your T’s, dotted your I’s. Your website is done. You’re revved up and you’re ready to go. What happens next?

neighbors, neighborhood, manhatten, marketing, local marketing

Are you making the most of your local marketing opportunities?

The Internet is a great place to start, but it shouldn’t be the only place you start. If you’re passionate about something, chances are you’ve been doing it for a while. And if you’ve been doing it for a while, your neighbors know about it-whether you want them to or not! (Trust me…)

Maybe you painted them a picture for Christmas last year. Maybe you’ve put your contracting know-how to good use adding a deck to your house. Maybe they’ve seen you perform with a community dance troupe. Maybe you just have neighbors like mine that tend to come knocking on your windows late at night and catch you showing your kids how to juggle.

The point is, they already know who you are, and they already know what you can do. Which makes them the best to start building a loyal customer base.

The next question is, how do you start to drum up business without being “that” guy-the one that drives his friends and family crazy trying to get them to give him money? That’s where printing comes in. Actively marketing your business to your neighbors can be done using any and all of the following:

1)      Design a brochure giving the details on your company and pass it around.

2)      Flyers. Community bulletin boards. It’s not a coincidence.

3)      Colorful posters are a great way to catch the eye of potential customers. Remember, even if your neighbors don’t need what you have to offer right now, chances are they know somebody who does. Post these and your flyers anyplace they’re likely to be seen.

4)      Business cards are the local businessman’s best friend. I can’t count how many times I’ve given a business card to a friend or neighbor that needed my cell phone number, only to get a call for a job a couple of weeks later. Networking works in mysterious ways. Make sure you’re primed to take advantage of it.

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Heading south for a couple of weeks to sunny(ish) Fredericksburg, VA reminded me just how different the landscape can be in different parts of the country. More importantly, it reminded me  the many ways in which the shades and hues of the landscapes around us gives us a sense of place, and how that sense of place can be conveyed through our marketing materials.

Yes, I actually thought that as I was driving up I-95 towards D.C. You can say it. I’m a giant geek.

That said, however, the sights and sounds of my Christmas vacation set the stage quite nicely for a foray back into the wonderful world of advertising and the ways we use color to set the stage for our seasonal marketing campaigns.

Starting with the color blue.

The Many Faces of Blue

Everybody loves cake. And everybody loves blue. But which blue is the right blue for you?

“Cake! Cake has layers! Everybody loves cake!”

I’m not 100% certain that’s precisely how the quote goes, but I’ll bet you immediately connected it with the small, annoying, prancing, talking donkey from Shrek. Ogres have layers. People have layers. Blue has layers. Everybody has some shade of blue they like.

Before you can even begin to understand ogres, people or the many uses of the color blue, you have to know that no two are exactly the same.

Take blue. A pale, pastel blue is a cool color that’s perfect for relaxing your clientele in the summertime heat; however, that pale blue will wash out against the grays of winter. When using blue in a winter marketing campaign you’re better off sticking with vibrant shades of blue.

Bright blue in a marketing piece has the same connotations as a pastel blue or a navy blue, but it’s not as likely to inspire severe bouts of seasonal depression! And bright colors are welcomed during the drab grays and browns of winter, while they might be overly-stimulating against the bright shades of summer.

What Does Blue Mean?

The colors you choose for your marketing and promotional pieces are meant to inspire certain feelings in your clientele. Blue is no exception. Blue, when used in logos and promotional pieces, is meant to:

1)      Calm the viewer.

2)      Inspire feelings of trust and solidarity. Blue is very popular among old, established firms and businesses.

3)      Convey a sense of superiority over the competition.

What Products Use Blue?

Blue is extremely popular when promoting cleanliness, health and products related to the air or the sky, or products or services strongly rooted in intellectual superiority. It’s a highly masculine color but has been proven to reduce appetite, so it’s probably not the best choice for the cover of your latest cookbook!

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Update your mailing list.

Update your mailing list.

Update your mailing list.

Take the words, set them to the tune of “MMMBop”, and you’d have the theme song for today’s direct mail marketing industry. (Seriously. Try it. It works. Eerily well.) Updated mailing lists are important to make sure your direct mail marketing materials are still going out to people who want to hear what you have to say.

