USPS offers direct mail “summer sale”

USPS Summer SaleIt’s no secret that the economy has depressed mail volume and that the USPS is suffering. But here’s a bit of surprising news:

The postal service is offering a “sale” this summer. Dead Tree Edition provides the details:

To counteract its declining revenues, the U.S. Postal Service is rolling out incentives to certain organizations that increase the number of items they mail.

Postal officials are reportedly working on a “Summer Sale” program to encourage businesses and non-profit groups to send more direct mail, catalogs, and other Standard-class mail this summer. Sources say it would offer rebates of 20% to 30% for mailers that increase their Standard mail during July, August, and September of this year.

The Postal Service will reportedly file the Summer Sale proposal with the Postal Regulatory Commission this month. The PRC would then have up to 45 days to rule on the proposal.

The program reportedly grew out of discussions between Postmaster General Jack Potter and CEOs of printing and paper companies about how to increase USPS’s volumes during the off-peak summer months. It would apparently be more politically acceptable than Potter’s other idea for countering low summer volumes — temporarily reducing deliveries to five days a week.

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Direct marketing extra credit reading list

I’ve been busy recently writing articles for everything other than this blog. So here’s a short reading list for a little direct marketing extra credit.

First, Melissa Data recently published The Ultimate Marketing Survival Guide for 2009. I wrote the lead article, “Direct mail remains the king of direct marketing.” Just in case you thought direct mail was dead or that tweeting is better than mailing, this article will disabuse you of that faulty assumption.

Next, there’s a fun little article over at Copyblogger titled The 3 Secret Persuasion Techniques Every Kid Knows. You parents will relate to this one. I don’t have children, but I know they’re often tuned into persuasion better than many adults.

Feeling a little burned out? Mary Jaksch asked me to submit some tips for Write to Done in a post titled 7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Powers. If you’re a professional writer, you can’t just wait for the muse to drop by. You need a few techniques for flipping the switch on creativity when you need it.

Finally, there’s one of my regular columns for DM News, one of the most recent is Problem Solver: Is it smart for an online business to use direct mail? I discuss how you can’t let a particular medium dictate your marketing strategy and ways to use direct mail to build your online business.

This should keep you busy for a while.

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How to use “official” envelopes for direct mail

There are two basic envelope strategies for direct mail packages: the teaser envelope and the mystery envelope.

The teaser envelope is just what it sounds like. It’s a direct mail envelope covered with teaser copy about the envelope contents. This makes it clear that the contents are advertising something. Often there are photos or illustrations, copy details, even a statement of the offer.

The mystery envelope by contrast, generally gives you no clue about the envelope contents. Sometimes the envelope shows nothing more than the return address and postage or looks like a personal communication. The idea here is for the mailing to not look like advertising.

“Official” envelopes are a subset of the mystery envelope. They don’t tell you exactly what’s inside, but they raise the curiosity level by making it appear as if the contents are important and urgent.

Here’s an example I received recently:

official direct mail envelope

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Semantic noise: the copywriter’s curse

“Semantic noise” is the term communication professors use to describe what happens when words mean different things to different people.

Here’s one notorious example. A copywriter wrote the following slogan for a cough syrup company:

“Try our cough syrup. You will never get any better.”

You can see what the poor copywriter meant to say, but his slogan can be understood in two ways. It creates major semantic noise and you are left wondering why anyone would buy a product that promises to NOT work.

Here are other examples of semantic noise caused by writers from around the world.

Sign in Norwegian cocktail lounge: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”

Detour sign in Japan: “Stop. Drive Sideways.”

Hotel in Vienna: “In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.”

Elevator in Germany: “Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.”

Dry cleaner window in Bangkok: “Drop your pants here for best results.”

And my favorite from a Japanese hotel: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.”

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Huh? Is your e-mail advertising confusing?

E-mail advertising has always been a simple and economical way to advertise. And now that economies all over the world are in the tank, there’s more incentive than ever to use e-mail to sell products and services.

But simple and cheap doesn’t always translate into “successful.” Sometimes I receive an e-mail that makes me say, “Huh?”confusing email

This recently happened when I received the e-mail ad pictured to the right.

First, I can’t read the copy. Maybe that makes me unsophisticated, but sorry, I don’t speak or read French.

Second, what exactly does “Air Email” mean? It appears to be the name of the company but, huh? Is this supposed to be like Air Mail? That used to mean mail transported by plane, signifying that it was delivered fast. Today Air Mail is a trademark of the United States Postal Service and refers to international mail.

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What AC/DC can teach you about advertising

They’ve been recording and touring for 35 years. And in all that time they’ve remained an icon of anti-innovation. AC/DC began their career playing three-chord rock songs and they’re still playing three-chord rock songs. Almost nothing has changed.

Has it hurt them? Well, when the band recently released its new album, Black Ice, it went straight to the top of the Billboard charts, selling 784,000 copies in the first week. So I’d say no. Their lack of innovation seems to be working quite nicely, thank you.

We live in a time of endless, often mindless, change. DVDs killed VHS, and now your DVDs face their own mortality. You thought you’d caught up when you got that tiny little cell phone, now big Blackberries with keyboards are the rage. The GPS is cool, but the maps were out of date the moment you got into your car.

Everywhere you turn, something is changing and that out-of-breath feeling you used to get now and then is with you every day. And all you want is to find something that’s stable and familiar.

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See how people sort your direct mail

I’ve pointed out previously that while you might spend days, even weeks, crafting a direct mail message, recipients will spend just seconds deciding whether it’s worth their attention.

Here’s a video from Pitney Bowes illustrating this simple idea.

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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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Postcard, postcard, everywhere a postcard

I don’t have any statistics on this, but judging by my own mail, it seems postcard usage is at an all-time high.

In today’s mail I received five postcards. Actually, it was 3 postcards and 2 postcard-sized self-mailers, but let’s not split hairs. The point is that many more businesses are turning to cheap mail formats.

Great Indoors postcard

Here’s one from the Great Indoors, a home decorating store. Others I received include a card from a health center reminding my wife to get a checkup, another from the same health center offering a health seminar, an offer from a carpet cleaning service, and an upgrade offer for a business contact program.

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How to design an ad no one will read

Direct response design is all about getting people to READ the text. If no one reads the words, why bother running the ad?

While flipping through some magazines recently, I came across this ad for a laser sighting device. I know what the ad is about because of the photo, but certainly not because of the text. This ad ignores virtually every convention for designing readable copy.

Gun Ad

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