Snap Pack Facts: An interview with Ted Grigg

Whether you call then snap “packs” or snap “paks” or snap “pacs,” this little direct mail format has worked wonders for businesses of all kinds.

aarp snap packThe photo shows a fairly typical snap pack: outer envelope that opens with one or more perforated strips, inserts, and order form. It’s really just a direct mail package that looks official.

While writing a column on this snap pack for DM News recently, I chatted with Ted Grigg about the snap pack format and thought it was so interesting that I decided to do a formal interview and share his know-how with you.

By way of introduction, Ted is the owner of DMCG, LLC, a direct marketing consultancy based in Dallas, Texas. Ted is what you might call a one-man “think tank” for direct marketing. If you’re not reading his blog, start. You’ll learn something with every post.

Ted is one of the smartest guys in direct marketing and was there when the snap pack burst onto the scene.

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Inside the mind of DM guru Steve Slaunwhite

Steve Slaunwhite is an award-winning author, speaker and recognized expert in the best practices of high-response copywriting. More than 100 Fortune 500 companies, mid-size businesses, and publishers have relied on his copywriting expertise for direct mail letters, email letters, ads, web pages and other marketing communications.

Steve has written several top-notch books, including Start & Run a Copywriting Business, 101 Writing Tips for Successful Email Marketing, and The EVERYTHING Guide to Writing Copy.

I’m pleased to have a chance to share a few of his thoughts with you.

Dean: What is the most common mistake you see direct marketers make?

Steve: Not studying the list or target market BEFORE creating the campaign. The list contains the people you’re trying to persuade. To have any hope of selling them, you need to know what makes them tick. Example: Instead of running the same ad in multiple publications, study the reader profiles of each publication and customize accordingly.

Dean: What does the future hold for direct mail and print advertising? Some say direct mail and print will disappear.

Steve: The old-fashioned print sales letter still works very well. Print advertising is not going to disappear because people still read print publications. However, there’s no disputing the fact that online advertising is growing by leaps and bounds. Wherever there are READERS, there will be advertising.

Dean: I’m glad you said that. Reading is a huge part of direct response advertising. A lot of readers are turning to the Internet now. What effect do you think the Internet will have on direct marketing?

Steve: I think the Internet is an expansion of direct marketing, not a replacement. Many of the same direct-response principles apply, whether connecting to a prospect’s desktop, laptop or mobile.

Dean: What is the most innovative thing you see happening or on the horizon in the direct marketing industry? Read more

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A chat with cranky commentator Roberta Rosenberg, The Copywriting Maven

Roberta Rosenberg is a direct marketing copywriter and president of MGP Direct, Inc. She also runs The Copywriting Maven, one of the most popular copywriting blogs in the world. It’s a regular stop for me and I always learn something.

Besides being an experienced writer and a busy entrepreneur, Roberta is one of those rare people who really wants to help others succeed. I’m a huge fan and am pleased that she took time out of her schedule to share her considerable know-how. And so far, she’s the only copywriter to answer ALL my questions. That’s just how cool she is.

Dean: What is the most common mistake you see direct marketers make?

Roberta: They spend too much time in short-term thinking land and not enough time really thinking about relationship building and strengthening with prospects and customers.

Dean: What does the future hold for direct mail and print advertising? Some say direct mail and print will disappear.

Roberta: I don’t think any old media ever disappears but when new technology does something better — for example, digital delivery is faster, cheaper and decidedly more “green” — then we have to reexamine what older media does well and rethink how we use it in the mix. For example, DM may take longer to produce but its delivery rate is nearly 100%. Overzealous e-mail filters at the ISP, browser and deeper levels keep not only spam but legitimate mail from reaching its target.

Dean: What effect do you think the Internet will have on direct marketing over the next few decades? I’m thinking about the Web, e-mail, intelligent devices, wireless, everything.

