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Don't Just Improve Your Marketing, Augment It

In today’s entertainment, we’re seeing more and more examples of virtual reality. Virtual reality is how we describe the environment presented to us in the unique way that makes us feel as if we are actually there. This is done by stimulating our senses in a particular way so that we, as the audience, believe the artificial environment is a real environment.

A few examples are virtual reality tours of museums and art galleries and virtual theme parks. The British Museum, for instance, offers virtual visits to their exhibitions from anywhere around the world. Using a VR headset, people are able to engage with the material on display from the comfort of their living room. While this was first launched in 2017, it’s easy to imagine its increased value over the last year and a half due to quarantines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to virtual reality, augmented reality is an interactive experience featuring an enhanced version of the physical environment through the use of technology. Computers (including tablets and smart phones) are able to highlight and enhance objects within the environment by using digital effects to target sight and hearing senses.

As entertainment, augmented reality is becoming more and more trendy. For example, there are different lenses you can take Snapchat pictures with, a popular one being dog ears placed on the user’s head and a tongue that comes out when they open their mouth. Another example is the hit 2016 mobile game Pokemon Go. In this game, players chase after Pokemon characters that they find by visiting physical locations; Of course, they can only collect them virtually.

And, as you may have guessed, augmented reality is also a growing trend for marketing.

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Mailbox Monday

Offering a financial incentive (that would be "bribing" to us laypeople) to switch banks is nothing new. In fact, we've worked on dozens of packages for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch that followed exactly that strategy.

So, when we received this simple three-panel self-mailer recently, we recognized the campaign's objective.

The mail side includes the logo and return address of the sender, in this case Citizens Bank. There's a teaser which reads "Exclusively for you — get up to $700 on us" and the warning that "Offer ends 1/18/21."

So far, so good.

The art side or cover of the piece uses a handwriting font in black and green to proclaim, "YOU'RE MADE READY FOR $700." eye-catching? Yes. Confusing? Also, yes. What does "made ready" mean? We looked it up in case it was some millennial or gen Z slang that we, being young boomers (but boomers nonetheless) didn't get. The closest thing we could find was the past tense of "make ready" and a Biblical reference: "The steps of a good man are made ready by the LORD."

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Mailbox Monday

Nothing is more disappointing to a marketer than a missed opportunity.

And nothing is more disappointing to the Bs at B Direct than the seeds of a concept that aren't brought to full fruition.

So, we were disappointed to recently receive an otherwise solid self-mailer from ezCaterer, a B2B company that promotes itself as the "#1 site for business catering. There's good news and bad news. We'll start with the good.

The two-panel piece folds to 6x9, a nice generous size, and its full-color photography and relatively substantial stock help it stand out from other business mail. The address panel (where most people look first because ... well, we all love seeing our name in print) works hard. There's an attractive offer — a $50 Amazon Gift Card — and three at-a-glance bullet point benefits, presented with icons: 80,000+ restaurants, 187,000 "COVID-smart boxed lunches, options for any occasion. There's also an appealing photo which breaks up all the type, although we would suggest using that "hot spot" above the recipient's name and address for the offer or a bold call-to-action.

Inside, there's well-organized information and a nice use of white space. There's a glowing testimonial from California's "Spencer T." There's a list of familiar restaurants, presented with logos and paid off with a call-to-action. Then, on the righthand panel, there are screen shots of the ezCater platform on both a mobile and a tablet, alongside a list of features and benefits, again with contemporary, eye-catching icons.

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Finding the Perfect Thing (or, At Least, Something) to Say

A poet (especially one who is independently wealthy) can wait until the muse strikes or they find the perfect word. But, marketing waits for no one. Marketing people have to produce, whether they’ve been mused or not. Blogs must be written, social must be posted, ads must run.

So what do you do if you experience writer’s block?

Marketers, here we have a baker’s dozen of ways to get over it (and get on with it).

Seek Inspiration – Take yourself out of your writing habitat to distance yourself from the material. Perhaps you can find something intriguing, whether that be an item, a phrase, or a feeling, to light the spark.Do Some Research – Researching can be a helpful tool to get the writing process started. When you know more about a subject or topic, you’ll have more material to work with.Eliminate Distractions – Finding the focus you need to write will be easier without having distractions surrounding you.Take It Easy – Cut yourself some slack on your first draft. In order to have the perfect words, you need … words. You can always go back later on to edit and revise.Make a Word Map – Think about this as an outline, or a starting phase. Coming up with individual words or ideas that you want to have in your content can be a helpful planning tool.Take a Shower – You know how sometimes you make life decisions or have brilliant ideas in the shower? Maybe you can use this to your advantage and find what you’re looking for!Reread Something You Already Wrote – Remind yourself that you’ve gotten through writer’s block before, and you can do it again. Reading your own voice might initiate new thoughts and words for you to write out.Changing Your Scenery – A change in your physical location might be enough to be able to push through the block. If not, you could also try…Changing Your Writing Tool – Maybe writing on a keyboard isn’t working for you today, but you could be able to get words out by writing on with a pen and paper. Worth a try.Talk To Someone – Talking through your writing block and what you’re trying to get out could open up the door to actually writing. It’s helpful to bounce ideas off a friend, coworker or family member. They might be able to help guide you back to the document.Write About Something Else – This is a good way to get yourself started and find that writing rhythm, which may make it easier to write the actual piece you need.Take a Break from Writing – Try allowing yourself to take a break and step away from your computer. Maybe a brisk walk around the block will help wake you up and get the creative juices flowing! But…Don’t Avoid Writing – For some, the process of writing out sentences on a keyboard can help get the ball rolling. You can always go back later to edit your piece and delete the parts where you were finding your rhythm.

The takeaway here: great writing has to start somewhere, so just start. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first try. That’s what revisions are for.

Email Subject Lines: Using FOMO to Your Advantage

FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

The term is usually used to describe people's response to social media posts. As in, "OMG, look how much fun they're all having ... and I'm missing out!" It's the bane of the middle schooler's existence and strikes a chord with us grownups whenever we see someone post about their latest promotion, prize, or publishing deal.

FOMO is no fun. But, FOMO can be your friend. When you use it to your advantage.

Whether we knew the acronym or not, direct marketers have leveraged FOMO for years. Think about the most familiar (and, let's face it, hokiest) DRTV offers, and they reek of FOMO ...

"Act now!"

