An advertising medium is a vehicle for carrying some form of sales message to potential buyers. Newspapers, magazines, farm papers, technical and trade publications, foreign language papers, programs, directories, and college publications arc classed as indirect advertising media because they arc not published primarily and solely to carry the sales message of the advertiser. Letters, catalogs, booklets, house organs, etc. are prepared and distributed for the sole purpose of exploiting the wares of a single advertiser and, for this reason, are referred to as direct media.
Because most direct media are distributed by mail, direct advertising often is referred to as “direct mail” or “direct by mail” advertising. As a matter of fact, it may be distributed, by hand, from door to door, or over the counter of a store, as a package insert.
The use of the word “mail” in connection with direct advertising has led many people to confuse it with mail-order advertising. There is no connection. Mail-order advertising may or may not go to the prospect through the mail, but it always seeks to bring the customer’s order or inquiry back through the mail. It may be presented to the prospect in a newspaper or magazine as well as through a letter, booklet, or catalog. Conversely, many large business institutions, selling their products through re tail stores exclusively, invest hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in direct advertising.
Advantages of Direct Media Advertising
Direct advertising, utilizing the postal system, has many advantages over indirect advertising, under certain conditions. It has also its very definite limitations. It is not, in most marketing situations, a substitute for either personal selling or indirect advertising. Most advertisers use it to supplement these other two forces. Its basic advantage is selectivity. The user of direct advertising can reach exactly whom he wants at the exact time he wants to reach them. He controls the quality and quantity of the advertising units distributed, and the date on which they shall go into the mails. He can control the expense of his campaign by limiting the territory covered or the number of prospects approached. He is able also to guard trade information, and to personalize his message to appeal to a particular community or to a particular class of people.
The use of direct advertising allows the advertiser to capitalize special sales opportunities, or to “warm up” small blocks of’ territory as slowly or as rapidly as is required to prevent the printed sales message from losing its effectiveness before salesmen can follow it up. Direct advertising may be selected be cause it affords greater protection of trade information. Special price appeals may be made with less danger of stirring up competitors. Patents, new types of machines, or new patterns in fabric must be explained fully in order to sell the product, but the advertiser may wish, for some reason, to make his announcement to only a limited number of prospective buyers, rather than to broadcast his appeal. The advantages of such an “underground” campaign are well appreciated by practical advertisers. Again, direct advertising permits of a fuller description of a product than can be given in a magazine or newspaper advertisement, and without prohibitive investment in space.
Using Direct Media To Supplement Sales Work
Direct media may be used to solicit orders from prospects, as demonstrated by the large mail-order houses. They may be employed also to supplement the work of salesmen, to move goods in a retail store, and to teach the retailer or agent how to work more efficiently. They are often used to introduce a new specialty or a new policy.
When direct advertising is used to supplement the work of salesmen, it can perform two very important functions. Sent out before the salesman calls, it familiarizes the prospect with the organization and product, and enables the personal representative to devote more time to closing sales. It also is effective as a follow-up, when the salesman is unable to close the order at the time of his call, as it can pound home the strong points about the product or service and hold the prospect’s interest until the salesman’s next visit. Such advertising often prevents a competitive salesman from getting the business from a prospect who was only partly sold in the first sales inter view.
Some companies are using direct advertising effectively between the calls of their salesmen. If a house has many dealers, frequent calls by salesmen will run into considerable expense. The use of letters, at frequent intervals, supplements the calls of salesmen, and enables the house to keep in close touch with the distributors, at much lower expense. An interesting illustration of this n both as the principal means of appeal and as supplementary to space advertising, is found in the real estate business in New York City. With the erection of scores of expensive buildings each year for residence and business, the advertising agencies specializing in this field have turned to direct mail advertising. Presentation books, costing as much as two and three dollars apiece, telling the story of the building and showing the plans of the apartments, are not at all uncommon. Naturally, the number of such books in any direct mail campaign is limited.
When a proposition justifies the use of such pretentious material, it is because the number of possible buyers is small. It is safe to say that, in this one field alone, a yearly expenditure running into millions of dollars is made and justified by the results in business secured.