Roberta: I think we’ll get messages sent directly into our brains 24/7. Seriously, though, I see fewer appliances, perhaps even one, that does everything. The days of juggling half a dozen or so of devices cannot last.

Dean: Hmm. Does that mean we’ll send messages direct from our brains? Yikes! I hope someone develops filtering for that! Okay. What is the most innovative thing you see happening or on the horizon in the direct marketing industry? Read more

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Bob Bly’s secrets of marketing online and offline

Is there a copywriter anywhere who doesn’t know about Bob Bly? I doubt it.

Bob is the copywriter’s copywriter because he’s published so many books that have helped freelance copywriters get started and improve their business, such as Secrets of a Freelance Writer, The Copywriter’s Handbook, and Selling Your Services.

I’m pleased to have a chance to talk to Bob and share his thoughts with you.

Dean: What is the most common mistake you see direct marketers make?

Bob: Not understanding that in direct marketing, the money is made on the back end, not the front end.

Dean: What does the future hold for direct mail and print advertising?

Bob: I do not think print will disappear, but right now, all the focus and excitement is about online marketing. I am not a futurist so I don’t make predictions, but many feel that online marketing is fundamentally changing the way marketing is done … specifically, giving the customer a greater voice and moving away from advertiser-generated copy and content.

Dean: What effect do you think the Internet will have on direct marketing over the next few decades?

Bob: The Web is moving marketing from an advertiser-to-prospect model, where the advertiser sends promotions out to prospects, to a customer-centric model, where customers instead of marketers do a lot of the selling. Examples include viral videos where prospects pass your video on to other prospects, and Web 2.0 sites (e.g., Amazon.com) where customer-generated content (reviews) is more influential than marketer-generated content.

Dean: What is the most innovative thing you see happening or on the horizon in the direct marketing industry?

Bob: The big things are online video, viral marketing, and social networking. For a few thousand bucks, you can shoot a video, post it on YouTube, and get millions to watch it without paying to run commercials. Direct mail is just print, but with streaming video, Web sites can have it all: copy, photos, sound, and movies. Read more

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Copywriter Ivan Levison talks about direct mail

Ivan Levison is a professional freelance copywriter who builds profits for high tech companies. He’s spent over twenty-five years writing direct mail, e-mail, and ads for industry leaders like Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as a bunch of great little companies too.

I’ve been a fan of Ivan for a long time and I’m thrilled to have a chance to pick his mind on a variety of direct marketing and direct mail topics.

Dean: Let’s start with an easy question. What’s the most common mistake you see direct marketers make?

Ivan: On the whole, I think dms do a pretty good job. That’s because they watch the numbers and learn. But perhaps they miss the little things. How to handle the business reply card. How to optimize the envelope, etc.

Dean: What does the future hold for direct mail and print advertising? Some say direct mail and print will disappear. Others say they will simply become more targeted. Still others say they will grow and become more important than ever. What is your opinion?

Ivan: As mailing decreases, the medium will become even more valuable because there will be fewer pieces crowding the mail box. I think direct mail will always have a place.

Dean: I agree. Direct mail is simply too effective to disappear. Now let’s turn to the Internet. What effect do you think the Internet will have on direct marketing over the next few decades? I’m thinking not just about the Web, but the whole Internet, including e-mail, intelligent devices, wireless, everything.

Ivan: I think the changes ahead will be enormous but it’s hard to pin down … things are changing so fast. Ten years ago, who would have predicted where we are today?!

Dean: True. I remember when I was in college a million years ago and thought about majoring in computers. But I couldn’t figure out what people would use them for. I guess that’s why I’m not Bill Gates. But if you could put on your wizard hat for a minute, what is the most innovative thing you see happening or on the horizon in the direct marketing industry?

Ivan: I think the new frontier is analytics; exploiting the data. The big mailers are already into this but I think insights garnered by analytics will work their way down the food chain.

Dean: Is branding important in direct marketing?

