Adding a Little Coney Island Make Your Marketing Memorable By Harvey Hirsch March 14, 2007 -- My father used to take us to Steeplechase Park in Coney Island in the '50s. Most Sundays, my brother and I went with him to Nathan's, Astro-land and as many rides and other attractions we could handle. As a carpet salesman, my father was always working, meeting people, setting appointments, selling a Berber to a barber. He always said to me "Sales is just setting up a win-win opportunity" and that made sense. In fact, I've followed this line of thinking for most of my adult life. The urge to increase market share has been with us since before our ancestors used bared teeth and snarls to frighten other primates. The evolution of technology to support new business development initiatives, from door-to-door salespeople to multi-touch personalized communications with PURL necklaces, has transformed the world of marketing from a low response numbers game to a predictable, scalable, sustainable and cost-effective process. Let's agree first that the true business of any business is to stay alive and prosper. Whatever the entity, whether for profit or not, it eats money. Therefore, whether it begs for its meals or hunts them up through guile and chutzpah, its primary goal is survival. Do we agree? If so, the urge to increase market share has been with us since before our ancestors used bared teeth and snarls to frighten other primates. The urge was there in Babylonia in the Fertile Crescent and Boston, when the tea went in the harbor. And now, skilled marketers have technology so powerful, they can generate a sales call with a click, for a fraction of what they paid a year ago. During my studies of typical lead-generating processes that most businesses use, I became involved in the development of a product line for use with variable data and incorporating a 3-D process all designed to change response rates in direct mail marketing. After all, direct mail is only effective if it is opened, so the first objective is to get people to open the mail piece. Combining a 3-D mailipiece with today's personalization technology seemed like a sure way to increase the hit rate dramatically. So as I developed the products, I tested them. And using 3D-VDP I was able to generate a whopping 80 percent response on only 20 units. Yes, I feel your skepticism, but none the less, it's documented, and more than once. This will forever change the way some companies use direct marketing. Begin the bonding Growing up on Coney Island, I learned early on that if you want to get people on your ride, you must sell them on the fun aspect by looking them directly in the eyes and making them feel special. You form a bit of a bond. So as a direct mailer, I've always tried to put my prospect, and my customers' prospects, on the ride of their life, by embedding static sales pitches into some type of interactive 3-dimensional mailers. Why? Because dimensional mail out-pulls flat mail responses by over 40 percent! And that was when offset-only printing offered static, one-size-fits-all pitches, unless you could change the black plate, and even that was expensive. The major drawback was that no matter how elegant the piece, the mailing label that we had to affix to the mailer, defanged the power by literally saying "you're just one of many." Dimensional mail stands out and generates more curiosity to the receiver, compelling them to open up the package. In 2000, I attended the On-Demand Show at the Javits Center in NY and was exposed to the potential benefits of on-demand, variable technology. I sat through demonstrations by Xerox, Kodak, HP and other digital equipment and software vendors and realized that my survival and my clients' success depended on my ability to understand, utilize and master this powerful new technology and how it applies to developing new business. I left the show with my head spinning and began incorporating as much of this new-fangled stuff into my next few campaigns. I saw that you can get more prospects on "the ride" when they feel that "the ride" was built just for them. And when you can develop a one-to-one dialog with your prospect from the first touch throughout the life of your relationship and automate it, that's power! On-demand, variable data, automatic copy versioning, with PURLS, when used in a well planned and dynamic campaign enables the user to begin the bonding, branding, tickling and relationship building process, better, faster, and more cost-efficiently than any other technique in the past 30 years. It starts with some physiology. Studies confirm that for information to be assimilated by the human brain it must go to the frontal cortex after the initial (and primitive) fight or flight response. We seek familiar images, then friendly images. And what's friendlier than one's own name? Explaining the concept to clients was easy. Showing them real examples was harder. Nobody shared their results. It was an act of faith that clients gave me permission to do my thing with their budgets, which is to send out fewer pieces at any one time, but send things that are far more likely to evoke a response. To date, nobody has been disappointed. For example, in 2006 one of our 3D-VDP direct marketing products generated a 50 percent response rate from a mailing of just 200 units. It was proof that the more information you have to apply to the pitch, the greater the response can be and the more your prospect will be drawn to your message, remember it, and eventually act on it. Short of science fiction writer Philip K Dick's vision of eye-scanning shoppers to pull up their buying history and pitching them subliminally, today's off-the-shelf technology (probably the forerunner to Dick's vision), in the hands of a skilled marketer is real deadly. A well planned and dynamic campaign enables the user to begin the bonding, branding, tickling and relationship building process, better, faster, and more cost-efficiently than any other technique in the past 30 years. There are some speed bumps Anyone who has tried doing highly targeted direct mail knows that data is the most critical element. And that poses a problem. 1. Most clients have not collected the right data (or any data) on their customers, and if they have it, they are reluctant to share it. 2. Companies that have successfully produced programs using all of the new bells and whistles are not sharing their results for fear that their competition will learn how to catch up to them. 3. A majority of creative content providers (writers and designers at the agencies) are totally without any understanding of how to write and design for variable, versioned pitches, let alone web-print-to-web programs. 4. Perhaps the biggest speed bump is the current commoditization in the products offered by a majority of print providers and how it affects content providers, like creative firms. I heard this first-hand last year while speaking at the PIA/GATF's Variable Data Conference in Phoenix where about 60 printers voiced their concerns that even personalized material is becoming commoditized and the printer with the lowest price is out to poach their clients. Essentially, traditional products offered by printers have been limited to postcards, self-mailers, letters or brochures in envelopes. And just because you merge data to embed a name or inkjet it onto the product, the same product mix is being offered by many of your competitors. You have to offer creative providers more options than "great quality, on-time delivery, best pricing and personal service." So what's the big secret? Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you.