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There's No Business like Direct Marketing

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This week, the Bs had the pleasure of presenting a session at NEDMA's annual "5 Ds of Direct Mail" symposium. We were assigned the second D, Design, and it occurred to us that infusing a little show business into the presentation would make the morning more fun. 

In case you couldn't join us, here's what we talked about ...

What business are we in? Since our audience was composed of marketers, the answers were just what we expected. Lead generation. Customer retention. Customer satisfaction. Promotion. Sales. Marketing. Fundraising.

Then we pushed back. What business are we really in? We argued that more than anything else, we're in the customer engagement business. When we design direct mail packages (or any other marketing vehicles), we need to make sure that our audience is engaged — from the outer envelope, all the way through to the P.S. on the letter. There are two great ways to effectively engage people. One, you can educate them about something they think they need to know (or something you convince them they need to know). Two, you can entertain them.

The legendary Ethel Merman once belted out, "There's no business like show business."

At B Direct, we think, "There's no business like direct marketing."

Step 1: Start with a great concept
Just like in the entertainment industry, we need to start with a great concept. Data and research and insight and market intel are all important, and we encourage our clients to prepare a thoughtful strategy brief that we can absorb before we start. But then, we have to embrace the creative process. 

• Challenge assumptions
• Consider branding and even "anti-branding"
• Forget demographics and focus on the audience's "inner vision"
• Make sure the concepts appeal to people, not "consumers" or "businesses"
• Give good creative a chance

Step 2: Tell a story
Your copy is like the script of a play. And the best plays are those that tell compelling stories. You want to speak 1:1 with your audience, and gain their attention and interest. Telling a story is a great way to think about the process.

• Picture your audience; imagine you're talking to one individual listener
• Sound human
• Blend emotion and promotion
• Explain the "give/get" — what do they need to give you (time?) and what will they get in return
• Ask them — specifically — to take action

Step 3: Set the stage
Your story (your very compelling story) should be surrounded by graphics and images, formats and components that help bring it to life. This is the scenery for your direct marketing production.

• Please the senses (unless you have some strange, dark, marketing reason to jar them)
• Intrigue the audience, surprise them, delight them
• Build brand and demand
• Learn all the design rules ...
• But, make sure you enjoy the game

Step 4: Encourage audience participation
Remember that your direct campaign should be all about your audience, not about you, your brand, your product or solution. Make them feel like they are a part of it by individualizing the creative, and you'll grab attention and improve results.

• Make it personal
• But not cookie cutter, not <INSERT NAME HERE>
• Clean your house (no one wants a nice personalized piece where their name is misspelled)
• Embrace new print technology
• Give them a compelling, creative reason to hold onto whatever you've sent

Step 5: Borrow interest
They say there's nothing new in the world. In fact, even Shakespeare "borrowed" an existing plot for his "Romeo and Juliet." Whether you allude to history, contemporary culture, sports, nostalgia, even a favorite food, you can build an immediate connection with your audience by focusing on something they already know (and love).

• Make something old new again
• Know your audience and what will make their heart beat faster
• Leverage existing ties that bind
• But, keep your tongue planted firmly in your cheek — count on a light touch and a bit of humor

Step 6: Reward them with a happy ending
Remember, your audience doesn't owe you a thing. So, be sure to say "thank you" for their time and effort. They should feel good about engaging with you and your campaign.

• Come up with killer offers
• Make the campaign itself feel like a gift
• Consider adding a paper or dimensional "freemium" — that's a premium item that arrives unsolicited

Step 7: Leave them wanting more
Most people in the theatre community agree that Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber shouldn't have revisited his masterwork "Phantom of the Opera." (The sequel, "Love Never Dies" died a quick but painful death before ever making it to Broadway.) But, your campaign is only the start of a beautiful friendship.

• Think of your campaign as act one of an ongoing "marketing conversation"
• Give the audience a reason to raise their hands for more
• Give them multiple ways to connect (and reconnect again and again)
• Integrate your campaign across online and offline experiences

All the world's a stage. And every direct campaign plays its part.

If you'd like a copy of our PowerPoint deck, "Reaching Your Audience with Show-Stopping Creative," complete with more than twenty portfolio samples that dramatize (yes, pun intended) our show biz approach to direct, simply email the Queen B at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




































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