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In the Aftermath of Ida

By now, we’ve all seen the pictures or videos documenting the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, ranging from roofs being blown off buildings in Louisiana, to flooded New York City subway stations, to tornadoes in New Jersey; the storm was devastating for thousands of citizens from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.

Damages range from power outages, to damaged property, to lost homes and lost lives. Over a million people in Louisiana lost power, and as of today, nine days after the fact, 430,000 people are still without power. Entergy Louisiana even stated that it could be upwards of three weeks before areas hit hardest by Ida will have their power restored. We don’t yet know the number of homes lost, but we expect it to be a high number as thousands of residents were displaced by the storm. The hurricane killed at least 13 people in Louisiana and killed at least 50 more in other states as it travelled further north bringing tornadoes and historic flooding.

The effects of this storm are extremely costly, estimated “well into the tens of billions,” according to Steve Bowen, a meteorologist at reinsurer AON. But the Green New Deal was too expensive to pursue right? (Looking at you, United States Senate).

How can you help the relief efforts? How can your business help the relief efforts?

Here are some funds to consider donating to:

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Mailbox Monday

William Schwenck Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) wrote, "The punishment fits the crime." In marketing, we say "The medium fits the message." So, what do you do if you're designing a package to sell a credit card with a $695 annual fee? You pull out all the stops!

And, that's just what the creative team did for the direct mail package we received over the weekend.

To start, the package is a liberal 5.5" x 9.5". A little oversized, but sleek. "You're pe-approved" reads a teaser on the address side, along with the familiar figure of a Roman centurion in silver ink. The back of the package has an elegant die-cut flap with several promotional messages. "Get back to life with the new platinum," it reads, leveraging everyone's desire to end pandemic era isolation. We're offered "150,000 Membership Rewards Points" and "10X points at restaurants." There's subtle American Express branding: their logo and updated theme "Don't live life without it." And one other very strange message: "With access to our Centurion Lounges, you'll be able to enjoy the American Express Signature Scent. Open here to get a sneak peek!"

How you "peek" a scent is a bit puzzling. But, we were certainly intrigued enough to open.

Inside, the piece, which turned out to be an elaborate self-mailing folder, offers a QR code, an image of a platinum card, an aspirational photo of two men poolside, and the aforementioned "signature scent." Using "scratch and sniff" printing, the piece did indeed encourage that extra bit of interactivity. However, when we "gently rubbed" the prescribed area, all we smelled was ... paper.

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TikTok Time

If you’re under the age of 30, feel free to skip the following two paragraphs:

For those who don’t know the crazy popular social media app, TikTok, it is a video-sharing platform. Users are able to create their own video, film on top of pre-existing sounds, add special effects, “duet” another user’s video, comment on videos, and share them across both the app and other social media platforms.

The app champions both creativity and collaboration and resonates particularly well with younger generations. Those who use the app can find themselves spending long periods of time engaging with content as typical users spend roughly 52 minutes a day on the app. And with an estimated 680 million monthly users, TikTok has been expanding into one of the fastest growing social media apps in its four-year history. The potential for reaching millions by advertising on TikTok is something to consider. Just make sure you market wisely.

We’ve discussed in the past how important it is to engage with your audience; TikTok is a great way to stay connected with your customers and attract new ones to your brand. Brand presence on the app can be powerful and with companies being able to comment and interact with user’s videos, the possibilities for marketing on TikTok are just about limitless.

Take Chipotle for example. About a week ahead of National Avocado Day, Mexican food chain, Chipotle, created the #GuacDance challenge. The company encouraged their customers to film themselves dancing to the popular “Guacamole Song” by Dr. Jean. There were over 250,000 submissions.

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Be Your Audience (Eat the Bison)

How well do you know your customer?

In practically all of our blog posts, we always encourage doing research to analyze your audience to get to know them better. Something we don’t discuss as often however, is putting yourself into your audience’s shoes.

Take actors for example; those who play famous parts in movies, TV shows, and theatre productions don’t stop at studying their roles. There are quite a few actors, such as Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who actually become their character.

And by this we’re referring to “method acting.” Method acting actors fully embrace their character, both on and off camera. Some actors put themselves through the ringer to live as their character. For example, Jamie Foxx, was playing Ray Charles, a blind musician, in Ray, when he glued his eyes shut for up to 14 hours a day. This was so that he could better understand being blind and therefore be able to convey it more accurately.

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Academy Award for his role in The Revenant, where he broke his own vegetarian diet to eat raw bison, sleep in animal carcasses and expose himself to frigid temperatures. (Um, yuck!)

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Mailbox Monday

Would you rather receive a greeting card or a direct mail solicitation?

We thought so.

Whether it's from years of Hallmark's "When you want to send the very best" advertising or it's simply a human nature desire to be loved and cherished, we all open envelopes that look like they could contain a birthday, holiday, thank you, or "just because" card. Even if — like the sample above that we recently received — the charade is spoiled from the get-go with a business return address and, even worse, a pre-printed indicia.

Nevertheless, this package, from Oriental Trading Company's "Department of Fun" did intrigue us and achieved mission number one for any direct mail piece.

It was opened.

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“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” – Tom Fishburne

Did you know that the average American sees thousands of ads each day?

In 2017, Forbes reported that digital marketing experts estimated that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day. Now four years later, and with an even heavier reliance on digital media, this number may be significantly higher.

With that in mind, today’s marketers have to be great curators. Consumers are inundated with content. Only the most relevant will shine through and have a meaningful impact.

Craig Davis says it best, “we need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

Inspired by Davis’s words? Well you’re in luck as we’ve curated a collection of similar quotes for you…

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You're (Virtually) Invited

More and more people have gotten their COVID-19 vaccination. (Thank heavens!) However, there is still a high demand for online events. As you know, the pandemic halted in-person conferences, meetings, events, and rallies.

Now, with a growing vaccinated population, we are starting to see a return to in-person events, but some companies are still making use of the virtual route — perhaps to save time, money, or resources. Whatever the reason may be, here is a list of ways to make more people interested in attending your event.

#1: Do Your Research First

Take the time to survey your potential attendee base and find out what type of virtual events are of interest to them. Understanding your target audience will also help you better promote your event to them.

#2: Do Your Research After

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Ghostwriting for Robots

With rapid technological advancements, robots are becoming more and more mainstream. And while most robots are too expensive for the average consumer, the average consumer actually interacts with robots much more often than they realize. For better or worse, the future will see us relying on robots and artificial intelligence (AI) more and more.

Some marketers predict that robots will write ad copy in the future … thankfully, we’re not there yet.

