BY NICHOLE CHRISTIAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSEPH PUHY
The Witch Doctors Were In
With their agency looking for a fresh way to capture new business, marketers at the Price Group — a full-service marketing shop known for its work with financial concerns, medical companies and universities such as Texas Tech — recently found themselves turning to voodoo for answers.
At least, that was the theme of the self-promotional marketing campaign that they devised to draw clients. Dubbed “On Point,” the campaign employed a three-part appeal to potential business prospects, using mail, the web and follow-up sales calls. At the heart of On Point, launched last October, was a three-dimensional mailer that came complete with a set of voodoo pins and a simple, arresting pitch: Tired of generic marketing plans? Looking for something that’s more, well, on point? We forgo templates and put our focus on ritual process proven to work.
The mailer targeted 250 businesses including hospitals, universities and convention and business bureaus around the San Angelo region of Texas, just outside of Lubbock. Each mailer included instructions on how to plot the pins toward specific business goals such as improved branding and increased audience. “We’re not that much different from our clients,’’ says Kristy Melcher, vice president and creative director for the Price Group. “We have to stay ahead of our competition. So when we do a campaign for ourselves, what we really want people to say is, ‘Wow, why don’t we do things like that?’”
And the Price Group isn’t the only agency trying to prompt that question from its mail targets. As the fight for clients’ marketing dollars intensifies amid shrinking budgets and a growing din of multimedia messaging, so does marketers’ search for inroads to new business. And as many are learning, the most direct trail to clients often can be blazed through self-promotional campaigns that showcase the very same skills that the agencies are offering to their prospects.
The battle for new business
“We believe in the very same ideas we preach to our clients. We have to,’’ says Kevin Gilligan, vice president of sales and marketing for Essex, Conn.–based agency Structural Graphics. “We’re out there telling our clients that our type of work can help them improve their results and that they should use dimensional and high impact mail as part of their integrated campaigns. And that’s exactly how we market ourselves.’’
Marketers liken their self-promotional efforts to an elaborate game of show-and-tell. To work, self-promotional campaigns have to blend eye-catching creativity with a message that’s confident without being off-putting. And as with any other campaign, marketers have to make sure they’re getting relevant messages out to just the right audience. Melcher says the Price Group — whose mailer also featured a primary font that essentially turned each letter into a replica of a shiny, pointed pin — is still fielding inquiries from the campaign. “A postcard can be just a plain-Jane postcard or a mailing can be just a plain-Jane mailing,’’ says Melcher. “But you have to be innovative and creative, and your messaging has to be on target. Today’s customers want something back. You have to give them a call to action, a reason to engage with your offer.”
Sticking it to the competition
The Price Group’s On Point campaign did just that, playing off of the natural mystique of voodoo and a bit of clever copywriting: “For this process to work, we need to meet. We’ll talk about you — your business goals and what’s standing in your way. Then we’ll work our magic to customize this process with pinpoint accuracy and yield results. So, let’s get together, you can learn more about us and we can learn more about the voodoo that you do.’’
Prospects who found themselves on “pins and needles” after receiving the initial mailer were invited to visit a micro-website to set up a face-to-face meeting. Marketing directors who agreed to a sales call received the campaign’s final piece, a boxed voodoo doll — slyly nicknamed “Competition” — and instructions on how to use the pins included in the campaigns initial direct mail piece. “We kind of feel like, in order to be on point, we have to be able to show the different strategies that set us apart and that will help set the client apart by choosing to work with us,” says Melcher. “You can’t do just one thing.’’
Nor, says Gilligan of Structural Graphics, can marketers employ a haphazard approach to self-promotion. “We do industry-specific marketing throughout the year, typically touching an industry four to five times a year,’’ he says.
And mail is almost always the driver of each in-house campaign. “It’s really powerful when you can deliver a message with the engagement and interaction of mail,” says Gilligan. “That’s our niche; we always lead with high-impact pieces, either something that’s dimensional or has a lot of interaction to it, things that get people’s attention that you can’t do with a postcard.’’
For marketers, Melcher argues that postcard campaigns, while simple, can require more touches in order to succeed, as some consumers can overlook single mailings like they do mass-marketed e-mails. “You can’t just send one postcard and think that people are going to call you,’’ she warns. “It’s more of a drill-down effect. You’ve got to stick with it for at least one quarter and do multiple mailings.’’
Mixing it up
Gilligan also encourages marketers to blend their mailings with other media, as integration usually enhances a self-promotional campaign. For instance, existing Structural Graphics clients — largely pharmaceutical and insurance companies — receive weekly e-mails with a video showcasing a project of the week as a marketing case study. From the weekly e-mail, Structural clients are also invited to a microsite filled with other case studies and videos. The site also offers them the option to receive additional mailings or get a follow-up sales call.
“There certainly is a benefit to driving people online using high-impact direct mail. Companies are investing heavily in websites, microsites and landing pages, and our high-impact and dimensional designs have been proven to get the recipients’ attention, engage them and drive them online to continue their engagement,” Gilligan notes.
Gilligan points to a recent Structural campaign targeting 1,600 automotive, home and life insurance companies. The campaign featured an iron-cross box with four fold-out panels. Inside the box was a thumb drive. “Once plugged in, the thumb drive launched you out to a website where you could see additional information about what we do with insurance companies,’’ Gilligan says. “What was really great is that we had the ability to track the people who activated the drive. We knew exactly who was entering our site and when they did. They then got a follow-up sample pack and phone follow-up from there.’’
The campaign marked just the second time Structural has ever turned to a web key, but Gilligan says the campaign has become one of the company’s most successful self-promotion efforts, netting more than a 20-percent response rate and almost $130,000 in revenue. “For every dollar we spent, we get six dollars in returned revenue,’’ he says. “We’re expecting that it will go even higher because we have a lot opportunities that are still open.’’
Mail, Gilligan says, made the difference: “When you get something in the mail that we send, it’s going to surprise you and entice you to continue the engagement online. It’s an easy way for us to deliver for clients and for ourselves, too.’’Brand Marketing, Creativity, Marketing Tips, Personalization, Self-promotion, Targeting