Editorial: February 2014
Right smack in the middle of Christmas card season, Canada Post signalled the end of an era in Canadian communication by saying it will phase out home mail delivery in urban areas.
By Patrick Flannery
Right smack in the middle of Christmas card season, Canada Post signalled the end of an era in Canadian communication by saying it will phase out home mail delivery in urban areas. Those two-thirds of us who have been getting our mail at a community box for years won’t notice anything, but it is the symbolism of the move that matters. Physical mail has taken another step back from the dominant place it used to have in everyone’s lives. You need only watch “Downton Abbey,” with Lord Grantham scanning his mail every morning over breakfast, to see how far things have moved on over a century.
Canada Post may no longer be bringing letters right to people’s doorsteps, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking advantage of the intimate, attention-grabbing powers of a physical message delivered right to your customers’ homes. Study after study has shown that nothing beats direct mail for generating response. In most urban centres, there is at least one company that will deliver flyers and other material door to door. Why not take advantage of the service.
Now that people’s home mailboxes will be uncluttered by Canada Post deliveries, you have a chance to drop your tailored message right in their laps and be the only item they look at that day.
Hearkening back to my brief stint in advertising, I’ll pass along some tips I learned on creating effective direct mail advertising.
1. Have an offer. Some advertising is about raising awareness or branding your company. Not direct mail. Direct mail is about response. To get response, you need to tell people you are going to give them something special and give them a limited time to get it. Do not bother sending people direct mail telling them how generally wonderful you or your products are. They will resent the unsolicited intrusion into their space and flip your card into the garbage before they even read your address. In other advertising, the customer comes to you by opening the newspaper or turning on the TV. Direct mail is the equivalent of knocking on their doors. You need to make it clear, fast, why they should give you the time of day.
2. Vary up the copy. Many people think direct mail pieces have to be short. Actually, they don’t. Longer letters are often read more thoroughly because the length tells people there is some substance there that they need to absorb. However, big monotonous blocks of copy are also intimidating. The key is to break the copy into chunks with bold print, italics, headings, bullet points, all-caps, highlighting, underlining, pull quotes and other typographic tricks. If you live in one of the areas dominated by Rogers, check out their letters as good examples of effective direct-mail copy.
3. Dirty tricks are OK. Your objective is to make people look at your message. If you have to disguise it as something else to do that, go for it. Don’t worry – your conscience will recover. Think of the Publisher’s Clearing House mailers telling you “You may have already won!!” Or the official-looking envelopes from banks saying just “Important financial information.” You may laugh, but they get opened.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of this, my last chance before the 2014 Canadian Rental Mart, to urge you to attend. As you will see starting on page 26, the show is bigger and better than ever, with exclusive buying and networking opportunities you just cannot find anywhere else. Come out to the Rental Mart – I promise we will make it worth the trip.