However, you may find yourself writing copy for robots — think, telemarketing robocalls and website chatbots. Customers would much rather chat with a person — or, at least something that sounds like a person. In fact, maintaining a friendly and conversational tone may even lead to the customer forgetting they’re chatting with a robot.

Here are some tips for making those AI beings sound more like human beings:

Concentrate on the conversation flowChoose natural and easy languageCreate fun and customized scriptsConsider using emojis!Communicate with convenient and concise answers

When ghostwriting for robots, think about how you would want Alexa, Siri, Bixby, or Google Assistant to answer you, then write scripts that answer your audience the same way.

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Guess What? Your Email Audience Doesn't Care

You know that your product or solution is the best thing since sliced bread.

But do your prospects and customers know?

More importantly … do they care?

When you send marketing emails, the delete button is your worst enemy (followed closely by the unsubscribe button – which is actually even deadlier but at least the recipient opened your email to get to it). It’s critically important to capture your reader’s attention immediately and then retain it until they’ve read and absorbed your message, and — in a perfect world — taken action.

Let’s look into where consumers are when your email finds its way to them.

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B2B Marketers: Why a Wonderful Website is Warranted

Today’s consumers are heavily reliant on the internet for their purchasing process and decisions. (In fact, they’ve never been more so, thank you global pandemic.) Their engagement starts from the very beginning when it’s time to make a purchase. Buyers will explore various websites looking for reviews and ratings of products that are of interest.

Making sure that you have an online presence is extremely important, but just as important, is to make sure it’s a high quality online presence.

Despite the fact that it’s 2021, many B2B businesses still don’t have a high quality online presence. This makes it challenging for buyers to find the information they’re looking for before making a purchasing decision.

Why is it so important? That’s easy. Today’s buyers are making informed decisions. By ensuring your B2B website offers them the answers and information they are looking for — in a format, design and user experience that attracts and retains their attention — prior to making a purchase, you are more likely to get business from them.

If your b2B website is already up and running — and fabulous — congratulations.

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Email: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Email marketing is going strong, and for good reason: it’s a cheap and easy way to reach a lot of people. But, while the value — and ubiquity — of email cannot be overstated, consumers and customers have become overwhelmed by the excessive offers they receive in their inbox.

A study by Campaigner a few years ago, revealed that 49% of people believe they receive too many marketing emails. While this study is a few years old, it is safe to assume that the 49% of consumers is still an accurate representation of consumer thoughts, in fact, it is also probably safe to assume that that percentage has actually increased over the years. Because the amount of email certainly has.

A recent survey done by Zipwhip, found that just over half of the participants (51%) are less excited to receive emails than they used to be. The thrill of receiving offers digitally is long gone. In fact, most consumers likely feel overstimulated and bombarded by virtual marketing. This is especially true given the heavy reliance of all things virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research has also found that people rarely, if ever, check their junk email folders. 43% of participants never check their junk folder. Only 22% of participants often check it. This creates additional problems for email marketers. They have to ensure that their emails are ending up in the unread inbox first, but then also have to make them interesting and relevant to actually get them opened and read.

The overall conclusion of the Zipwhip study is summed up by CEO John Lauer, “there is a time for email but it’s not the catch-all communication medium it used to be.”

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A Matter of Trust

Preferences for shopping experiences vary from person to person. Some prefer in-person shopping to physically interact with the goods they are purchasing before placing them in their shopping cart.

Others enjoy browsing the inventory from the comfort of their living room and virtually placing each chosen item in a digital shopping cart.

Regardless of your personal preferences, we can all agree that the lockdowns of 2020 severely limited the in-person shopping options. With online shopping as being a last resort for some, let’s look into why this might be.

It’s common for many people to be hesitant to buy online due to the fear of their information being compromised. The concern over whether a website is a trustworthy shopping outlet to input credit card information is very real. Consumers need to feel they can trust a website with their personal data and information in order to feel at ease shopping there.

It’s also natural for people to distrust online shopping retailors because of privacy concerns. That’s why it’s the individual business’s responsibility to earn their consumers’ trust.

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Mailbox Monday

How does a big brand win back a disgruntled customer?

That's easy: by listening, empathizing, appreciating, problem-solving, demonstrating value.

The thing is ... in real life (or at least in real marketing), easy isn't always easy. Many brands are too busy to do all of that. Or they have their sights set on acquiring new customers and making new sales rather than shoring up any fragile relationships with current customers. Or they've simply become so big, so corporate, so automated, that the individual customer slips through the cracks.

We recently came across a very effective piece of very, very personalized customer care marketing.

Our agency content coordinator is a fan of Dial Moisturizing Body Wash, and has been for years. The problem is that the specific products she loves have been discontinued. Twice.

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Be Proud, Not Performative

Today is June 1st and you may start noticing rainbow flags flying throughout your city or town. This is to mark the start of Pride Month. In fact, you may see a variety of different flags during this time. (Refresh yourself on what each flag represents here.)

Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community is always the right thing to do, and during June, we celebrate their lives, their achievements, and their impact to society.

But how we celebrate as marketers hasn't always been an easy thing to figure out.

In 1994, the furniture company, IKEA, released a dining room TV ad. This ad featured a gay couple talking about purchasing a dining room table and chairs from IKEA. More importantly, this ad featured the first openly gay couple in a commercial. You can view this commercial here. The commercial sparked controversy as both detractors and supporters had strong reactions.

Companies that were being “progressive” in the 90s with their advertising, were often purposefully vague. For example, a 1997 Volkswagen ad featured two young men, but the relationship between them was up for interpretation. They weren’t explicitly boyfriends, but they also weren’t explicitly just friends. This created a cushion to protect Volkswagen from criticism.

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Mailbox Monday

If every marketer could send out 3D packages, response rates would go through the roof. Unfortunately, so would costs. Boxes, tubes, padded "jiffy bags" do get attention, but the postage alone is beyond the budget of many mailers.

So, what can you do if you want big impact with a small price tag?

You make a flat mail experience as special, engaging, tactile, and interactive as you can.

That's exactly what local business A&A Services did with their recent self-mailer. A fairly ordinary three panel piece becomes out-of-the-ordinary with the addition of a die-cut.

The address panel works hard from the get-go. A picture of the two business owners is coupled with a call-to-action in their voice: "Join our rowing list of satisfied customers... and become part of the family. We look forward to helping you on your next Roofing — Siding — Window — Door Project!" In the "hot area" above the address and indicia, there's an offer (Free Estimate), phone number and URL, and a compelling "before and after" example, complete with a three-line caption.