What no one ever bothers to tell you is that while updated mailing lists are good, wrong addresses can be even better.

Why?

When someone moves away, someone else moves into their house. That someone sees your marketing materials. Another lead, another potential sale. Didn’t cost you a thing.

Where will your envelope go?

I Never Have to Update My Mailing List Again?

No, we didn’t say that. It’s important to stay on top of changes in your marketing processes. No point in selling software built for real estate agents to a computer programmer, or baby clothes to a professional couple without children. Sure, you might get a sale or two out of sheer dumb luck. Everyone has to buy a birthday present some time. But your ROI won’t be as high as it could be.

So yes, you have to update your mailing list from time to time. But if a wrong address slips in from time to time, don’t panic. Appreciate it for the underdeveloped opportunity that it is.

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Yesterday we touched on some of the fundamentals of basic copywriting. Thanks to the huge quantities of advertising materials being bandied around these days it’s not enough to have great direct mail marketing materials, however. You also have to know how to write a headline that zings!

Studies show that today’s marketer has exactly three seconds to convince their audience to listen to what they have to say. That’s right. Three. Not thirty, not ten. Three. If you haven’t hooked their attention by then, your direct marketing materials are going in

Are you familiar with the power of 3?

the trash and your customer has moved on to someone else’s marketing materials-and if that someone else knows the secret of how to write zingy headlines, they’re going to give that someone else their business.

The first rule of writing effective headlines (and my personal favorite, may I add) is the one breath rule. Why is this rule the first? Because it’s the rule so many marketers get wrong. Remember, your headline is not a dissertation. You want to get directly to the point, with just enough information to hook their interest. A good rule of thumb is, if they can’t say it in one breath, your headline is too long!

Hence the reason this blog post is titled “3 Steps to Write Headlines that Zing” and not “How to Write Headlines That Will Convince Your Readers to Listen to What You Have to Say Instead of Throwing Your Direct Mailing Materials in the Trash with the Rest of the Junk.”

See what I mean?

Next, let’s talk about sizzle and steak. The oldest rule of thumb in the marketing industry is to sell the sizzle, not the steak; in other words, to give them just enough information to get them interested without overloading them with more than they need to know. This isn’t my favorite rule when you’re designing your direct mail marketing materials, since it’s easy to get caught on a wave of hype and forget to tell your customers what you’re talking about, but it’s a key element when you’re learning how to write effective headlines. Identify their problem, let them know you can solve it. There’s a reason “Learn How to Make $20,000 a Week Working from Home” draws the clicks like moths to the flame.

Finally, rule number the third: Incorporate emotion words into your headlines. Studies have proven over and over again that being able to reach your customers on an emotional level will do more to increase your sales than just about anything else you can do, and incorporating words that hold emotional appeal (for example, “Lose weight fast”) in your headline will immediately tap into that emotional flow of information.

A direct mailing piece with a real zinger of a headline is going to be seen. One with a headline that’s about as inspired as limp broccoli is not. I’ll let you decide which way you want to go.

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How many of you out there have heard of Copyblogger? This is one of my all-time favorite blogs, and one I count as a must-read when I’m bleary eyed waiting for my morning caffeine fix to hit my bloodstream. If you design your own printed offline marketing materials and you’re looking for techniques to help you reach your customers and get right to the heart of the matter, I strongly suggest you stop by and take a look!

One of the best posts I’ve seen there had to do with using your blog to make money. Does a blog like this one exist to oh, say, sell a product? Or is it there to educate your buying public? Build a rapport between the two? Offer a chance to share opinions and vent about things that individuals outside of the industry “just don’t get”? Before you start a blog you need to figure out what it is you want to do with it to make sure that each time you sit down and write a blog, you’re blogging for all the “write” reasons.

The same rule applies when you’re writing copy for your offline marketing materials.

