Twenty years ago we were designing and implementing direct mail campaigns so often we were dreaming about it in our sleep. With the advent of electronic advertising, direct mail fell by the wayside.
Now nearly every business has some sort of e-marketing program in place — either e-mail, banner advertising, Google Adwords, Facebook or others. As a result many companies have forgotten completely about direct mail. So the question is: Is it worth another look?
Think about your mailbox these days. It's nowhere nearly as cluttered as it was ten years ago.
Now think about what you email inbox looks like. Yikes!
The flight from direct mail is your best excuse to use it now. A well-designed campaign will receive more attention than it has for decades because it has so little to compete against. The positives of direct mail are still valid:
So how do you do it right?
Great databases make great campaigns
Make sure that your database is clean, sorted and with good recency (you've communicated with them within the last year). If you've been sorting your clients and prospects by interest, consider how printing custom, targeted messages to individual market segments might increase your success.
If you're buying a list, use a professional who lives near enough that you could potentially dope-slap them if they give you a bad list. If you really want to handle it on your own, try to stick with the biggies, like Experian or Dun and Bradstreet. Consider your targets carefully. If your target is B-to-B you may want to purchase your list sorted for things like years in business, geography or SIC code to qualify the list as much as possible.
Clean that list! Use a good mail shop and have them a) remove any duplicates. and b) send it through the National Change of Address (NCOA) registry. That way anyone who has moved recently will still get your mailing.
Have realistic expectations
Well-designed mailings with a strong offer get results, but don't expect more than between 3 and 15 percent response from existing clients or between 0.5 and 1 percent from prospects. Also, even a cleaned purchased list will likely only achieve 95% deliverability. Ask your mail shop for a postal reciept to verify how many pieces actually went out.
Use an experienced designer
Graphic designers with years of experience will be able to create a visually compelling piece with the proper word and graphic density, legibility and a built-in response vehicle. This is not the sort of job to try out an amateur.
Present a strong offer
Here's where so many companies go wrong. Making your offer truly compelling is crucial to the success of your campaign. Make sure that your offer is generous enough to generate interest and worded in a way that is instantly understandable.
For example offers have gotten a 40 percent lower response rate when they were worded “15 Percent Off” compared to an offer that said “$15 Off.” Both offers could cost the business the same amount when structured right, but one elicits a significantly higher response rate than the other.
Here's a strong offer checklist:
Measure your results
There are many ways to track the results of your campaign, including offer redemption codes, custom phone numbers, custom web landing pages and so on. Use them! Advertising without tracking is unnecessary and risky. Companies that track learn how to get results with the least expense.
Naturally, Brainstorm Marketing would love it if you considered us to help you with either direct mail or any other marketing vehicle. Contact us at:
800.760.7706 515.244.7706 firstname.lastname@example.org
Even cats read email.
The question we're most often asked is how to increase visibility and sales on a small budget.
We think the answer is our email platform. It's a tool that helps you meet ethical standards and federal regulations so you can send out letters, promotions, surveys, newsletters, fliers or special offers via email to large groups of addresses.
Sending 1000 pieces by mail would run from $290 to $440 just for postage. At a minimum, you can double that to include the cost of printing — so now you're at $580 to $880 — and that's not even factoring in the time it takes to label, address, meter or stamp what you're mailing.
If you send the same information or offer by email, you pay a one-time html set-up fee of $295 and thereafter just $30 a month for 1000 emails. That's like paying $295 for a postal permit that lets you mail 1000 pieces every month for three cents apiece — forever. Prices are even lower at higher quantities.
If you're sending mass emails now without the required opt-out feature or other federal requirements, you risk getting blacklisted or having your message automatically junked. The alternative of sending large numbers of emails one by one is too time-consuming to even consider.
We know of no other medium that offers such a favorable cost- benefit ratio. While itʼs difficult to accurately compare every feature and capability across the email marketing spectrum, we can tell you a few reasons why our service stands out from the crowd. Here are five:
Our intuitive interface makes even the most sophisticated email-marketing features easy for anyone to use, saving you time and effort and allowing you to let non-technical staff members help you manage your lists, content and account.
Whether youʼre just getting started or you have a question about a campaign or its results along the way, we stay involved to make sure youʼre getting the most out of your email marketing account.