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Don't Just Recycle, Upcycle

In our last blog post, we talked about how some direct marketers are practicing greener mailing methods. As a recap, some marketers are using recycled paper, or water-based, eco-friendly inks. There are other methods too, such as encouraging recipients to recycle the mailings when they are done with them. Even though 94% of Americans claim they support recycling, 75% of U.S. waste could have (should have) been recycled.

Today, we’d like to look into an even more personal approach to recycling.

We’re talking masks.

With the CDC relaxing mask guidelines, we are left with the question of what do we do with our masks?

If you’re anything like us, you probably have a dozen-or-so cute masks that you purchased. It seems silly to throw them out, but what other use could they have?

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Greener Pastures for Your Direct Mail

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Making responsible, environmentally conscious choices is always the right thing to do. This is important for us on a personal level as well as a professional level. How can direct marketers make responsible decisions when direct mail campaigns in themselves are not sustainable? Despite everyone's best intentions, the postcards and letters and flyers that come through the mail can easily end up in the trash — after all, they’re invariably (and unaffectionately) called “junk mail.”

However, there are some different approaches direct marketers are using to make their tactics greener.

A new group called the Green Marketing Coalition is striving to make “an inherently unsustainable practice at least a little bit greener” (New York Times). This group is made up of both direct marketing companies and a select few of their clients. Some members of the group include Microsoft, Washington Mutual, and OptimaHealth. The various members are all in agreement that the direct mail business is in need of some guidelines to make choices that benefit the environment.

A few examples of guidelines the coalition has come up with so far include using chlorine-free recycled paper and proofreading via digital files instead of hard copies. Guidelines also strongly recommend improving upon waste disposal standards. One way to do this is to conduct some research and choose a vendor that is committed to recycling.

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Email Copy Options (and Opt-Ins)

In our last blog post, we talked about optimum copy length for a direct marketing campaign. Today, we'll look at the same question with regard to email copy.

The overall recommendation is the same: if the length is effective, then that is the length to use.

Emails are a challenge to begin with. Readers have the ability to quickly delete messages without even opening them. And of course, the dreaded “unsubscribe” button is easily accessible to allow your readers to opt-out from hearing from you ever again.

So what length of copy works best for an email?

While shorter email copy is widely considered to perform better than longer copy, the real answer lies in your data. Get to know your audience really well and then test what length of email they respond to best.

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Copy: The Long and Short of It

We can all agree that marketing campaigns are meant to get a response out of a consumer. This could be an emotional response, a financial response, or even a physical response. We take the time to look at data to find the perfectly targeted audience to send our copy to. However, without good writing, even the most fine-tuned audience might not understand the narrative of your offer, or they might not even be interested enough to finish reading the piece you wrote just for them.       

One of the biggest challenges about writing is determining how long a piece should be. This challenge is even more of a concern when writing marketing copy. Grabbing the audience’s attention is one thing, but maintaining it is a whole different ball game. Marketers are tasked with creating content that remains interesting throughout the piece to keep readers interested.

This prompts the question, “How long should the copy be?”

And the answer? “As long as it needs to be to sell your product.”

The fact is, there really is no right or wrong answer for how long your marketing copy should be. It won’t be too long or too short, it will only be effective or ineffective. If the length is effective, then that is the length to use. Consultant Boyd Butler shares that, “Copy should be long enough to emotionally engage the prospect and give them enough rational reasons to back their emotional decision to purchase.”

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Mailbox Monday

Self-mailers are one of our favorite direct mail options. First of all, the options themselves are practically endless: oversized, undersized (yes, we've had those work), different folds, different die-cuts, creative personalization. Depending on your audience and product, they work equally well for B2C and B2B. And, they are generally cost-efficient and effective.

Of course, we love working on 3-D solutions as well. Sending something to someone is ... well ... if not downright bribery, at the very least curiosity-provoking and compelling.

We just received a self-mailer that included a 3-D element.

The piece is from Omaha Steaks, and measures 6" x 9" closed with full color bleed photography on both outside panels.

The address panel includes an offer in the "hot spot" above the address area. "Order now & get 12 FREE BURGERS ..." In case we're wondering just how good those burgers may or may not be, a short but effusive testimonial appears to the left under a glamorous shot of ... you guessed it ... a burger. "Best burgers ever ... purchase these monthly." So says Karen M from Port Charlotte, FL.

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When I Grow Up

The Queen B recently had the honor of writing a cover story for the DMAW's wonderful newsletter AdVents. Here's what she had to say ...

As a child, no one thinks, "When I grow up, I want to be a direct mail marketer." But, those of us who make a living at it, are actually very fortunate. We get to reach millions of people with messages that can make their lives better.

Before you disagree or use the words "junk mail," allow me to point out that innovations in data science and print technology now allow us to send extremely targeted, extremely relevant offers to just the people who care about them. Decades ago, direct mail marketing earned the description "spray and pray," send out lots and lots of mail to lots and lots of people and ... well ... hope for the best. Marketers who do that today aren't just lazy; they're wasting money and resources.

Now, smart marketers send less mail that's more relevant. They reach less people who are more interested. And, they achieve better returns on investment for doing so.When my team and I sit down to develop creative concepts for direct mail, we start with the target audience, the product or solution, and the offer. Then, we think about what we can send that will make someone smile, or laugh, or simply stop and think. We have the opportunity to surprise and delight someone, to move them emotionally and — even more important — to move them to take action.

In terms of formats and creative, the possibilities are endless (grounded, of course, by budget). Whether it's a postcard from your vet with a picture of a dog that looks just like yours (easy to do with variable data printing), to a simple brochure that offers tips for successful Zoom meetings (very relevant right now), to a box that contains virtual reality goggles that work with your smart phone (worth sending when you're marketing high-ticket medical equipment). 

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Mailbox Monday

If you're like the Bs, you probably get more mail (like A LOT more mail) in your email mailbox than in the one on your porch, in your lobby, or out by the curb.

The other day, we received an email from an online retailer that wasn't just good — it was delightful.

The email was simply confirming an order and providing tracking information. So, in that sense, it was pretty typical. The copy, however, was anything but. It did a great job of building brand while it took care of business. And it was passed along multiple times, which may mean more business for this Better World Books, a very smart and funny marketer, in the future.

Take a look ...