Package Inserts And “Over-The-Counter” Literature
Not all direct advertising is sent through the mail. A valuable form of direct advertising medium that has been used extensively during recent years is the package insert, which has a variety of uses. It may be informative, as the Three-in-One Oil booklet, which acquaints the buyer with the oil’s numerous uses. The National Biscuit Company’s inserts make the package of one product the medium for carrying the advertisement of another product of the same family. A number of companies inclose coupons that are exchangeable for “gifts.”
Package inserts have also been used as direct media in a cooperative advertising campaign. The makers of certain brands of silk hosiery and lingerie insert a memo in each package recommending a certain washing powder or soap for use in laundering the articles, and the soap manufacturer, in turn, gives publicity to the hosiery and lingerie manufacturers who endorse the use of his soap. The chief advantage of the package insert is the great probability that the message will get attention.
Besides employing the package insert, many advertisers provide their dealers with literature in the form of cards, folders, booklets, etc., for distribution over the counter. This is an excellent way of getting a story of the product and its uses into the hands of prospects. Such direct advertising gives the prospective purchaser a better knowledge of the product and goes a long way toward helping the dealer make sales.
In many instances, this “over-the-counter” literature may simply serve to awaken interest in a product that the dealer does not carry in stock. A manufacturer of garden tools may have rakes, hoes, and smaller garden implements on sale at hardware, house-furnishing, and department stores. This same manufacturer may produce motor lawn mowers and lawn rollers which these dealers do not carry in stock. Booklets and folders of these products are placed on the counters of the dealers who handle the smaller units, and the purchaser may order the larger products direct from the manufacturer or through the dealer. In the former case, the dealer is generally credited with the sale.
Analysis of the List
An analysis of an advertiser’s requirements will result in the compilation of a mailing list of practically 100% desirable prospects, calculated in every detail to cover the advertiser’s needs completely and economically. When it is considered that every name on the mailing list costs the advertiser two cents or more per mailing, it is evident that it is economy to use a list backed by analysis, rather than an old list compiled in an office by inexperienced help.
Through the process of elimination or segregation, it is possible to reduce the number of names on the list, to cut off certain lines of business, to add others, to place restrictions, etc.
Mailing lists should be revised frequently, not only from the mail matter returned from each mailing, but from salesmen’s reports, correspondence, and trade information. Frequently this checking will show that an entirely new channel of business exists, hitherto unsuspected.
Maintaining a List of Your Customers
Every business house should maintain a list of active and inactive customers. These lists should be checked frequently. The customer is a human individual. Competition, personal friends, and other factors are ever in his path to divert him from you. If you have his goodwill and he knows that his business is appreciated and respected, he is less amenable to their approaches.
Several authoritative investigations enable us to show what happens to 100 customers who no longer trade with any given retail merchant:
- 68 drift away because of store indifference towards them
- 9 buy elsewhere because of price inducement or better service
- 3 move to parts unknown or to more convenient shopping places
- 14 have unadjusted grievances and take their business elsewhere
- 5 are influenced by friends to shop at their favorite stores
- 1 is either dead or unaccounted for
Many of these losses are preventable, and the persons can be retained as customers if the proper effort is put forth. The customer on the books of a certain men’s clothing store is worth $85 a year in gross sales; the customer on the books of a certain department store is worth $362 a year; the customer on the books of a certain cloak and suit store handling other specialities for women is worth $236 a year; the customer on the books of a certain shoe store is worth from $35 to $68 a year, depending upon the size of the customer’s family; the customer on the books of a certain furniture store is worth $87 a year, after he has furnished his home.
What would a business do if during every year, it lost 25-40% of its old customers, while it gained only 15-25% of new trade? Retrogress, of course, and if that same firm faced the necessity of securing 25-40% of new business each year, it would find advertising much too costly a proposition.