The custom designs
Whether youʼre utilizing our professional design services or creating your own campaigns in house, weʼll help you create and send great-looking campaigns every time. No pre-fabricated templates here, just professional designs created just for you.
The flexibility of it all
From signup screens and database fields to campaign templates and content, thereʼs little about our service that canʼt be customized to suit your particular projects and process. All you have to do is ask and thereʼs a good chance weʼll say yes.
Our startup and activity prices tend to be lower than that of comparable services, particularly when you factor in our custom designs, extensive features and customer support.
You can also schedule emails in advance to go out automatically on dates you've pre-selected, allowing you to work ahead, and you can make as many separate lists as you want. For example, if you have seven unique business audiences, you can have seven different lists and customize the message for each.
Unless you're trying to communicate with the afterlife, you ought to have this easy, inexpensive platform!
Call to have Paul set up a free test account today.
When Dan Doran came to Brainstorm, he was a guy with a lot on his plate. He had recently developed an ingenious new product line with the potential to revolutionize his company's future. To do it justice, he wanted to create and brand a entirely new division of his company. He also had to get it done fast because his most important trade show was coming up in less than six weeks. And he didn't want to just exhibit at the show; he wanted to dominate.
He had a budget of $15,000 for:
He figured he might be able to get another 10-foot pop-up to expand his existing display to 20 feet and graphics with enough left over for a brochure. Anything additional would be gravy.
Fortunately for Dan, at Brainstorm gravy is our specialty. We wanted him to look like he'd been in his new niche for years instead of weeks.
We recognized that the message and the "look" were the key priorities and got to work. Within two weeks we had laid the conceptual ground work and started work on the custom illustration that would be the foundation for the display and brochure. After doing preliminary estimates, we were sure that we could actually provide an entirely new 20-foot inline booth and graphics for nearly the same budget as adding 10 feet and re-skinning his old pop-up display.
There was enough money left over for the brochure and a juicy in-booth promotion we dreamed up together. We would create three stations for Dan to have i-Pads on which a brief interactive company presentation would be running. In order to register to win the i-Pad, a prospect had to watch the presentation and answer three easy questions.
Brainstorm got busy designing the presentation counters, the interactive i-Pad presentation and the custom web-based contest entry form. In the meantime, Dan had also been busy adding other things to his wish list that he wanted for the debut.
Long story short, we did all of what he wanted in less than six weeks for a budget of under $19,000. To recap, Dan got:
Click to view a letter from Dan
Here's a transcript of the message Dan Doran left us after the last day of his show:
"Hey guys, Dan calling. Really had a good show. I want to thank you for everything. We got a bunch of good leads, and everyone was duly impressed. Again thanks for all your help. You can pat yourself on the back because I'm sure happy."Have a new product, company or division in mind or need a new look and message to relaunch your existing business and products?
Now you know who to call!! 800-760-7706
Making the right transportation decisions for your display, and materials will not only save you time and money, but also a lot of aggravation.
Twenty years in the trade show business have taught me a few key things about shipping. Here's the big surprise: relying on your exhibit house (me!) for storage and freight solutions is often NOT the best way to go. That's right, I'm talking you out of buying something from me! The fact is, managing your own freight can be easy if you establish a good relationship with a reputable dedicated trade-show-savvy carrier. Where I can often help best is in assisting you in that process. Of course, if you really want to store in my warehouse and have me handle all logistics, I'm happy to.... but I'm just sayin'!
The more time you have to plan, the better able you are to organize the best transportation options for your specific needs. Your four main choices are common carrier, van line, air freight or courier service (DHL or FedEx). Leaving transportation to the last minute will reduce your options and raise your costs. You can often schedule your freight six months to a year in advance!
2. Choose what's right
To determine your right transportation option, consider the following: the packaging needs of the shipment (portable modular with wheels? Mixed freight? Crated materials only?), the origin and destination of the shipment; the amount of time set aside for transportation, and pick-up and delivery requirements (just how complicated are the mashalling yard requirements at your shows?).
3. Advantages and disadvantages
Common carriers are less expensive but there's a reason for that.
