Direct Mail

The Problem with Direct Mail

Many moons ago I worked on direct mail pieces. It’s an arcane practice requiring many of the things you hear about at Halloween – eye of newt and the like, and it is far more difficult than it would seem. Sadly, during the primaries here in Massachusetts I had some examples of the challenge. Guy is a fellow UMass grad and I received two portfolio pieces from him (8 1/2 x 17 so it folds into a 4 page brochure). Here’s the first one: Bonus points to you if you can catch the problem here. Look for a second to see if you get it. I ran this by a number of marketing people and few caught the error.

Reign has a homophone – rein (homophones sound alike but have different meaning whether they are spelled the same or not, in this case not). To make things even more confusing I thought this was a homonym, but while fact checking found than homonyms are also spelled the same (e.g. bear – the animal, vs. bear – to carry). After even further review I found that some use homophone and homonym interchangeably, perhaps because I am one of the 4 people left on earth that care.

But alas, if you do know the difference, it’s a huge one: Rein, the word that should have been used, comes from leading a horse and means to control – in this case stop the waste – a great message. Reign refers to the rule of a leader, most commonly referring to a monarch’s rule – so instead of eliminating wasteful spending this says he will be KingĀ  Wasteful the Great. Again, I ran this by a number of marketing professionals and they didn’t catch it – the point is: copy writing is challenging stuff and good editors are rare diamonds.

Here’s the second one:

This is the one that broke my heart completely. A cynic would say “Yes, that’s what I expect the auditor to do, that’s their job.”, but I love this ad. They look bad ass. Joe Schlump sleeping at his desk in some no show job at the State House would get run out of town by these guys. The other 3 pages were strong too, comparing him to his opponent, and doing a great job of it.

The problem here is that trying hit targets in the postal system is Jedi Master Level only. There are SCFs (Sectional Center Facilities) and a bunch of other crap I don’t even remember anymore that the mail moves through that affect delivery. Plus, every postmaster has to put all the rules and regulations in practice just like a Chief of Police – so every town is different. The postal system got the best of this one – when it arrived in my mailbox I had voted on election day, the day before.

Direct Mail Email Marketing Lead Generation Productivity Buster

Poisioned by Your Own Dogfood

I don’t know if any other industries use this phrase, but it’s very common in software to talk about “Eating Your Own Dogfood” – in other words: Using the products that you make. You’d think this is basic “support the home team” kind of thing, but it doesn’t always happen, and when the word gets out it is usually a big PR problem.

Now you can get the punchline when I tell you that we use the software development tool that we sell at work, and the server name is Alpo.

This does lead to an interesting situation I’ve only seen twice, and the second time was last week. I get forwarded emails on a regular basis from companies that sell leads and other information, and occasionally from firm that append data.

A data appending service will take your existing lists, and then try and fill in the blanks. This can be very helpful if you have a list of emails and are looking for mailing addresses, or vice versa. There are different methods to do this, ranging from fully automated (we know that HugeCorp uses first initial last name @ for email, so just do that – and come on people! You can do that with excel yourself, for the love of god!), to completely manual – a team of callers updates and refreshes info.

Be careful of these services to confirm that they don’t use your data to clean up everyone else’s…

So my co-worker David (name changed to protect everyone involved), forwarded me a message from a data appending service.

The email starts “Dear Deborah,”