An eye-catching, wildly successful direct mail campaign that comes in under budget and generates nearly $60,000 in revenue is a thing of beauty. And for veteran marketing strategist Barbara Sibley and the independent contractors who formed her production team, the joy forever will be knowing that their combined efforts on behalf of a Florida beauty salon chain have earned them Deliver magazine’s grand prize in our second annual Marketing Achievement in Innovation and Leadership (M.A.I.L.) Award.
“It’s huge,” enthuses Sibley, who operates her one-woman company Sibley Smart Copy out of her home office in Newtown, Conn., about her national M.A.I.L. recognition. “It validates the power of direct mail.” Sibley won the award for the mailer’s catchy blend of creativity, modernity and undeniable effectiveness in moving its targets to action.
The campaign — done for Florida-based iStudio Salons, a growing chain of salon “communities” — had three specific goals: introduce beauty professionals to the unique iStudio concept and its benefits; motivate the target audience to book an iStudio tour or visit its personalized URL; and generate a list of prospects for future targeting. Direct mail was selected as the primary vehicle to achieve these objectives — not that the client needed any arm-twisting.
“James Schregardus, one of the cofounders of iStudio, is a fearless marketer, and he loves direct mail,” Sibley says. “He found in his other business ventures that his strongest leads and conversions came from direct mail. So by the time he jumped into iStudio he was already a huge believer.”
The 923 photo mailers, budgeted at $4,000 for photo development, pre-production, printing, handwritten personalization, assembly and mailing, came in at a total cost of $3,738, ($4.05 per piece), generated a 4.7-percent phone and PURL response and, most important, resulted in four signed iStudio lease agreements totaling $59,280. What’s more, the visual nature of the mailer will translate well as iStudio looks to expand to Hispanic targets in Florida.
Sibley, who has led marketing initiatives for large corporate clients over a career spanning 18 years, says that she has remained committed to keeping mail in her marketing mix, despite the emergence of other channels: “So many of my contemporaries and colleagues in marketing are really focused on getting their digital efforts fine-tuned. I don’t want to downplay the importance of that because I’m doing it, too.” Still, she says, she continues to believe deeply in mail — a passion that contributed to her M.A.I.L. Award win.
The M.A.I.L. Award was conceived to celebrate the nation’s most innovative and powerful direct mail concepts as judged by a panel of marketing experts. Jason Mlicki, president of the Ohiobased firm Mlicki that captured the inaugural M.A.I.L. Award, served as one of this year’s judges, selecting three finalists out of entries submitted from across the country (see sidebar). As the grand prize winner, Sibley received an expense-paid trip to Orlando April 1 through April 4 to present the top direct mailer at the National Postal Forum.
In some ways, she was returning to the territory that had led to her M.A.I.L. Award triumph. Last year, Sibley Smart Copy was tasked by iStudio Salons to generate leads for a new location in the College Park section of Orlando. In the iStudio business plan, hair stylists, nail technicians, aestheticians and other beauty professionals lease private space in a building filled with individual suites, as opposed to the traditional model of renting a booth or chair from a salon owner and paying a percentage of their income to the proprietor.
iStudio had already achieved significant success in 2010 launching its flagship salon in Maitland, Fla., mailing a personalized tearsheet announcement that looked as if it had been ripped from a newspaper. Schregardus and Sibley added a second tactic to the campaign for the next iStudio Salons in Dr. Phillips, Fla. — a personalized “Smile Card” that invited prospects to take a tour and receive a $50 coffee shop card.
For the College Park, Fla., salon, Schregardus and Sibley asked how they could reach all of the prospects who hadn’t been touched.
So a third mailer — the M.A.I.L. winner — was devised: a packet of photos depicting the pitfalls of conventional salons and how iStudio can be the alternative. Sibley assembled a team of professionals with whom she had worked previously to accomplish the task. In the end, the mailer looked like an envelope of prints from a processor.
Sibley is busy working on the next mailing for iStudio Salons and her other clients. It’s a gratifying time for the marketer, who’s celebrating her fifth anniversary heading her own business. Says Sibley: “What this [award] does is validate my belief and my client’s belief that, if you really want to drive leads and conversions and eventually sales to a physical location, direct mail is still the best way to go.”
Submissions were judged by Deliver editors Thomas J. Foti and Lori Brown Savage, magazine staff members and marketing experts Jason Mlicki and Ethan Boldt. Mlicki is president and lead
strategist for Mlicki, the eponymous agency that won the first Deliver M.A.I.L. Award last year. Boldt is chief content officer for DirectMarketingIQ and editorin-chief of Inside Direct Mail Weekly, an e-newsletter for the direct mail industry.
Curious who else made the top-10 cut? Take a look at our finalists.Brand Marketing, Deliver M.A.I.L. Award, Prospecting, ROI, Strategy