Direct Marketing isn’t all Brute Force

There are so many metrics surrounding direct marketing. So many facts, figures, test results and other sundry measurements.

It’s tempting to think the only thing that matters with direct marketing copy is to get the tried and tested elements in place.

If that were the case, you would be able to buy DM copywriting software.

You would just enter a few lines of information about your product – price, offer and audience – and the software would draw on a database of thousands of previous, proven DM letters and ads. Press Enter and you would have near-perfect copy delivered to your screen in the blink of an eye.

Sounds cool, eh?

The trouble is, the ‘metrics’ approach to direct response writing – whether written by you or a machine – limits your potential considerably.

One major attribute of every good direct response piece is how it touches its audience at a personal level. Great DM speaks to us as individuals. It touches our hopes, fears and ambitions. It makes us feel, it makes us ‘want’.

And by that, I’m not talking about the ‘smack-em-in-mouth’ approach. As in, “If your life isn’t insured, your children could end up on the streets”. Or, “Get out of debt in 30 minutes”. I don’t think our industry is served well by manipulating the fears of decent people. Or over-promising in any way.

>> An example of DM copy that touches the reader

A long time ago I was given the job of beating a control brochure that was selling a book on the subject of US forces in Vietnam.

I changed nothing except the captions under the photos.

I remember one photo that showed an American ‘Tunnel Rat’ about to enter one of the Viet Cong’s tunnel systems. A scary job, to say the least. The existing caption said something like, “At the entrance of a tunnel system”.

There are two things wrong with this caption. First, it is redundant, telling you nothing the photo itself doesn’t already communicate. Second, it fails to ‘touch’ the reader in any way.

It’s a long time ago, but my rewrite was something like this, “Tunnel Rat tenses before plunging into the darkness”.

What I wrote was probably much better than that. I spent a lot of time on that brochure. But hopefully you get the point. What I did was use words that said something the photo alone didn’t express. I also put the reader in the mind of the soldier. To some small degree. I simply wrote in a way that engaged the reader’s emotions.

Good DM writing does that all the time.

And yes, the new brochure beat control.

>> How this applies to the Web

When it comes to touching your reader on a personal level, the web offers more opportunity and potential than any other mass medium. Online, people respond immediately and positively to any sense that a web site has a personal voice. People love that someone is ‘there’.

Where can you add these personal touches? Where can you reach people on an emotional level? Just about anywhere in the text. In headlines, subheads, body text or links.

(By the way, don’t start writing captions for all the images on your site. In a print brochure people generally look at the photos first, and then read the captions second. Not so online. Visitors to web sites look at the text first. They want to know if your site will give them what they are looking for.)

You’ll be most successful with this personal approach if you use a light touch. Put the verbal hammer and exclamation points away. There’s no need to shout. Just make sure the text sounds like it was written by a living, breathing, feeling human being. Don’t just state the facts…write in a way that touches the reader’s emotions. Help them feel it, not just read it.

Things really begin to fly when you combine the proven principles of direct marketing with the personal potential of the web.

Direct Mail Marketing for Auto Dealers – Does It Work?

Over the past decade, internet marketing and advertising have overtaken direct marketing as many business’ primary forms of advertising. According to eMarketer, online advertising spending has grown more than 13% each year since 2003, rising from a $7.3 billion industry in 2003 to a projected $36.5 billion industry in 2011. Automotive dealerships and retailers, which tend to rely on more traditional forms of marketing and advertising, have begun to shift their advertising dollars into the digital realm as well.

But are internet marketing strategies really more effective than traditional marketing, such as direct mail, for auto dealers? To be sure, online marketing strategies such as PPC advertising, social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are becoming more popular, but is this due to simple popularity trends or is it because traditional advertising simply doesn’t work anymore? After all, just because consumers spend more time online today doesn’t mean they don’t continue to receive snail mail or watch television.