Van lines / Specialist exhibition freight companies
Air freight offers the quickest means of transportation to show sites as they are specialized air freight forwarders. The disadvantages of air freight are that brokers don’t have allegiance to any one freight or commercial airline, high costs, airline baggage handlers often use harsh handling techniques, and freight is limited to certain sized pieces.
Courier service is the quickest means of transportation to show site for last minute details. A drawback is the expense.
4. Do your homework
Select a carrier that has a dedicated exhibition services, 24-hour tracking capability and drivers who have experience delivering to show sites. Check references. Find out what procedures they take for support before, during and after the move. Have them walk you through a simulated tracking so that you don't panic at 3 AM!
5. Check for official carriers
Find out from show management if they have an official carrier for the event. A recommended carrier is likely to offer special prices as an incentive to use its services. Compare their quoted price to other carriers.
6. Leverage volume discounts
To get the best pricing from your carrier, consider bidding annually or consolidating all your corporate shipping needs. You may be amazed at the cost savings. Additionally, some carriers who combine storage AND shipping can save you tons of money. Shop and compare!
7. Insure shipments
There are several insurance options available for your exhibit: corporate insurance policies, common carrier or van line insurance, and extended liability coverage. Ask your carrier what insurance coverage they carry for individual shipments, whether they offer an exhibition floater insurance policy (covers the exhibit for the entire show), and what their procedure is for taking care of damage claims. Every reputable carrier is insured against loss or delay. Check for specifics. Ask about reimbursements for loss and specific guarantees concerning inclement weather or natural disasters. If they seem at all reticent about this subject - RUN!
8. Label correctly
Label every box, carton or crate with the show name and booth number you are shipping even if you are creating a skid of boxes. Make sure all shipping labels are securely attached on top of old labels. Take pre-printed labels with the return address to replace in-bound ones.
9. International exhibiting
When exhibiting internationally, consider using a shipper that has a worldwide fleet or established subsidiary connections. Check what help they will give you with customs, documentation procedures, temporary import bonds, warehousing and consolidation. Ask for guarantees for quick customs clearance and the shortest, least expensive delivery route.
Gift giving builds goodwill, can be an incentive, communicates a message and creates awareness. When thinking about giveaways for your next trade show, consider the following ten questions.
1. What do you want to achieve by giving away a premium item?
Give-away items should be designed to communicate, motivate, promote or increase recognition and memorability. The premium and the message should make an impact.
2. How will you select your premium item?
With so many items available, your challenge is to find one which will best suit your purpose and meet your objective. Do you want it to enhance a theme, convey a specific message or educate your target audience? Remember that your company’s image is reflected in the choice you make.
3. Whom do you want to receive your premium?
Having a clear objective for your premium item will also help determine who should receive it. Consider having different gifts for different types of visitors – quality gifts for key customers and prospects and a lesser valued item for general customers.
4. How does your marketing giveaway tie into your marketing theme?
Look for an item that naturally complements your marketing message. Have the message clearly imprinted on the item along with your company name, logo and phone number. Remembering who the gift was from, long after the fact, is key.
5.What is your budget?
Premium items vary considerably in price. Quality, quantity and special orders affect pricing. Consider using the same item for several different shows to save on quantity discounts.
6. What must visitors do to qualify for a gift item?
You can use your premium effectively in several ways. For example, as a reward for visitors participating in demonstration, presentation or contest, as a token of appreciation when visitors give you qualifying information about their specific needs, as a thank you for stopping at the display. Avoid leaving items out for anyone to take as this diminishes value and has little or no memorability factor.
7. Will your giveaways directly help your future sales?
Hand out a discount coupon or a gift certificate that requires future contact with your company for redemption. Consider premiums that will help generate frequent visits to customers and prospects, such as calling you for free refills. Make your premium work for you and it will be money well invested.
8. How does your premium item complement your exhibiting goals?
Premiums can be used to pre-qualify your prospects. One company uses playing cards. Prior to the show, they send "kings" to key customers, "queens" to suppliers and "jacks" to new or hot prospects. They request that the cards are brought to the display in exchange for aspecial gift. When the prospect visits the trade show display and cards are presented, the display staff already know certain visitor information. They then act on previous knowledge and use their time more productively.
