Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ category

Baby Boomers, Ergonomics and Direct Mail

August 12, 2011

by Paul Prisco*, Founder and Principal at Dog Food Design,

Consider the fact that by 2030 Baby Boomers will outnumber those less than 20 years of age. Not so youthful or sexy for the future of America? Right now there almost 80 million Baby Boomers and growing with a huge capacity to drive consumer spending.

Baby Boomers are one of the most loyal and active users of direct mail. It’s been part of their daily routine for quite sometime and that’s not going to change anytime soon — regardless of the Internet, mobile and social media.

When crafting a direct marketing program for Baby Boomers consider the process of ergonomics, which is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and its cognitive abilities. Great examples of brands that are adapting to this demographic shift are Ford, CVS and HP to name a few. Aging does bring on a unique set of changes to the body and mind, which does affect how you should approach direct mail in a holistic way.

Here are three key ways you can leverage the power of ergonomics to connect with Baby Boomers in a relevant and meaningful way:

1. Mail Package Format

The power of touch and physical ergonomics is one way to connect with Boomers. Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. It sounds a bit cliché but arthritis is a real concern for Boomers and handling small items can be a task for some.

• Simple is best when deciding on a direct mail package format. Avoid using complex folds to deliver your offer.

• Go big with your mail package size if you can afford it, which will allow for larger mail package components (OE, Letter, Reply Mechanism, etc.). This will deliver an easier handling experience while providing more real estate and should be most effective.

2. Overall Type Size

This approach would involve the cognizant side of ergonomics and be the most easily to implement. Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system. As we age it gets tougher to scan, read and recall type with a small point size.

• Consider headline point sizes of at least 14 point and body copy size of no smaller than 10 points. While offer and copy points are most important if they cannot be read easily you don’t have a shot.

• Avoid serif fonts that will become increasingly difficult to read when reduced. This applies for both print and digital marketing strategies.

• Do remember overall recall is higher with print media in general.

3. Icons

The use of simple and easy to decipher illustrations is another use of the cognizant side of ergonomics. Icons serve as a great platform when trying to communicate key subject areas or benefit points.

• Less is more when making a quick connection.

• Also, icons are a great substitute for costly photography which if not done tastefully will be a complete turn off to Baby Boomers.

The average Baby Boomer now cites the age of 68 as the new retirement age, which is up from 65.5 back in 2003. There’s no doubt the failure of the economy has contributed to Boomers working longer and harder. This means your direct marketing programs will have to do more to connect with this busy, distracted and potentially lucrative demographic to deliver more brand value.

*Paul Prisco is the Founder and Principal at Dog Food Design, A design and direct marketing agency for brands. He has helped leading organizations such as AARP and numerous colleges leverage design in their direct marketing programs to drive ROI. He can be reached at 404.829.2704 or


10 Steps to Doubling Print Advertising ROI with Digital Marketing

March 10, 2011

by Thomas Harpointner – CEO of AIS Media, Inc,

“Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t
know which half”, said William Lever, founder of Lever Soap Company
back in 1886. Sadly, well over a century later, it’s estimated that 50
percent of advertising budgets are still wasted on programs that don’t
produce a meaningful response. Yet, marketing executives are being
held increasingly accountable to deliver greater, more predictable,
and measurable returns on investment from their advertising spend,
according to Forrester Research.
While some marketers grow increasingly frustrated with declines in
response rates to their traditional print advertising and shifting their
focus to digital channels, others have discovered how to “crack the
code” and are achieving new highs in response rates and returns
on investment through properly integrating offline and online
channels. This guide aims to provide the practical, yet frequently
overlooked tips and critical action steps to dramatically increase the
response rates and maximize the returns on investment from print

1. Use “eye candy” to grab readers’ attention.
With so many distractions today, capturing customers’ attention with
an ad has become as much science as art. While a great picture can
tell a thousand words, studies show that wandering eyes automatically
gravitate more toward pictures than words. Use a relevant, high
contrast image that supports your core message. So don’t make your
audience “work” – read more than is absolutely necessary. Use a
picture whenever possible to enhance your offer. Pictures of people
and smiling faces are very effective.

2. Gain your readers’ interest with a benefit-driven headline.
If your image succeeds in capturing your readers’ attention, the rest
of your ad copy must gain and keep their interest – that’s where your
headline plays a pivotal role. Think of your headline as “an ad for your
ad”. Its sole purpose is to captivate your audience and “sell” them
on reading the rest of your ad copy. Eyes automatically gravitate
toward large, bold text. Therefore, be sure your headline stands out
from the rest of your ad copy. Focus on your offer’s key benefits. Most
readers are “skimmers” and will make a split-second decision about
whether or not to keep reading. A “skimmer” should be able to get
the “gist” of what the ad is about by the picture and headline and
subtitles, if applicable. Books have been written on the topic of writing
effective headlines. Refer to a few and them by your side for creative

3. Use bullets and call-outs to build desire for your offer.
Readers are “skimmers”. Avoid long, small-type paragraphs. Instead,
bullet out your offer’s benefits whenever possible. Newspapers like the
New York Times and Wall Street Journal are written at an 8th grade
level to make the content easier to consume. So present your offer’s
benefits in an easy-to-digest manner. Use color and call-outs to deliver
the most relevant points.

4. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA) to drive response.
If your ad succeeds at capturing your audience’s attention and
interest, be sure to provide a clear, concise call-to-action; tell them
what to do next. Don’t leave it up to them to guess what they should
do next. If you want them to call a phone number or visit a website,
say so and be sure to include the benefit(s) of doing so. An extra
incentive can instantly increase response rates. For example by
applying an expiration date to your CTA, you can instill a sense of
urgency and further increase response. If you’re selling flowers, for
example, your CTA might be to visit your website and offer a coupon
code with an expiration date.

5. Offer readers multiple options to respond.
Providing readers multiple options to respond to your ad cannot only
dramatically increase your overall response rates but also increase the
value of your response. A Direct Marketing Association study found
that customers who buy from two channels (vs. just one) are between
20 and 60% more valuable, while triple-channel buyers are 60-125%
more valuable. Ads that provide readers the option to respond by
calling a phone number or by visiting a web page tend to get higher
responses than identical ads that offer only a single option.

6. Use unique phone numbers and call tracking.
Displaying your main company phone number in your ad is sure-fire
way to keep yourself guessing about the performance of your ad.
Instead, use unique phone numbers with call tracking. By assigning
a unique number to each of your ads, you can accurately test and
measure which ads generate the best response. You can view reports
to analyze the data and adjust your advertising to increase the overall
ROI. This is extremely important for new ad campaigns.

7. Use a landing page and pURL.
Most advertisers today already get it. Displaying a website address
in a print ad increases response rates. Where many ads fall short,
the advertiser displays the link to their website home page. For better results,
you can measure and repeat, drive customers to a unique web page,
specifically designed to complement your ad, also known as a “landing
page” or “micro site” using a personalized URL, or “pURL”. This
method is proven to provide a better user experience and increase
conversion rates. Sending customers to your home page and making
them hunt through your website for the offer in which they’re interested is a
sure-fire way to aggravate them and ultimately lose sales.

8. Build your “hot prospect” list and nurture it.
Studies have shown that the majority of prospects don’t convert
into customers the first time they’re exposed to a brand, product or
service. Conversions increase over time as prospects are repeatedly
exposed to an offer. Since the majority of visitors to your landing page
won’t immediately convert, provide incentives that will prompt them to provide their contact information.
Assuming 5 percent of visitors to your landing page immediately
convert and another 10% take advantage of incentives to share
their contact information, you end up building a highly valuable database of
prospects and customers. Nurturing those prospects with routine email
offers further increases conversion over time – effectively increasing
ROI from your print ad.

9. Test, measure and optimize.
The saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”, doesn’t
ring more true when it comes to direct response advertising. Create
variations of your offer using live A/B tests to determine the best
response. You might determine mid-campaign that one version of
your landing page is clearly outperforming the other and redirect all
traffic to the winner to maximize conversion. To make all this possible,
you must of course, properly install and configure a web analytics
program and understand how to interpret the data. Using pURLs, you
can clearly see how visitors behave; how long they stay, where they
click, how many convert, etc. – providing you the hard data you need
to eliminate guesswork.

10. Confidently modify your print ad for maximum performance.
Properly analyzing the data contained in web analytics and
performance reports will clearly indicate how visitors respond to
a given offer and interact with the content. This valuable insight
can be applied with confidence in designing future print ads that will
incrementally improve response rates and maximize advertising ROI.


While any one of the above tactics can produce immediate and measurable
results, you can expect the greatest positive impact from a
comprehensive approach. I hope you’ll gain value from this guide and
that you’ll advertise with greater confidence.

By Thomas Harpointner is founder and CEO of AIS Media, Inc,
( an Atlanta-based, award-winning digital
engagement agency. AIS Media connects leading businesses and
brands with customers through performance-driven digital and social
media marketing. AIS Media’s capabilities include digital strategy,
creative design, application development, search, email and social
media marketing.

Are you guilty of spamming?

February 8, 2011

by Kristy Barker, WhatCounts?

Of course not—right? Well let’s go a little deeper. You follow the CAN-SPAM laws by using accurate sender information, avoiding deceptive subject lines and making sure to include a working unsubscribe link in every message. So isn’t that enough? Legally, yes. But not if you want to actually get your messages delivered.

The deliverability landscape has shifted dramatically in the past few months, leaving many email marketers frustrated by ISP blocks and messages that just can’t make it to the inbox. Rather than just following the CAN-SPAM rules, marketers now need to be on the same page with how their recipients are thinking about spam.