From: Better World Books To: (NAME)Sent: Wednesday, April 14, 2021, 11:41:58 AM EDTSubject: Your Better World Books Order Has Shipped!

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Better To Gift Than To Receive

Virtual meetings and Zoom calls are mentally tiring and physically draining. How can we make these more engaging for our participants? Can we think of ways to solve this problem internally for our company and then use those same solutions when helping run a virtual event for clients and customers?

Here’s an idea to help spice up your virtual meeting platforms: virtual gifts.

There are countless ways to give virtually. These can range from eGift Cards, to an eBook, to a streaming subscription, to virtual gym memberships. These methods will entice your viewers/attendees/employees to come to the event or meeting with motivation.

Digital gift cards are one of the easiest ways to give a reward virtually. These gift cards could be for just about anything, as long as it’s appropriate. Some popular choices include Amazon, iTunes, and Visa gift cards. Even if the amount on the card is small, it will show your people that you value their time and appreciate them being with you for the call.

An eBook is a great addition to an event marketing strategy because of the halo effect it offers after the event is over. eBooks focused on a specific topic will give readers a more in-depth explanation of the information.

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Mailbox Monday

When sending direct mail to consumers, our main goal is for them to open it. Actively interacting and engaging with the piece is even better. One of the most popular forms of direct mail are postcards. Postcards are simple to create and also simple to engage with. From the marketer’s standpoint, postcards are easy to design, print, and mail — while also bring reasonably inexpensive. From the consumer’s viewpoint, postcards are easily digestible, making the focus of the message clear and precise. Postcards are a great tool to use because they can grab a reader’s attention without needing to retain it long enough to open an envelope. Besides being time-consuming, opening and unfolding letters can be distracting. Readers might not even bother opening them before tossing them into recycling.

Postcards get the job done, and when done effectively, they get the job done well.

Which leads us to today’s post, which we’ll call, “A Tale of Two Postcards.”

Let’s compare two different direct mail postcards we very recently received. There is a clear winner here between the two of them. We’ll call them Postcard A and Postcard B. Postcard A is from an insect repellant company, MosquitoRanger. Postcard B is from Valvoline Instant Oil Change.

A main challenge postcards pose is the limited space. Due to this, the marketer has to be creative about picture placements, and the amount of text printed. Just like with PowerPoints, the less words shown on the postcard the more effective they will be. Postcard A has a single question on the front: “Is Your Family Protected Against Mosquitoes?” along with the company’s name, tagline, and website link. Meanwhile, Postcard B has a longer sentence at the top: “We let you see the job done right, right before your eyes” but also has an offer at the bottom for $9 off a specific oil change. Postcard B is much wordier on the front and it distracts from the picture. It is harder to read because the font is on top of the picture versus Postcard A’s question is on an orange banner that stands out from the picture.        

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The Power of Magical Marketing

We’ve talked before about how important it is for brands to make personal connections with their customers and clients. It was beyond challenging to stay connected during a global pandemic that left us more-or-less isolated for the last year. Companies looked to digital resources and virtual platforms to bond and continue to build relationships with their target audience.

We’ve also talked about how important it is for brands to serve the common good, whether that be through charitable donations, inclusive campaigns, or even just standing up for justice. With all the choices customers have, many of them are looking to support companies that align with their beliefs and are actively working to better the community.

A good example of a company that does both of these things well, is Keebler.

The Keebler Company is a cookie manufacturer that also produces and markets multiple types of baked snacks. A recent campaign from Keebler takes shoppers through an interactive experience that will teach them more about Keebler cookies and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

One experience offered is an animated video that features a Make-A-Wish child, Jessica, recounting her wish experience. Jessica is seven-years-old and has a nervous system disorder. During her wish, Make-A-Wish partnered with Keebler to bring her dream alive — to become the “queen” of Queen City (Charlotte, North Carolina).

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The Postal Heroes of the Pandemics

It's nothing new for doctors, nurses, or first responders to be called “heroes.” But mailmen? Postal service workers? The COVID-19 pandemic showed us just how “essential” these USPS employees are.

Countless everyday workers have been described as “heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fourteen months ago, the term “essential worker” wasn’t used at all. But after communities started self-isolating, jobs that otherwise didn’t receive appreciation or recognition were beginning to be looked at as selfless, heroic, and completely necessary for our functioning society. When countless office jobs were being moved to virtual platforms from home, there were still many positions that made it impossible to work remotely. A few examples include grocery store workers, farmers and delivery drivers.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the corona virus pandemic isn’t the only national health emergency that the United States has faced. The so-called “Spanish Flu” pandemic was actually the deadliest in modern history. Many parallels can be drawn between these two disease outbreaks (see the picture of the mailman in a mask above), that occurred roughly one century apart. Looking at the way the USPS handled their new responsibilities on the frontline is both informative and helpful — and relevant today.

The Spanish Flu can be seen as an even more isolating virus than the corona virus due to the time period of the outbreak. In the early 1900s, there was no Zoom, no social media, and no text messaging. The historical significance of the sheer power mail had during this time cannot be underestimated. The US Post Office Department was tasked with the responsibility of keeping the mail moving and by doing so, keeping people connected with one another.

Jenny Lynch, the Postal Service’s historian, finds that, “The ability to connect can be, quite literally, a lifeline during times of extreme stress. Mail enables the exchange of vital supplies and information. Perhaps even more important, it can provide hope, comfort and purpose.”

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Email Marketing: 8 Days a Week

Okay, we're exaggerating. We don't really get email eight days a week.

It just feels like it.

Clients often ask what time and day they should send emails. Of course, there's only one answer: it depends. Every brand, every product, every target audience is going to be different. But, there are some guidelines that emerge when you look at a variety of research.

In terms of day of the week, many studies suggest that Tuesday is best, followed by Thursday in second place, followed by Wednesday in third. Mondays and Fridays appear to be too close to the weekend (people are either recovering from or preparing for their time off; your email is not top of mind; sleeping in or going out is).

With regard to times, there appear to be multiple hot spots during the day. Many studies cite 10 am as a good time to reach recipients. This may imply that by 10 am, they've stopped socializing, organizing, and caffeinating, and are ready to start their day in earnest. 8 pm is also a good time, perhaps indicating that many people open, read, and deal with emails in the time between dinner and bed. 2 pm also sees a surge; it may be that, wedged as it is between lunch and the end of the traditional workday, it's a natural break from work activities. And, finally, at 6 am, there's a lot of email action. Apparently people check their emails first thing when they get up.