9. How to inform your target audience about your giveaway items?
Novel or useful giveaways can actively draw prospects to your display. Send a "tickler" invitation with details of the giveaway or create a two-piece premium, sending one partout to key prospects prior to the show telling them to collect the other half at your display.
10. How will you measure the effectiveness of your premium?
Establish a tracking mechanism to measure the success of your giveaway. Code redemption items so you know they resulted from the show. Post-show follow-up could include a question about the premium, such as "did visitors remember receiving it and how useful was it?" After the show, critique the giveaway with your team. Did it draw specific prospects to the display? Was it eye-catching enough to persuade passers-by to stop? Did your customers find it useful? Did it project the right corporate image?
...and now you're ready to call Brainstorm to help you plan your order! (hint, hint!)
1. Plan your strategy
Planning is the key to the success of your pre-show direct mail campaign. There are many facets in the planning process, including the product/service, the offer, the media, the communications format and an evaluation of the results. Your direct mail campaign should be used in conjunction with other pre-show promotional activities such as advertising, telemarketing, press relations, etc.
2. Select the product, service, or event to promote
Decide which product, service, or event is most likely to attract visitors to your trade show exhibit. For the best response, keep your promotion simple and easy to understand.
3. Establish objectives
Write down the objectives for your promotion. Make sure they tie into your established trade show objectives and marketing strategy. Think about the response you want as well as the result you can realistically hope to achieve.
4. Target your audience
Target the people you want to respond to your mailing. Think about their interests and concerns. If you are promoting to different markets, you often have to reach multiple buying influences within each company. Consider tailoring your message to the appropriate audience.
5. Locate qualified mailing lists
Your mailing list is the most important factor in determining whether your mailing will be successful. Often, who you mail to is equally, if not more important, than what you mail. Your very best mailing list is your own in-house list made up of current and past customers, and interested prospects. If you consider buying a list, consider your secondary, as well as your primary markets. Merge the registration list from show management with your in-house list to avoid mailing duplicates.
6. Choose a format, tone and style
Your goal should be threefold: to get your piece opened, to get it read, and to get the reader to take action. Think about using envelope teasers, attention-grabbing headlines, offers, testimonials, benefit charts or response coupons. Consider size, color, whether it will contain a reply mechanism, or be just a simple postcard. Distinctive color and shape will improve your mailing's effectiveness.
7. Highlight your uniqueness
Successful copy focuses on one key message. Highlight your uniqueness and competitive advantage by stressing the benefit that is most important to your customer. When writing copy, use the Who, What, Where, When, and How exercise. Five times as many people read headlines as read body copy, so say something important.
8. Create an incentive
An enticing offer will give prospects a reason to visit your display. The incentive will only be meaningful and irresistible if it is linked to a direct benefit for your prospect and only made available at the show by redeeming the offer at your stand. Often two-part mailings entice attendees to visit your trade show exhibit. This usually consists of a premium item that is sent in two parts. The first half is sent prior to the show. If the visitor wants the second half of the item, they must collect it at your booth, during the show.
9. Schedule your mailings
Timing is critical to your show mailings. Consider the need for a single or a series of mailings. Plan a realistic timeline for your campaign. Use pre-sorting to save on postage. Take advantage of show management's promotional materials. Purchase pre-printed postcards for pre-show mailings.
10. Track your success
The best way to measure your mailing success is to establish a tracking system. Use a code on each mailing. As part of your incentive offer, encourage visitors to bring the mailing to your display in exchange for a gift.
11. Alternatives to direct mail
Some additional ways to promote your show or event include email, web banners, and magazine advertisements.
According to trade show research, live presentations are the third most important reason people remember a trade show display, after display size and product interest. Any form of live presentation, for example, astaged product demonstration, theatrical skit, magician, game show, choreography, video, audio, robots or singers, can attract a throng of visitors to your stand. The key to success is using this powerful promotional tool as an integral part of your marketing plan to appropriately communicate your company or product message.
1. Consider your show objectives
Use your presentation to help achieve your objectives and to enhance your message or show theme. Find the most attractive benefit your product or service has to offer from the buyer's perspective and flaunt it.
2. Project the right image
Decide what image you want to project and the best way to convey your company and product message with your trade show display. Consider conveying your message through bold graphics.