You say potato, I say…spam. Everyone has their own idea of what spam is and isn’t. The marketing definition is “bulk email that is unsolicited.” However, consumers often rely on a very different definition when using the dreaded “report as spam” button. In fact, according to Marketing Sherpa, almost 60% of consumers have reported an email as spam just because it was not of interest to them!

These complaints can have a big effect on your delivery reputation. You can avoid these complaints by having an obvious opt-out mechanism (hopefully steering those spam reporters to just opt-out instead), keeping your content relevant, and monitoring frequency.

Unless it makes sense for your particular publication (such as a daily news alert or Groupon style email), most readers do not want to hear from you everyday, so make sure you abide by their frequency expectations.

Your list building methods can make a difference too. While building a house list that is purely opt-in (double opt-in is even better) will definitely produce the best engagement results, it’s not always a feasible approach. Sometimes you need to acquire data from an outside source. This approach can lead to some good outcomes, but you need to be very cautious of how the data is acquired.

All spam monitoring companies have spam trap email addresses that they put out on the internet in various places. When one of these addresses receives a marketing email, it sends up a red flag that the sender mailed to an address that was not opt-in. So be cautious when working with list rental companies—make sure that all addresses are opt-in, and that they can prove it.

Another potential delivery problem comes from sending to lists that have opted in through a third party vendor. While this is legal, it can still lead to some high complaint rates from readers who don’t know how you got their email address. Avoid third party opt-in lists if possible, but if you do use them, be sure to monitor your complaint rates.

Bottom line? Follow these guidelines to avoid being labeled as spam (unless you mean the canned meat kind…which you probably want to avoid as well).

Who’s Spinning Your Marketing Data?

May 27, 2010

By Alex Marchetti | President DMA Atlanta | President Whitestone Marketing

 Response Rates and Conversion Rates represent two of the direct marketers and professional communicators most revered data metrics and are largely considered the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for measuring successful marketing campaigns. The shear velocity of the digital revolution coupled with advanced digital tracking technologies has armed marketers with powerful data they can use to measure campaign effectiveness and provide some basis for calculating ROI or justify marketing spends.

Clearly we have more verifiable activity based marketing data available to us today than we did as little as five years ago. But do we really know what it means or how to use it effectively?

 Unfortunately, I believe a good number of marketers have become statistical spin doctors using Response Rates, Conversion Rates, marketing data, surveys and analytics to either persuade prospective clients into contractual agreements or positively support the amazing performance of the campaigns they have implemented. Strategically, this approach is similar to the CFO’s of publically traded corporations preparing financials for Wall Street to influence stock prices.

As marketers and communicators, shouldn’t we focus our attention on what influenced consumer behavior and caused the response or no response? I don’t have a PHD in behavioral science, but I am a practicing consumer and have been included in many marketers’ efforts to increase client response rates, conversion rates, SEO, opt-ins, click through and the like. And from my personal perspective, the data collection process and corresponding analytics do not represent what influenced my behavior.

Let me explain. Like most men, I am an avid researcher and buyer of gadgets, audio equipment, autos and new technologies. On the other hand my wife is an avid researcher and buyer of most anything as long as it is of high quality. We represent different and distinct consumer segments and clearly our behavior is influenced differently. Yet neither of us responds to surveys, telemarketing, email solicitation or spend little or no time on social media sites. Consequently, little meaningful data is ever collected on what influences our purchases or searches. Even more disturbing, little consideration is given as to why we have not opted-in.

Are we, as well as other important consumer segments inadvertently left out of important response data or analytics? Even more importantly, will our collective absences provide a basis for a new strategic marketing direction or product redevelopment? In some instances, it will depend upon who spins the data and how it is spun.

Dr. Aubrey Daniels, a world renowned behaviorists and personal friend of mine have discussed this very issue at length. We agreed that some of the most critical information needed to predict behavior, reinforcing behavior and building customer loyalty is held by the people who do not respond.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the first step in data analytics is to discard records of those who did not respond and focus on those who did respond.  Why? Simple – it’s easier. Most marketers and communicators don’t understand what influences behavior nor do they understand how to influence the non-responders into becoming responders.  They are not behaviorists nor are they qualified to evaluate marketing data in this context.

As professional marketers and communicators, I believe we not only have a responsibility to generate high performance marketing campaigns, but we also have a responsibility to understand what influences one’s behavior and compels them to respond or not respond.  If we don’t, it will be extremely difficult for us to sustain the amazing Response Rates and Conversion Rates.

I’ve known Dr. Daniels for quite some time and can assure you that the science of behavior is complex and requires a good bit of formal education and experience before it can be effectively applied.  It is however, a critical aspect of effective data analytics and cannot be overlooked. Know what you don’t know and team up with a behaviorist to optimize long term marketing results for your customers.