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To Make Good, You Have to Do Good

The year that was 2020 made us all rethink our priorities and values. From being cooped up in our homes to stay safe from the coronavirus, to watching social revolutions happen in our cities … we had a big year. We became more reliant on digital resources and technology to keep us connected to those we love and those we work with.

These same resources and technology showed us the frontlines of movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. These movements are social in their nature, but can be applied to workplaces and companies alike. The demand for brands to align their priorities and values with their customers has never been greater.

The key decision factors aren’t just a company’s price or product selection. Consumers are now interested in supporting good companies. Thoughtful companies. Sustainable companies. Charitable companies.

Consumers often make impulsive decisions when choosing and supporting a brand. They can be quick to dismiss or even abandon a company that doesn’t align with their political stances, for example.

Early in the pandemic, masks were hard to come by and priority went to those working on the frontlines. This prompted companies such as H&M, Reformation, Nordstrom, and Hanesbrands to shift their production focus from their usual fashion lines to making as many masks as quickly as possible. Empty words such as “we’re all in this together,” mean nothing to the everyday consumer; action supporting the greater good shows purpose. This purpose drives the public to view the company positively.

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Sell Where They're Shopping

We’ve all had to make adjustments in our lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses and companies were forced to adapt as well and — unfortunately — for many, the adapting process resulted in either a sink or float outcome. Countless small companies, such as local restaurants and “Mom-and-Pop” stores had no choice but to close their doors permanently.

It’s devasting that so many businesses have struggled during this time, but there are some companies that have risen above the challenges and, through their resilience, adaptability, and agility, have redesigned a new kind of success.

Something some of these brands have in common is that they began expanding upon, or creating, a direct-to-customer (DTC) channel for distributing their product.

Obviously, there digital shopping is nothing new. In fact, it’s steadily grown over the past decade and a half. Online sales booming were booming well before 2020. However, the pandemic escalated it even more when in-person shopping experiences became limited to essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies. Wholesale brands that were able to make a smooth transition to DTC channels were better prepared to stay afloat.

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Mailbox Monday

It's one of the premier tenets of direct marketing (or any other marketing, for that matter) ..."Know your customer."

Or in the case of digital pet supply company Chewy, "Know your customer's pet."

Like most humans, the Bs at B Direct don't get as much postal mail as we used to. Even on special occasions. Between email, texts, and social media, holiday greetings (including once ubiquitous birthday cards) rarely arrive as anything other than digital communications. So, it was cool to find an analog, paper-based birthday card in the mailbox.

Just one catch. It was for the dog.

Guess what? That made it cooler!

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Email (Yes, We're Talking About Email Again)

We’ve talked before (and will again) about how email marketing is an incredibly useful tactic — especially during the course of the last year. Social distancing makes it harder to see not only people in person, but also companies and products too. Digital resources are more important than ever to retain both relationships and product awareness.

A new Demand Metric Benchmark Report focuses on the current state of Email Marketing. The report analyzes email’s overall “accessibility, ease of use, and effectiveness." Various tactics are looked at in depth in order to help individual organizations — and their marketing agencies — transform their email performance from average to high achieving.

Let’s look at some of their tips…

One of the all-too-important tips is to make sure you understand your audience and analyze their consumption of your emails. For example, marketers should know details about the subscribers’ habits, including what device(s) the emails are being opened on, the amount of time they spend reading or interacting with the emails, and what time of day most emails are opened, among others. Physical location of the subscribers could also be helpful to analyze.

As with any marketing strategy, having a better understanding of your audience will help you tailor the emails appropriately, make them relevant, make them resonate, make them responsive — and turn out better results.

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From social media stars on apps such as Instagram and TikTok, to TV and movie stars, influence is everywhere.

Celebrities being seen with your product, or better yet, promoting it in a way that doesn’t read like advertising, is a wonderful ways to develop brand awareness. In fact, today consumers much prefer engaging and connecting with individual people instead of big corporations and institutions.

And what better way for an individual ­— whether a celebrity or just a plain, old, everyday marketer — to reach a wide audience than using a digital communication channel such as social media?

The term “influencers” is one that we hear frequently these days, and while the word itself is fairly new, having just been added to the English dictionary in 2019, what it stands for is not new in the marketing world. Companies choosing “role models” to model their products dates back to the 1700s according to SocialMediaToday when a potter made a tea set for the Queen of England. The Queen using this tea set showed it had the stamp of royal approval, thus making it more desirable for commoners.

So, if you're not of royal blood, how can you influence your customer base?

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In the Beginning: A Little Word Can Make a Big Difference

In 2020, we saw huge changes that impacted all aspects of business (and life) as we knew it. One of those changes is that everything ranging from education to social events to shopping all shifted to a digital platform. With the hope that vaccine rollout will get us back to some normalcy, there are trends that we just simply can’t ignore.

As marketers, one of those trends is the effectiveness — and ubiquitousness — of emails.

Since the pandemic started, email has been working very hard, and, for the most part, really well. But with that being said, the challenge with emails is to get them opened by your audience and of course, to avoid users clicking the unsubscribe button.

WorldData has been looking at themes in subject lines (find our previous post on this topic here) and has updated their trending words to represent the first month of 2021. In B-to-C emails, trending words include “new,” “just in,” and that old direct marketing standby “free.” These words show a theme of promoting and striving for a stronger and happier new year. On the other hand, B-to-B emails are seeing trends with the words “forecast,” “outlook,” and “look ahead.” These subject lines are focused on advancing an individual’s career, a concern for many post-2020.

Here are the complete lists of top performing words by target category:

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Mailbox Monday

Direct mail marketing, something that the Bs have proudly called a vocation for nearly two decades, involves the head and the heart. Promotion and emotion. Words and pictures and a veritable ton of tried and true techniques (or tricks, if you'd rather) that can increase attention, engagement, and that all important reaction: response.

Some practitioners — and consequently, some packages — rely too much on the tricks of the trade, to the detriment of other more aesthetically pleasing elements.

But, some find a balance between working hard and looking good. We received just such a package from American Express this week.

First of all: the feel of it — in a mailbox filled with invoices, statements, tax documents, and even "thank you" cards, the 6 x 9 American Express package took advantage of a sleek, elegant, and weightier than average paper stock. Complete with spot varnish, it literally felt too good to throw away.