The first step in creating the print for your offline marketing materials is to figure out who you’re trying to reach and why. Are you trying to sell baby clothes to parents with newborns? Convince local business leaders to attend your next charity event? Announce an upcoming sale to your existing customers? Build your “street cred” with members of your industry? You should always have the who, what, when, where and yes, the why of your message firmly in your head before you sit down and put pen to paper (or boot up your word processing program of choice, whichever you prefer).

Next, think about who your audience is. There’s a reason many companies outsource their copywriting projects, and I can sum it up in one word: Jargon. When you’re used to talking with subject matter experts in your office, it can be easy to forget who you’re talking to out in the real world. If your target customer base understands the jargon you can sit there and use it all day long, but if you’re reaching out to appeal to a group of regular consumers that just aren’t that familiar with the field you’re going to need to tone it down a little. Avoid industry-specific words when you can, and make sure you explain them if you can’t.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how well you say it if your target audience can’t understand what you’re saying!

Finally, remember that in the real world you have exactly 3 seconds to catch your customer’s eye, so make sure your headline is up to the job. (Not sure how? Tune in tomorrow for a quick blurb on writing headlines.) And keep your content interesting, relevant and to the point. A good hook isn’t going to do you much good if they don’t finish reading what you have to say!

Graphic design, a bold color scheme and well designed and professionally printed offline marketing materials are only half the battle. Add in well written copy and you’ll walk away the victor every time.

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Whoever said offline marketing was dead obviously hasn’t taken a good look around lately. Direct mail marketing is still one of the most efficient, effective ways to forge a personal connection with your customers. It reaches them in their homes, it opens the doors to a tremendous amount of personalization and brand identity, it pops up in their mailbox (and really, who doesn’t like getting mail?).

But how do you guarantee that your direct mail marketing materials won’t become just more recycling bin fodder? Try implementing these 15 simple guerilla marketing tips to increase the response on your direct mail marketing campaign:

1)      Less sizzle, more steak. The phrase, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” has been used for years in the marketing community; however, as online fraud and snake oil salesmen have begun to run rampant and bad sales letters have begun popping up left and right, “buzz” words designed to hype your products and vague product and service descriptions have become a turn off rather than a turn on.

2)      Use attractive graphics designed to catch the customer’s eye.

3)      Clearly illustrate your offer so they see the value the minute they open their mailbox.

4)      Personalize your message as much as possible.

5)      Offer a no-risk guarantee.

6)      Freebies are a great way to get your customers through your door.

7)      Even if you’re targeting a national audience, let them know your physical location. Having a brick and mortar presence adds credibility.

8)      Include reviews and testimonials.

9)      Use bullet points, sub-headings and sub-titles to make your message clear and easy to read.

10)   Include your toll-free number if you have one. That appeals to people outside your immediate geographical area.

11)   Make promises, then deliver-always. A customer that has a great experience the first time they respond to your ads is exponentially more likely to come back a second time.

12)   Pull in a professional printer for a high quality product.

13)   Partner up with a non-competing business to offer respondents more value for their dollar.

14)   Include discounts or free gifts within a limited response period-for example, a free oil change PLUS the $20 coupon for auto detailing if they come in by the end of the week.

15)   Use a reputable mailing list designed for your target audience. If you’re mailing your direct mail marketing materials to people who don’t care what you have to say, your ROI isn’t even going to be worth talking about.

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Good morning! Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to grab a cup of coffee, shake the sleep from your eyes and dig in to your daily to-do list. I know that list seems impossibly long sometimes, but hang in there. You’ll make it eventually!

Today marks the 9th part of our 10 part series on integrating your offline marketing campaign with your online/email marketing campaign and was inspired by a video I watched yesterday of a conference hosted by Tony Robbins. Most of you probably know the name. Business Mastery? If you don’t know who he is, check him out.

Are you pleasing the right people?

Anyway, I was listening to one of his guest speakers and he said something that struck me hard-to make a name for yourself you have to step on some toes. All right, so that wasn’t exactly how he phrased it, but this is a family friendly blog! Rated G, or at least PG-13. The point isn’t how he phrased it, although it did make me laugh. The point is, he was right.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”  Bill Cosby

Too often as marketers we believe that the secret to success is to make everyone happy. We bend over backwards trying to maintain our reputation, soothe hurt feelings to keep our good name and give away hundreds in freebies to curry favor with our customers. That’s all well and good, but when do you have time to build your image when you’re so busy living up to the image everyone wants you to have?