3. Think about your audience
Always think about the audience you want to attract and what you want them to get from experiencing the presentation. Be careful not to get carried away with a great idea and lose sight of the objective.
4. Have a realistic budget
Your budget is going to be a primary determining factor as to the type of presentation your company could consider. Be realistic. Know when it's appropriate to be modest and when it's okay to be a little more extravagant.
5. Be professional
Whatever form of presentation you choose, always be professional. Your corporate image is being scrutinized by everyone. Seriously consider hiring a professional company to help with the conceptual ideas and implementation.
6. Grab attention and encourage action
Having a powerful and compelling pre and at show promotional strategy will help attract your target audience. Consider the best ways to promote your presentation--a special mailing, advertising or the Internet. Give visitors an incentive to attend your booth, such as a gift, discount or a special demonstration.
7. Focus your staff
Communicate and involve your staff. Let them know exactly what you expect of them before, during and after each presentation. Make sure they can do what you expect of them. Decide whether you want to use your own staff or hire outside talent. Consider motivating your team with a contest for rewarding the most prospects.
8. Monitor and capture leads
Design a simple and easy-to-use lead form to capture pertinent information from your prospects. Determine who should complete the card--visitors or staff--and train your exhibit/booth staff accordingly.
9. Deal with logistical issues
Major issues to consider are how much space you want the presentation to fill, if it should be in an open or closed area, how visitors will come into and leave the area; will they sit or stand during the presentation, how many presentations should be conducted every day, and how long each presentation will be? Ensure that the presentation does not interfere with fellow exhibitors and respects the adjoining space.
10. Evaluate success
Plan prior to the show how you will measure the success of the presentation: will it be based on the number of people attending, or the number of leads collected?
Here are the basic principles our award-winning designers use to create graphics that work!
1. Make them stop and look
In just three to five seconds, graphics should communicate who you are, what you do and how customers can benefit. Graphics are the first impression an attendee has of an exhibitor at a trade show, so it is important to make the right statement.
2. Consider your show goals
Consider how to convey your show goals graphically. Aim to grab attention with full-blown, interesting and vibrant graphics. Make graphic images life-size or greater for the highest impact.
3. Project the right image
Understand what image you want to project: traditional, hi-tech, dependable, etc. Your company's image will dictate choices in typefaces, artwork, color, etc.
4. Design for the audience
Design your graphics to your target audience. Focus on customer benefits. Use your graphics to show how your company differs from the competition. Design images to stimulate your viewer's imagination to think beyond the con- ventional. Avoid designing down to particular audiences, e.g. white for doctors, diagrams for engineers. Convey technical information using good design principles and carefully planned graphics.
5. Use different types of graphics
There are a variety of graphic solutions available including front and backlit photographs, digitally printed images, murals or detachable signage. Your trade show consultant can also show you how you can build dimensionality into your graphics, using standoffs or spacers.
6. Have an integrated approach
Plan to use your graphics on other collateral material for a thematic, integrated look. For greater memorability, use color rather than black and white.
7. Use light
If you don't adequately light your graphics, you may as well not have done them. Lighting is one thing that's hard to overdo in a trade show display.
8. Include special effects
Pull in your audience with graphics coupled with other effects. Attract attention with movement. Consider adding an LED message sign to your display, adding motion or using 3-D imaging.
9. Limit copy
Limit the total amount of copy as people rarely spend time reading a mass of type on a graphic panel. Use simple language. Write copy in short sentences and keep your paragraphs short.
Superlatives, or the "brag and boast" syndrome, clichés and overused metaphors, superimposing copy on your illustration or reversing out large amounts of copy (white type against a black background), and periods at the end of headlines as they stop the reader from reading any further.
1. Proper planning
Planning is the most important cost cutter. In the trade show business, late fees are very expensive, so avoiding them is crucial. Start by writing down all the dates and deadlines, then move them all back a couple of weeks to give yourself some cushion. This isn't cheating. A fundamental truth about trade shows is that something WILL go wrong, so plan for extra time to allow for that inevitability. Order all the products, supplies and services that you need in advance. Most contractors will give you a small discount for prepayment. By ordering early, you not only save money, but you can also avoid delays, costly errors and compromises.