Ivan: The short answer is YES but it’s not as important as in the packaged goods arena. Branding in dm is most important to catalog mailers like Harry and David and LL Bean. Brand look and continuity are very important for them.

Dean: You’re a big time direct mail guy. So let’s talk shop for a while. Is there one thing you ALWAYS do when you create a direct mail piece?

Ivan: Yup. Try to identify the prospect’s pain and make sure that my piece promises a cure.

Dean: That’s short and sweet. You can’t go wrong with a problem / solution approach. Is there anything you NEVER do?

Ivan: I personally stay away from humor or getting “cute.” I’m more an old fashioned, straight ahead dm copywriter.

Dean: Well, I don’t think that makes you old fashioned. I think that just makes you pragmatic. I prefer a simple, straightforward approach too. I’m curious, in all your direct mail experience, what’s the strangest thing you ever saw that actually worked? For example, I had a client show me an order form that was broken up into four separate inserts, each a different color with random products on each piece. It looked crazy to me, but it worked.

Ivan: Perhaps this is not strange, but it struck me. A client wanted to do a “we pay the postage and handling” test. I thought they would be leaving money on the table but they were right. The offer was a fabulous success.

Dean: More proof that you never know until you test. In your opinion, what is the single most important element of a direct mail piece?

Ivan: The letter. That’s where you do the emotional, motivating selling … but of course, everything is important in a dm package.

Dean: What’s your preference: plain envelope or envelope with teaser copy?

Ivan: That’s one of those “it all depends” situations. This is well worth testing!

Dean: Have you ever created a direct mail package without a letter? Did it work?

Ivan: No. I’ve done self mailers, of course, but in a dm package with an envelope I’d never put down my most potent weapon.

Dean: I had to ask. I’ve never seen a package work without a letter. How about dimensional mail? Is worth the extra cost?

Ivan: For sure. Dimensionals get opened but they’re expensive. Again, it all depends.

Dean: Do you have a certain approach for creating direct mail?

Ivan: Again, I always start with understanding the target audience, the list, and the prospect’s pain points.

Dean: Most people know that you can improve response to a lead effort if you offer something free. Apart from that, what can sales organizations do to improve their lead generation efforts today?

Ivan: Keep mailing until the mailings don’t pay for themselves. Don’t give up after only one drop

Dean: How about lead quality? Many organizations have trouble getting good quality leads. Where are most companies going wrong and what can they do to fix the problem?

Ivan: They might consider spending more on a dimensional package and providing something tangible in the first mailing. I’ve had clients mail a book to prospects with very good results.

Dean: Excellent advice. Now let’s talk about copywriting and design in general. Do you write elements of your copy in a particular order?

Ivan: I start with the outer envelope, then move to the letter, then the other elements.

Dean: That’s interesting. I often do the same. I like the envelope and letter to work together as if the envelope is a “headline” for the letter. Also, I’ve found that it helps to set copy aside for a few days and look at it fresh to see areas where I can improve and strengthen. Do you do that? Do you have any tricks for staying objective and fresh while working on a project?

Ivan: I write the complete first draft and then put it away. I revisit it with fresh eyes the next day. VERY helpful!

Dean: If you could give just one piece of advice for better copy, what would you say?

Ivan: Sorry to go on about understanding the prospect, but that’s the place to work hard. If you can identify with the prospect, show that you understand their problem and then provide proof that you can help them, you’re on your way to success!

Dean: Don’t apologize. You’ve nailed it. It’s all about the prospect. Now about design, how important is it?

Ivan: VERY important! Most designers don’t have a clue. They just want things to look pretty. Working with a good designer, a dm designer, can make all the difference!

Dean: Is there a certain medium in which you especially like to work?

Ivan: I like the fun of writing letters. You can really do some persuasive writing in a letter. It’s the big canvas that’s fun to paint on.

Dean: Thanks, Ivan. I think you’ve shown why you’re a top gun.

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