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A Forgotten, but Useful, Marketing Tactic

by Frank Strong

A Forgotten but Useful Marketing Tactic

It was a manila envelope with my name and business address hand written so as to appear as if it were personal mail. I opened it.

Inside was a hotel napkin — Crescent Bluffs Hotel & Resort — folded around a plastic credit card style hotel room key. On the napkin was a simple hand written note:

>>> Let’s meet… www.AcceptTheInvitation.com/FrankStrong

How could I resist?

The URL provided brought me to an interactive Web site that had me “insert” my room key in a hotel door and gave me a brief tour of the resort. Along the way it asked about my preferences for food, beverages and other items I might desire during my stay. At the end of the tour the site used the answers I provided to explain what the company had learned about me…and that I had probably figured out they were not actually a hotel, but rather a marketing firm that had held my attention for more than a minute and counting.

Imagine, the site asked, what they might do for my marketing prospects?

Turns out this was a direct mail solicitation from VLG Dialog Marketing. Indeed this marketing tactic did have my attention and I’m certainly not alone. According to one survey, nearly half of all adults in 2007 responded to direct mail campaigns . With such a high response rate, direct mail is a tactic that no marketing organization should overlook.

In the past I’ve seen direct mail campaigns used successfully from both from a business development standpoint and as part of a PR campaign. Here are a few examples:

1. Sales. When working in-house at a software company, I teamed with a sale representative to reach out to a vertical market, in this case energy producers. Having successfully secured a very solid case study in energy trade publication on the success of one of our existing energy customers, we ordered reprints, crafted personal letters and mailed them to about 50 energy prospects. In a few short weeks that sales representative had scored a half-dozen sales meetings, which is certainly not bad for an emerging B2B technology company.

2. Business Development. When working as an account executive for a public relations firm, I took extra time at the end of my day to read up and clip out articles on new venture capital funding announcements. Next I would then send personal notes on company letterhead congratulating the entrepreneur — with the neatly cropped news clip attached. When it came time for those companies to consider PR efforts and vendors, my firm generally made the short list.

3. Media Relations. When a client of mine had a software product that could save about a dollar per square foot of corporate real estate, and given most of their customers had at least a million square feet or more, my team aimed to demonstrate this concept to business reporters. We sent 20 “pitches” to key reporters covering corporate real estate or enterprise software. However, our “pitch” was anything but conventional. Each pitch was a box that measured one square foot (cubed) with a wire across the inside and a dollar bill taped to it. Inside we included a short pitch-note with some key statistics about the product’s ROI and an invitation for a face-to-face briefing at that reporter’s desk. The campaign earned us an interview and eventually a placement in the Wall Street Journal. Even better, about six months later a technology executive from Wachovia cited that same article as a tipping point in his company’s decision to purchase our client’s software.

The letter I received from VLG Dialog Marketing was creative, personal and stood out from the deluge of junk mail I and many marketing types find typically clutters our mailboxes on any idle Thursday. Sometimes the cost of direct mail in combination with the staple of e-mail and other Web technologies cause marketing executives to overlook this tactic, and as a consequence, they overlook a way to ensure their message reaches their target audience.

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