While there are no clear answers, recent statistics and direct mail marketing response rates in the automotive retail industry shed some light. According to the Direct Marketing Association, in 2007 auto retailers averaged a $33.81 ROI for every dollar spent on direct marketing – a healthy margin. A 2010 study by the DMA showed that various types of snail mail averaged the lowest overall cost per lead – lower costs than those reported for digital advertising. Direct mail catalogs showed the lowest overall cost per lead or order, at $47.61, followed closely by direct mail inserts at $47.69 and mailed postcards at $75.32. The same study showed that direct mail letter-sized envelopes had a response rate of 1.38% when sent to prospect lists, a figure more than doubled for house mailing lists.

The bottom line: while it’s not wise to rely on direct marketing strategies alone, direct mail marketing clearly continues to be a viable, cost-effective strategy for gathering new business to auto dealerships and retailers. Of course, there are many variables that go in to a direct mail marketing campaign that make it more – or less – effective!

Here are a few tips for automotive dealers and retailers looking to make the most out of their direct mail marketing campaigns:

Make the offer more tantalizing and urgent. Studies have shown that consumers respond more to offers that contain a coupon or limited time offer. By narrowing the offer’s window to a specific time frame and making the deal juicier, consumers are more likely to act, rather than procrastinate.

Add key mailers to direct mail pieces. Key mailers, combined with “lucky key” contests, are a proven way to drive more customers to your dealership location. After all, who can resist the opportunity to win a new car? Once on your location, your showfloor deals and sales staff can do the rest.

Make it easier for customers to respond to the offer. Direct mail pieces should make it crystal clear exactly WHAT they want consumers to do, and how they can go about doing it. Make calls to action eye-catching and clear, including easy-to-follow instructions such as a website landing page URL, a toll free phone number or both.

Use newspaper inserts. Studies show that direct mail inserts offer the second lowest cost per lead, and they can be a great opportunity to get new customers onto your show floor. Try offering a “number match” offer on insert pieces which require consumers to visit your dealership location in order to see if their scratch-off numbers are a winning match.

Modern Marketing With Postcards

Postcards may be one of the best kept secrets of modern
marketing. They produce even better results now than in the
past. That’s probably because postcards deliver information
the way people want to get it today …fast and with little
or no effort.

Use Postcards to Generate Website Traffic and Sales Leads

A brief captivating message on a postcard with an enticing
offer sent to the right prospects will generate a flood of
traffic to your website – or a large number of sales leads.

Keep your postcard simple. Make it look at first glance like
a message from a friend instead of like an advertisement.
This creates a pleasant emotional response from readers even
though they quickly realize that it is a commercial message.

State the biggest benefit you offer to customers. Then
briefly add a few other advantages or features you provide.
End with a compelling reason for prospects to contact you
…or to go to your website for more details. It’s that
simple.

Tip: Don’t try to close sales directly from a postcard.
There’s not enough space on a postcard to provide all the
information your prospects need to make a buying decision.

People Read Postcards

Almost everybody will read a postcard – even those who
usually throw out other direct mail without opening it.
That’s because it’s almost impossible to throw out a
postcard without looking at the message.

This high rate of readership is the main reason why
postcards produce a bigger response than other types of
direct marketing. With other types of marketing you often
lose prospects who would have responded to your offer – but
they never saw it.

Tip: Postcards are an excellent low-cost alternative to
email. People get so much email today that even legitimate
messages are getting deleted unread. But they get few if any
postcards. Your message is guaranteed to get their attention
when it’s delivered on a postcard.

Postcards are Cheap to Produce

Postcards cost less than 2 cents each to produce if you
print them using your own computer. You can print postcards
individually on blank 4 x 6 inch index cards or print 4
postcards on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of index card stock and cut
each sheet into quarters.

Your postcards will cost between 4 cents and 9 cents each to
produce if you use a commercial printer …depending on the
number you have printed and the quality you want.

Postcards are Cheap to Mail

Even the postage for mailing postcards is cheap – 23 cents
each to send them by First Class Mail in the US. The only
requirement for this special rate is that the dimensions of
your postcards must be at least 3 1/2 x 5 inches but not
over 4 1/4 x 6 inches.

Tip: Always use a real 23 cent stamp on your postcards. It
produces more replies than a printed indicia (imprinted
postage) …probably because people associate a printed
indicia with junk mail.

Don’t overlook postcards the next time you want to drive a
huge amount of traffic to your website or generate a flood
of new sales leads. They’re simple to use, highly effective
and very low-cost.