You can’t win a war without engaging in a skirmish or two!

Too often I see people whose online/email campaigns are full of life and zest, but their offline direct mail campaigns fall flat  on their faces as they fall all over themselves to be politically correct. Are you appealing to a different audience? Absolutely not! So why launch two totally different strategies to appeal to the exact same people?

I’m not saying you have to go out of your way to anyone that isn’t going to use your business. I’m just saying be true to yourself. Stay true to your goal in your online/email marketing and your offline marketing campaigns, and don’t be afraid to step on a few toes to get your point across, and you’ll have the momentum you need to launch your brand the way it deserves to be launched.

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Step away for a moment from the idea that just because you know your products and services, you’re qualified to go out and tell the people what they want to hear. How can you when you don’t know what they want to hear? You only know what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes! Market research is absolutely vital if you’re going to maximize your ROI.

The Research Ruckus

Are you making the most of your market research?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend “Unveiling Market Research’s Future Online”, a virtual event hosted by the American Marketing Association. I have to take a moment to say, no matter where you are in the business world or what role you play in your company, if you ever get a chance to attend an AMA event, go for it. They host numerous events each year, so there’s bound to be one that appeals to you! Click here to see their full calendar of events.

In my oh-so-unexpert opinion, the most fascinating part of yesterday’s presentation was the Tweet Off between well-known Twitterers from around the country. Market Research was the topic of the day, and, of course, the significance of market research and what it can do for your company’s ROI. Let me ask you this-what do you think market research can do for your company?

The answer to that question is the springboard for what I like to call “The Research Ruckus”. There’s a tremendous amount of conflict out there about investing money and company resources to do market research when it’s such a strictly intellectual pursuit. What can market research really do for your company?

The Research Resolution

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. You know that. I know that. But how are you going to know what direction to drive your company in if you don’t do a little market research to back it up?

It’s easy to get so busy being busy that you forget to step back and take the time to connect with your customers. You figure that since everything’s rolling along smoothly it’s going to continue to do so. Unfortunately, when you do that you cut yourself off from the greatest asset your company can possibly have-two way communication with the people who keep it afloat! You don’t know what people like an what they don’t, or what they’d like to be getting from your company that they’re not, if you never take the time to figure it out.

Market research can do that for you, helping close the gap and open the door to unparalleled growth for you and your company. What kind of market research is your company doing? Is it enough? What other opportunities are out there waiting?

When you ignore the potential of market research you ignore the golden goose, a mistake no company can truly afford.  

What has market research done for your company? Let us know! As always, all comments welcome.

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A strong brand should be present both online and off.

 

What would you say if I told you having visually appealing emails is just as important as having visually appealing direct mailing materials if you want your customers to actually read what you’re trying to send? Surprise, surprise! Today we’ll take a look at successfully blending the design of your online and offline marketing materials to establish your brand, catch the eye of your clientele and get the best results possible for both. 

Breathe in. Now breathe out. You don’t have to be a graphic design whiz kid to design a good online email marketing campaign, especially if you’ve already got an offline direct mail marketing campaign in the works. Take a look at the direct mail marketing materials you’ve been sending out for the past 6 months. What’s consistent about them? Do they all have the same cover/header? Do they have a similar color scheme? Is your logo prominently featured? Do you start or end each one with your slogan? 

Take all of those design elements that tie your offline direct mail marketing materials together and put them into your email templates. This is called branding, and yes, it really is just that simple! You want your customers to associate all of your marketing materials with your company (and no one else) and using similar templates, headers, design formats, fonts, logos, copywriting trends and color schemes is the very best way to do that. 

Speaking of which… 

Tune in tomorrow to dig deeper into the ins, outs, ups and downs of copywriting for your email marketing campaign and your direct mail marketing campaign to cement your company’s image in the minds of your customers! 

  

*My apologies to everyone who tuned in yesterday, we’re still working out the technical details on some of our social media management tools. We’ll figure out eventually!*

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