The artwork didn't hurt either. Full bleed coverage with a color photo of a busy businesswoman multitasking from what is probably a home office (timely) and a full-size image of the card. Other envelope elements include branding ("Keep your business moving forward with the Business Platinum Card") and an attractive, easy-to-understand offer ("Earn 85,000 Membership Rewards Points"). Our only criticism (and in an upscale package like this one, it shouldn't be underestimated) is that B Direct Marketing Communications had somehow transformed into B Direct Mktg Cmmnications.

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When Life Gives You Covid … Order Online

By now we’re all tired of the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and very impatient to get back to “normal.” On top of the millions of people who have been infected with the virus and the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the economic collapse made the last year into a struggle for countless industries. Jobs were lost, businesses suffered, and some companies had to close their doors for good. None of this is new information to us, however, there are some industries that actually have been boomed during the pandemic.

Let’s take a look at one of those industries.          

The industry is actually a pretty obvious one, e-commerce. While the majority of the population were encouraged to stay at home, digital shopping numbers increased substantially. Retail wasn’t the only industry that had success with e-commerce, as food delivery apps also experienced increased numbers with people ordering takeout instead of going out to restaurants. Grocery store delivery services offered an easy solution to stay home rather than brave the — potentially contagious — crowds in store.

Throughout the past year and likely into the future, extensive digital marketing campaigns will continue to grow the e-commerce industry. These campaigns will work to appeal to both returning and new customers. It’s crucial to have a presence online during this day and age, and maintaining a relationship with customers and clients is always important, even if it’s only virtual.     

How can you take advantage of the surge in e-commerce, both now and into the future?

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Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day. The minister, activist, civil rights leader, American hero, Nobel laureate, and champion of non-violence was himself violently murdered nearly 53 years ago.

Like many (most?) children in the U.S., we studied his life and tragic death, and memorized parts of his immortal “I have a dream” speech. But, there’s another speech by Dr. King that is at least as meaningful and eerily prescient since he delivered it just one day before his assassination.

It’s known as, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and he was speaking in support of a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis. Here are his most compelling and beautiful words from that speech. He began by imagining that the Almighty is giving him a choice of any era of the whole human history to live in.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy." Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a away that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — "We want to be free."

And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.

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Whose Brand Is It Anyway?

The Bs are writers and art directors, designers and illustrators. In our hearts, we're also direct marketers (duh — that's why "Direct" is in our name). But, that doesn't mean we don't appreciate brand. In fact, we've helped many clients over the years build and grow their brands. We've worked with start-ups to develop branding (positioning, logos, identity systems, brand guidelines). And we've supported more established companies by ensuring that everything we develop adheres to or complements the brand.

We've also learned how to play nice with the brand police. In recent years and past lives, we've worked with big players like IBM, Apple, Chevrolet, Bank of America, and NYNEX, as well as the strictest brand keepers of all: Disney.

Take our word for it, you don't mess around with Mickey!

So, the first question we had when we heard about the TikTok phenomenon Ratatouille: The Musical was ... "What is Disney going to do about it?"

Before we answer that, let's give you a bit of background.

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Cheers to the New Year!

2021 is just a few days away.

What a wild year we had in 2020!

Marketing, like most industries, was forced to adapt its traditional methods and strategies to keep up with the unexpected changes this year brought.

We saw increases in digital marketing as firms created or expanded their virtual platform. We saw advances in social media advertising to attract consumers online.

And we definitely saw companies working hard to keep their products and services relevant during this trying time by staying active and persistent with their marketing tactics.

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Mailbox Monday

It's official.

Direct mail gets opened when it looks ... well ... official. That's why so many marketers use tools (and tricks) to make their campaigns look like official notifications. Artwork may include "stamped" deadlines, PINS, seals, bar codes, reference numbers. They may use serious teaser lines like, "Time Sensitive Material" or "Important Documents Enclosed." Or there may be instructions to the letter carrier: "Deliver to Authorized Recipient Only" or "Exclusive Offer: Do Not Forward." Often, the art director has designed the envelope to resemble a FedEx Letterpak or USPS Priority Mail.

The agency just received a B2B package from Comcast Business. It arrived in a generous 9" x 12" envelope with just about as much "official" artwork as possible. We're informed that there are "Time-Sensitive Materials," not once, but twice. A faux mailing label is set up to look like a delivery service waybill, with real estate blocked off for Sender, Recipient, Status, Reference Number, and Special Instructions. A "sticker," complete with drop shadow, includes the January 10 expiration date and a bunch of numbers. Finally, the indicia clues us into the fact that this oh-so-official package is actually presort standard.

Then again, we might have guessed as much given that it's addressed to "Business Owner."

Inside this elaborate envelope is a single sheet of paper. An extremely short letter (neither personalized nor signed) along with a faux tipped on card in lieu of a Johnson box promises "Up to 1 Gig Internet Speed." On the back, features are set up as a simple infographic on what looks like a sales flyer. Overall, the copy is efficient — perhaps a little too efficient. It seems like a lot of formal rigmarole for too simple a message.

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'Tis the Season for Subject Lines

Billions of emails are sent daily and it probably seems like you received more emails this year than any other year. Personal inboxes are filled with discount offers and holiday specials at this time of year. But how can marketers work to get more of their emails opened, read, and interacted with? There is always a risk of customers and clients clicking the dreaded “unsubscribe” button, but on the bright side, with each email sent out, you’ve an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect with your customers.

These days, with instant gratification and social media usage rising, attention spans are continuously getting smaller and smaller. How can marketers capture and then retain their audience’s attention when writing emails? One answer is in the subject line and the pre-header.

The subject line is the first chance you get to grab your audience’s attention. Being unique and standing out helps get emails opened. With that being said, there are specific key words that can be incorporated to encourage higher open rates.

According to Worldata, trending words for the 2020 holiday season include:

  • 2021
  • Curb Side
  • Free Shipping
  • Deserve
  • Budget
  • Open
  • You/Your
  • Just For
  • Free
  • Pipeline
  • New
  • Growth
  • Forecast
  • Future
  • Jobs/Career

When thinking about the wild year that was 2020, most of these trending words seem logical. For instance, the majority of us are looking forward to a fresh start in 2021, and brands that can strategically use that to their advantage can drive more engagement from their emails.

Like all marketing tactics, there is a delicate balance that will create the engagement and response you are looking for. These trending words are helpful in the subject line, but that’s just the beginning. You must also work to retain the customer’s interest with intriguing pre-headers and quality content in the email itself.

