Postcard Marketing vs Email Marketing:
Content is King
Amid the ongoing debate about whether direct mail (postcards) or e-mail is the best method to market
to customers and prospects, very little is being said about the one thing that is crucial to the success of both – the message. Unless the message is relevant to the audience and persuasively presented, it doesn’t matter how it is delivered. So while the discussion about direct mail versus e-mail continues, focus on developing good content and honing your writing skills.
Why market with mail?
The objective of both direct and e-mail marketing is to persuade a customer or prospect to take action, either now or later. When a seller consistently and regularly sends a communication such as a mailed post card or a newsletter (either mailed or web-based), a buyer is more likely at a future time to take the action desired by the seller. In other words, direct or e-mail marketing is less about an immediate sale than about positioning the business or organization to be top-of-mind when the potential buyer is ready to make a purchase.
This is important in business-to-business selling where the sell cycle is often long (especially when compared to business-to-consumer), and it is hard to stimulate demand. Direct mail is also important during an economic downturn when either budgetary constraints or the unwillingness of the purchaser to spend money creates a long sell cycle for both businesses and consumers.
Good content gives potential buyers what they want
Direct mail marketers and advertisers work hard to determine what type of content motivates buyers. Research consistently uncovers four characteristics of content that score highest in buyer interest.
The best content is
These four characteristics are particularly important for opt-in e-mail subscriptions. If a reader signs up for your e-newsletter, the motivation wasn’t to do you a favor – it was because the content of the newsletter had perceived value.
useful or entertaining
relevant to the buyer’s interests
unique to the seller, either in content or presentation
For most businesses and organizations, the purpose of communicating with potential buyers is to generate new business, encourage repeat business, and promote customer loyalty. Accomplishing these goals can be done with content that
• describes a new product or service
• explains a new way to use an existing product or service
• provides a case study describing a problem and how a product or service provided the solution
• gives testimonials from satisfied customers
Regardless of the specific content, there is one important question that all sales-related communication must answer. The question is from the perspective of the potential buyer, and is:
What’s in it for me?
The benefit to the buyer must be apparent in whatever you are presenting, so be explicit. Use introductory phrases like what this means for you is or this translates to or the results were, then provide objective evidence to support your benefit statement.
Is your content worth reading?
If you are in the early stages of implementing a newsletter or other periodic communication with your customers or prospects, you may find yourself focusing on developing the mail list, gathering information about your company and deciding on a layout. We agree that these are important; we also suggest that you also focus on developing content.
To do this, put yourself in the mind of your target audience. Develop a list of general topics to include on a regular basis, and think about where you can go to get good content. Are there credible sources within your company or organization who could be regular contributors? Can you subscribe to industry magazines as a source of research and statistics?
Here is a list of ideas for regular features of your newsletter:
• A column written by an industry expert (perhaps a key individual in your organization).
• Q&A column covering frequently-asked questions (FAQs) or questions submitted by readers.
• Tips and tricks on how to use a product or service, generated either by your staff or by readers.
• Focus on the industry – a synopsis of industry developments, trends, statistics, news and upcoming events.
• “Top” lists – top ten companies, top six reasons, etc.
No matter what topics you decide to use as content, be sure you engage the reader by making the content interesting and relevant. The more information you provide, especially information that readers perceive as being educational, the more interesting the content will become and the less overt your sales message will be.
Emphasize good writing
Interesting, relevant and timely content will have even more impact if well written. Good writing begins with the most important message, is organized logically, and is written in language that is easy to understand. In general, this means avoiding complicated sentence structure and keeping jargon to a minimum.
You’ll also need to be a perfectionist when it comes to spelling, and to follow generally-accepted rules for grammar and punctuation. If there are several contributing writers in your company, consider developing a style guide that provides everyone with the same set of rules for grammar and punctuation. You also might want to appoint an editor who is responsible for proofreading and editing articles to be sure have consistent style.
Your aim as a writer is to be sure that the use of language serves as a structural basis for your message, but is otherwise invisible. Readers are fickle and easily distracted; spelling mistakes, inconsistent punctuation and capitalization, overly complicated sentence structure and similar writing flaws will mean that the audience pays more attention to how you write rather than what you write. It’s like noticing the mechanics of how something was constructed rather than enjoying the finished product.
Use design to stand apart
Once you have developed sources of good content and a communication style sheet, you are ready to make your direct mail or e-mail marketing piece stand apart from the competition by using innovative design. By consistently using standard design elements like a color palette, an underlying grid structure and eye-catching graphics, you can create a unique look that will be easily recognized by your customers and prospects. In addition, good design will guide the reader through the content and increase comprehension.
Do remember that designing for print and designing for the web are different. Not only is the color space different (RGB versus CMYK), but fonts behave differently on a computer screen and photo resolution requirements are different.
Tap into our expertise
We believe in the effectiveness of direct mail as a part of any marketing plan
We see e-mail marketing as a logical extension of direct mail marketing, and offer you our expertise to design, print, publish and distribute your marketing communication pieces.
Call Terry Doland at (408) 400-0223 for an appointment and we’ll show you how easy it direct mail and e-mail marketing can be.