Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What were you thinking?

Dear Marketing Commando,

I’m so sorry that your new marketing effort was not successful. No, let’s be real. I’m sorry it bombed.

Marketing Commando

I know that it was important to your organization. Yes, I’m sure it cost a lot of money.

And yes, I feel your panic. After all, you ran the program.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Three months ago you came to us and asked what we could suggest to boost your direct mail marketing. The old #10-with-an-indicia package was getting stale. You wanted professional help to revive your marketing, so you brought it to us.

We suggested that changing your package size and shape might improve response rates as it has for others. Using a larger invitation-style envelope and a “live” stamp would differentiate your package. An elegant calligraphy font would complete the invitation look.

So far so good. But that’s when things went horribly wrong.

You decided to do the job by yourself—to “Go Commando”—to save money. I cautioned that you’d probably pay more because you did not know the postal regulations and you did not have the production expertise we could provide. But nope, you were sure you could do it.

Going CommandoSo with the self-confidence borne of years of inexperience, you skewered yourself.

Let me cut you a bit of slack. You were new at this job; you wanted to make a big impression on your boss. And boy, did you! I guess you’ve solved part of the problem because now you’re looking for a new boss, though I bet this effort won’t be featured on your new resume’. But that’s another story for another day.

Commando Newbie, you made errors that only years of production experience or listening to someone with years of production experience could have prevented. Since you preferred to go it alone, let me share a few of the finer points that you missed.

Bad call #1.
First you called the post office for guidance. After all, their advice was free; ours had a price. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Anyway, the Post Office will give you good information if you ask the right question. Too bad you didn’t explain exactly what you were doing. So you asked a misleading question and got wrong information in return. Chalk that up to inexperience.

Following USPS addressing protocol is important. However, while using all caps may work with Times Roman or Arial, it makes no sense at all in an ornate calligraphy font. Bet you won’t make that mistake again, eh?

Pity the poor postmen. Your envelopes were almost unreadable, but you were in compliance with postal addressing regulations. You gotta feel good about that at least.

Bad call #2.
Then you turned to another expert—your younger sister’s boyfriend who is a sophomore graphics student at the university. He gave you good graphic advice: keep the font consistent throughout the package to help “brand” your message.

So he took your copy and converted it all into the elaborate calligraphy script. The result looked like medieval monks hyped up on caffeine had prepared your letters. You gotta thank the monks for their attention to the mail merge personalization details, though. It added a lovely time-travel quality to the letter.

By the way, did you really expect your audience to read two pages of calligraphy? Apparently you did. Maybe you should have tried to read it first, though.

One more thought on this subject: Sophomores got their reputation for being sophomoric for a reason. Understand why now? You were supposed to be smarter.

Bad call #3.
You asked your brother-in law, the printer, to print this package for you in his spare time. It was a great deal; he’d charge you for the paper only. Unfortunately for you, what should have taken days to print took weeks.

Granted, it cost you next to nothing to print. And that is what it ultimately produced: next to nothing. But that’s jumping ahead a bit.

Bad call #4.
You had never considered how you were going to assemble the packages. But by now you were in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound. So you called everybody you had ever met at church, at work, on the subway on the way to work, and the nice homeless men at the corner.

Your rag tag stuffing crew took another two weeks to get the piece folded, inserted, stamped, sealed and in the mail. Unfortunately, between the food you had to provide to keep them coming back night after night, and the minimum wage they required, their efforts cost a bundle.

Bad call #5.
You tried to send the mail out at a presorted rate, but that didn’t go your way, either. You couldn’t figure out postage rules, so you ended up mailing the job at First Class just to stop the pain.

As the accused often passively say, “mistakes were made.”

Scolding Superhero

I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, but I warned you. Maybe direct mail is not as tricky as launching a military offensive, but there are a thousand details. Details that only years of hands-on experience can prepare you for. And quite frankly, you weren’t ready.

In a nutshell, the job failed because you, dear Commando Go-it-Alone, blew it. You grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory. You jumped into the abyss without guidance, without pre-planning, without a net. If you had listened to people who do this regularly, it might have been a better career choice.

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