2. Promotional production
Produce all of your pre-show mailings, brochures and logo giveaways at the same time to save on printing expenses, rather than printing several times throughout the year. Doubling the quantity of a small print order often only adds a few dollars to the price compared to a reprint which will double the cost because it's printing the same job at two different times.
3. Display graphics
Take a moment and consider what it is that REALLY stops a prospect from walking right past you at the show. Is it your cool literature rack, your cute logo squeeze balls or the locking conference room built in to your backwall? While those things may be nifty, here's the real scoop: Attendees are walking along consciously or subconsciously asking one thing over and over up and down every single aisle: "What's in it for me?" Prospects are interested in how you can improve what they're doing or how they're doing it. Can you save them time, make their lives easier or help be more profitable? If a prospect looking at your exhibit can answer that question from a distance in about five seconds, you won't be able to keep them away. That means that graphics are way more important than the backwall, the lighting, the promotional products or any of the other "things" that you've got in your booth. Hire an experienced professional to help you develop a visual message that's a real show stopper, then decide how much backwall you can afford to hold it up. Remember: message first, then hardware.
4. Buying a display
Three words: COST OF OWNERSHIP. Burn that phrase into your mind. The purchase price should be secondary to cost of ownership. Typically, cost of purchase accounts for only 10% (or less) of a display's annual budget. The invisible other 90% are setup, drayage, shipping, handling and repair fees. Many an exhibitor has "gone cheap" up front, only to find that the display is too expensive to actually use! An exhibit vendor worth dealing with will happily provide you with information regarding the cost of ownership of any display being proposed. Double-check the math and make your decision by choosing the best exhibit for your long-term needs. Consider one that packs compactly to save on storage, lightweight to save on shipping, portable to transport by car, courier or as airline baggage, sets up easily to save on installation fees and adapts easily to different spaces by adding or removing components.
5. Packing supplies
Create a "show box" containing handy items that are often not available at the show site. Include a stapler, packing tape, Velcro, scissors, Swiss army knife, pens, markers, paper, extension cords, extra light bulbs, Windex, paper towels and rags. Remember to re-stock the box after each show.
Over 90% of literature passed out at trade shows never makes it home. Yikes! Take only enough literature to distribute to highly qualified leads. Offer to send literature to less qualified prospects, and then make sure it's in their in-box or on their desk by the time they're back from the show. How do you do that when you're attending the same show? Send the day's leads home every evening, and have someone in your office send the literature out the very next day. Not only is this a really green thing to do because it prevents so much paper from ending up in the landfill, it also impresses the heck out of your prospects. You look uber efficient. But wait, there's more. This strategy also saves you money! Those brochures and catalogs aren't cheap, and you've just saved a ton of money by not giving them to people who will throw them away 90% of the time, and you've saved money by not having to ship so many back and forth from the show.
When you consider a display, investigate how you're going to ship it. Lightweight, durable systems save on shipping and drayage. Keep an accurate record of actual weight, content and number of containers. Specify the weight on your bill of lading. Do NOT let the shipper do this because they will estimate high. You can also save a ton of money by consolidating materials in one tub or shrink wrapping individual items onto one pallet. Don't scrimp on shipping containers. Redoing damaged graphics can be expensive.
Investigate reduced rates or special deals with the airlines for ten people or more traveling to and from the same city. Book early and ask hotels for any specials or corporate rates. Explore Saturday night stay-over rates. An extra night at the hotel may be less than the extra airfare. Use airport shuttles instead of taxis.
9. Show services
Pre-order show services -- electrical, phones, cleaning services and so on -- at least 10 to 30 days prior to the show. The floor price is often 10 to 20% higher that the pre-order rate. Order more wattage than needed so you don't risk an electrical breakdown and then have to pay a higher floor price. If you use show labor, consider contracting with a national labor management company who treat you like a customer, will be more familiar with your exhibit and consequently faster at setup and tear down, and may be willing to negotiate a lower rate based on how many shows there are in your schedule. Talk to your exhibit house. A good one should be able to manage this for you.
Paul Bridson and Kelly Sargent
We've been helping companies achieve lofty goals for over twenty years now. Here's the benefit of our experience!