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Adding Long Distance Fun to Your Virtual Events

The global pandemic has been a boon for videoconference providers like Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. If you feel like your work (and even your personal life) is made up of endless Zoom calls, you're not alone. Several months ago, Zoom reported that they were supporting more than 300 million meeting participants every day. That number has probably grown.

Zoom meetings and the like have become a ubiquitous way of conducting business in 2020 — as well as a reason for all of us to dress professionally (from the waist up, at least). The problem is that we're all a little weary of them. So, if you're planning an event for customers, prospects, employees, association members, or any other cohorts, how do you make sure your virtual happening generates actual excitement?

Here are a dozen ideas that can transform an online get-together from ho hum to oh fun:

DrinksHost a cocktail hour, wine- or microbrew-tasting. Send a kit with booze, all of the fixings, snacks, and customized barware in advance. Hire a mixologist, sommelier, or cicerone to give your guests a brief, informative lesson.Movie NightAsk everyone for favorite or recommended titles and host a live "watch party." Keep a chat channel open and encourage popcorn, Milk Duds, and other movie theatre snacks.PortraitsHire a caricaturist to create original portraits of your event's attendees. Send them as a follow-up.Trivia ContestTake trivia breaks during your event or plan an entire party around a trivia contest. Offer prizes to individuals or teams that earn the most points.Private ConcertInclude a musician or small musical group as the intermission in your conference call. A community chorus or school band would appreciate the gig; and it's a great way to add entertainment to an otherwise informational event.Chair YogaAsk a local yoga instructor to put together a 10-minute set of stress-reducing postures that people can enjoy right from their seat (without a mat or any equipment). CostumesHost a "black tie" affair; ask attendees to wear masks or funny hats; encourage participants to wear a tee shirt that has special meaning (and be prepared to explain). Being just a little silly can increase team spirit.Bring Your ____ to Work DayPets and offspring have made plenty of unexpected appearances in recent meetings. Why not formalize it? Invite your group to bring along their dogs/cats/guinea pigs/toddlers/houseplants the next time you meet.Background, CheckCreate custom, branded backgrounds and distribute them in advance. Your attendees may be staying at home, but their Zoom persona can be on the French Riviera (or the moon).Add Star PowerFor an out of the ordinary attendee experience, invite a celebrity to join your conference call (or prerecord a message at and Give-AwaysYou may not  have the budget to give everyone a car like Oprah once did, but prizes of any size can be a nice incentive to keep your participants at your event until the rewarding end.Generate More IdeasTake five minutes of your meeting to ask the team to contribute their creative ideas for your next session. You may end up with enough to last well into 2021.

Even with a vaccine on the horizon, video conferences are likely here to stay. Do what you can to make yours something to look forward to.


Special Delivery and Seasonal Delays

Earlier this year, there was some concern about whether the USPS would be able to deliver mail-in ballots. With removed sorting equipment, missing  mailboxes, and reduced overtime work available, those concerns seemed well founded. However, the USPS pulled through, delivering more mail-in ballots than ever before in this country's history.

As direct marketers who cut their teeth on direct mail, we like to think the USPS can always pull through. But, this holiday season is going to be a challenge.

With millions of Americans following COVID lockdown, stay-at-home, and social distancing guidelines, the holidays will be an even greater mail order event than usual. "Home for the holidays" isn't a smart option for many of us, and gifts sent by mail (or FedEx or UPS) may feel like the next best thing. In fact, the USPS is planning to deliver 28 million packages per day from December 16-21, and 20.5 million thereafter for the rest of the year.

With all this traffic, how can you ensure your gifts are delivered on time? The major delivery services have published deadlines. Cards and packages should be mailed by or before these dates for delivery by Dec. 25:


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Mailbox Monday

What would you rather find in your mailbox this time of year: a catalog or a holiday card?

If you're like the Bs, you probably get enough catalogs already. That's why we appreciated receiving a holiday card from an online retailer instead.

The envelope was 5 x 7.5 and a cheerful shade of green. Although the address was clearly a handwriting font rather than actual handwriting, it did help it stand out from the rest of the mail. As did the live stamp and postmark. Even better was the Hallmark deboss on the back and a gold seal with the card company's familiar crown.

Inside, as expected, we found a holiday card, bright red with festive graphics and a headline that reads "Merry all the way!" When open, the greeting continues with "Oh what fun it is to wish you a happy holiday." A (faux) handwritten message beneath reads, "Hi, Happy holidays from all of us at Woman Within. We appreciate you and have tucked in a special offer just for you to treat yourself this season. Enjoy!" And it's signed by "Your friends at Woman Within."

Inserted is a single card with the aforementioned special offer: "Our gift to you. $50 off $100. $100 off $200."

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Thanksgiving, Better Days Will Come

When we look back at 2020, it may be difficult to feel much gratitude. 

We'll all remember a global pandemic that has already killed 1,430,000 people, 268,000 in the US alone; shuttered businesses, large and small; record levels of unemployment; tragic stories every week about refugee children separated from parents, mass shootings, racist and transgender attacks; and a country contentiously divided. But, better days will come.

There are, now and always, reasons to give thanks.

(Hint: it's not because some disgruntled Europeans invaded North America 380 years ago.)

By now, most of us know someone who has had COVID-19 and many of us know someone who died from it. To all the friends and family suffering from that devastating loss, we send more than "thoughts and prayers;" we send sympathy and regret and love. But be assured, better days will come.

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Phishing in the Time of COVID

With all due respect to Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, also known as Dante, there must be a special circle of hell reserved for criminals who take advantage of catastrophic events and their victims. People who committed insurance fraud after Hurricane Katrina, those who prey on armed services widows and widowers, or those who filed bogus claims after 9/11.

Or today's cybercriminals, who are making money by defrauding people in the time of COVID.

With so many people working remotely, our B2B clients are relying on email marketing more than ever before. So too, unfortunately, are scam artists. And, while we've seen increases in open and click-through rates when we allude to the current situation, so are they.

KnowBe4, a leading cybersecurity training company based in Clearwater, Florida, recently published findings from a Q3 2020 study on COVID-related phishing attacks. Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. And, the public's concerns and sensitivity around COVID has led to devious new campaigns.

In KnowBe4's new report, they reveal that coronavirus-related email subjects are the biggest threat. Covering the entire third quarter, messages related to the coronavirus were the most popular, with a total of 50%. Social media messages are another area of concern when it comes to phishing, and LinkedIn phishing messages dominate as the top social media email subject to watch out for, holding the number one spot at 47%.

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