Stop Selling Rectangles

By | May 14, 2010

Companies are constantly besieged by marketing and especially printing services providers offering to create programs that can generate new customers for their company. Yet, when asked to present any programs that work in lead development for their company, many fail to return for the close.

The opportunity to acquire new clients in this highly competitive, constantly changing new business landscape requires a newer game plan when it comes to multi-channel 1:1 lead generators.

It takes more than just technology to generate and convert leads today!

As a marketing services provider with over 30 years’ experience, I’ve worked in virtually all segments of industry and I depend on my printers to keep me up to date on technology so I can push the envelope for my clients. Client’s today demand accountability for every dollar and generating and converting sales leads is costing them more than ever! If you can offer them something that works, they will take a shot.

Creating an effective multi-media solution that works consistently to lower lead acquisition and conversion is essentially what every business is looking for today and if you can deliver that, you will own your marketing area.

One of the best ways that print providers can tap into this lucrative channel is by rethinking their product mix.

For print to maintain its viability as one of the key essentials in a multi-channel program it must evolve from its current form to a more dynamic experience. If, in nano-seconds, the receiver of your message isn’t emotionally involved in your message, you have failed. And one of the major reasons this happens is because of the rectangle!

I blame the rectangle because it became the base from which we all make our living.

Here’s why! We all have to mail something to someone and therefore the USPS usually dictates what that would be. That’s primarily why there are postcards, envelopes, boxes and bags. So we can stuff them with material we would like to receiver to act on.

Sadly, 99.9% of all direct mail fails to achieve reaction. Is that because there are essentially 4 types of direct mail, all rectangles? I believe so. Aside from now being able to version a mailing program with variable data, essentially we are limited to rectangles. And that impedes our ability to “think out of the rectangle!”

The USPS, while a truly wonderful experiment, will continue to be impacted greatly by digital communications technologies like e-mail and steaming media. Like the music and publishing industries, printers must take the initiative in providing multi-channel strategies if they want to survive. One successful tactic is to provide products that differentiate your services from every other competitor.

When I set out to develop the next generation of direct mail products, I wanted something so dynamic that results could be predictable and still affordable. The product also had to be flexible enough to be used in multi-channel or a stand-alone programs. What I discovered will change the way you think about print communications forever.

Because one picture is worth a thousand words, I will share with you some samples of a technology that I hope will open a gateway for your future.

First off, you must understand how we, as humans assimilate data. As you are screening your daily mail, for instance, the primitive part of your brain is at work separating the non-interesting things from the interesting ones. This is done autonomically. Anything that escapes this triage gets to the frontal cortex where it must fight for constant interest in order for the brain to maintain interest. If, in a nano-second you don’t make this cut, you have failed. This is primarily why there is such a low response rate for marketing messages today.

Personalization adds a small amount of familiarity to the message which pushes it to the frontal cortex because we all like to see our name. But, because of the overuse of this feature, most people quickly discard the message because it lacks uniqueness. This is the biggest problem today. Most messages come embedded in a rectangle and that impacts negatively the uniqueness factor.

In order to avoid this mediocrity, savvy creative marketing providers are employing die-cutting to shape their message holders. By altering the shape of the mailer, you can give it the ability to stand out of all of the messages a person receives on a daily basis. In fact, if you can tailor your pitch around the shape, the inter-textualization of shape and copy will push the message into the frontal cortex of the receiver and keep embed it there for assimilation. See video

By adding personalization and if possible, versioning the pitch to include gender specific or industry specific key words, you have created a triple-threat print product that will penetrate natural reader resistance so powerfully, the person receiving it will likely never forget it.

Photo A – The Fish Shaped Postcard

Above is a fish-shaped postcard that I have used many times to amortize the die. My best results have occurred when employing it in a drip campaign where I send out several different colored, personalized fish.

Drip campaign using fish shaped postcards.

Imagine receiving a different colored fish with a different personalized message every day for a week. Imagine the fun you can have with the copy.

Photo B – The Postcard with bites taken out of it

Caption B – Here is another popular shaped postcard. To promote a Jewish Comedian, I scanned in a matzoh and placed it in the background of the card. When mailed, it actually looks like a matzoh with big bites taken out.

Photo C – the Hot Postcard

Caption C – The shape and holes are die-cut out of the paper and singed color with flames are added to accentuate the shape. Ideal for Hot Press releases, sales, and as part of a shaped mailing program.

Photo D – Piggy Bank Postcard

Caption D – This piggy bank shape allows for anything related to banks or savings giving writers a wide range of copy opportunities to build off of the shape.

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7 thoughts on “Stop Selling Rectangles

  1. alan siflinger

    Remember to review final shape with the post office so an accurate mailing budget can be prepared for your client. The post office charges a premium for mail that it can not handle efficiently. Squares and die-cut shapes fall in that category. Bottom line it sometimes cost more to standout.

  2. Cary Wheeler

    Great ideas Harvey – so to understand the production part of these die-cut post cards – they must be die-cut after the message is imprinted. For me that would require first imprinting on my digital press then being die-cut on a letterpress where there’s a possibility of some being ruined in the process meaning to go back to the imprinting – then back to die cutting – or is there another simpler way?
    Second – I assume the USPS does not have a problem processing these for you (I’m in Canada) but at Fist Class Rates or is there an up-charge?

  3. Paul Edwards

    How much other effort is required to mail these irregular shapes? While the shapes are unique, do you insert them into a clear rectangular envelope to avoid USPS regulations regading dimensional mail?

  4. Michael Burgard

    There are hurdles to this – both in production and in cost to the customer. However, it has great potential. Is there any cost/response data? I would think not much out there. I do have a DVD that USPS distributed about 6 months ago that one of the campaigns was a biscuit shaped mailer. Had great response. Does anyone know of any response rate info? I will check with PODi. I am putting this into our queue for consideration. Production will love it – not. But if we think of ourselves as CD duplicators and manufacturers than we will end up where they will end up – in the dust bin of history. CDs are just a method of conveying the message (music as it is ). We have to be more than the medium because McLuhan is not longer right – “The message is the message”.

  5. Harvey

    Cary and Paul, when I developed this process, first I die-cut the patterns, essentially making templates. This enable me to run short (50 unit) test runs where I could test my copy pitch and refine it if need be. This also proved efficient enough to replace any misprints. Once you break the individual shaped postcard out and finish it, it must go into a USPS approved clear plastic,non-static producing sleeve. The post office charges me a premium for the shape and first class for the postcard which totals .64 each. I was charging $5 for a finished card with a stamp on it so there was a good profit built in. The clients, however were getting upwards of 40% response which justified any cost. This I feel is the future. Short, targeted, 1:1 print that gets attention (finally), and begins the appointment setting process. With current response rates dismally low, the high response that these shaped cards provided demonstrated to me and my clients that a-print can be the single most cost-effective way to approach a prospect and b- as part of a multi-channel program, a way to track responses by database, offer or any other variable. The key, again, is to make the copy work with the shape. If you would like to see more of what I was able to do, go to youtube and type in 1to1expert and watch some of my presentation videos.

  6. Harvey Hirsch Post author

    I have used these (about a dozen) shaped postcards as “stand-alone’s” and in a series and can attest to the much higher than normal response rates. As a content provider I will remind you that after you get the receiver’s attention, your copy (pitch) must be short, sweet, understandable and motivational. The best results will be to mail and follow up with a phone cal building on the reference of the shape. Most people remember the shaped cards for a long time. Here is a link to some videos I use to educate prospects and clients:

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