A few purposes for which lists may be used profit ably are the following:
(a) To reach all dealers in a given territory
(b) To reach customers and solicit orders direct, or through dealers
(c) To do missionary work in advance of salesmen
(d) To sell direct to given groups of prospects as a means of stimulating demand for dealers
(e) To establish quotas
(f) To route salesmen so that ground can be covered quickly
(g) To circularize in local dealer cooperation campaigns
(h) To protect advertisers through rating classifications
Because of the poor direct mail methods frequently employed, and improper selection of mailing lists, thousands of dollars are wasted annually, the greater part of which could be made profitable if only the mailing list were prepared with some accurate idea of its specific application to the business.
Directing the Material
In an investigation covering several months, it was found that 52% of the mail received at the Chicago Post Office bore no street address. According to postal rules and regulations, insufficiently addressed first-class mail gets “directory service” and is delivered; “metered” mail, both first and third class, is returned; while regular third-class mail goes into the discard. It is, of course, essential that every direct mail advertiser familiarize himself thoroughly with the various regulations of the postal authorities. These may be obtained by subscribing through any post office for the Postal Guide.
It pays to be sure that the street address appears on your direct advertising to insure its delivery. When addressing material to an individual in the main office of a large corporation, where the street address may not be required, such as the Standard Oil Company of New York, the name of the individual and the name of the company should be given; if it is a branch office, the street address should also appear.
The mailing pieces should be addressed exactly as the names appear on the list. For instance, do not direct a piece to J. A. Billings if the name on the list is Jeremiah A. Billings, or J. Ansleigh Billings.
The small amount of care required in watching for errors in names, when addressing, is more than paid for by the additional assurance of delivery when names and addresses are correct.
Keeping Record of Names
One method is to file all cards alphabetically, distinguishing the different classifications by metallic index tabs. Using cards of different colors is another good method of subdividing a file, and this method may be used in coordination with the index tabs. The practice of using a single, subdivided file is good especially where all cards are checked periodically against directories, rating books, or other alphabetical sources.
It is an individual problem whether to file these cards alphabetically by the individual or firm name; geographically, by post office address; or territorially, by county or some other division. Some houses file them according to some special advertising campaign, as “Furniture Sale,” “China Sale,” or chronologically, as the seed men file their records.
Testing the List
Before launching the complete campaign, experienced advertisers have found it profitable to test the list. A trial mailing will often serve as an advance analysis of the possible success of the campaign. For example, you may have a circular “form” letter which you think will bring replies. You intend to send this letter to every bank in the United States. Why not pick a half- dozen names at random from every state in the Union, mail out around 300 pieces, and ascertain definitely what percentage of replies you get? You may get thirty replies— percent—which would seem very good at first glance. But if you analyze these replies further you may find that they come from west of the Mississippi, almost exclusively. In such an event, you may well investigate and find out why the letter did not bring an equal proportion of replies from the rest of the country.
It must be admitted that tests are largely restricted to letters because of their low cost. If an advertiser desires to test a mailing card, folder, or booklet, the test may be made by putting the text material into letter form, and results obtained should enable him to tell how the appeal pulls.
Wherever it is possible, without too great expense, it is desirable to eliminate the “dead wood” from the mailing list. This is especially desirable when a list is to be used for an extended direct-mail effort. The sooner this is done, the sooner the percentage of sales will climb to a reasonable proportion of sales effort.
A western railroad that has a large tourist traffic during the summer sent out a letter, with a post card inclosed, to a list of 2,000 business men. To half of the names on the list, the card was stamped; to the other half, unstamped. It is interesting to note that the stamped card pulled about twice as many returns as the unstamped card, and the variation in the number of replies from different classes of business men is also interesting.
The letter was intended to arouse interest in a vacation trip to Yellowstone Park, and offered additional information upon the return of the card.
Planning the Campaign
After the campaign has been thoroughly and carefully planned, the next step is to determine what ammunition will be used and how it will be fired. That is, determine the number and style of the mailing pieces, and the intervals between mailings. These are, of necessity, individual problems with each advertiser and are regulated by the amount of the appropriation.
It is obvious that an advertiser using a list of 50,000 names could not consider employing the same type of mailing material as the advertiser who is using a 5,000 list, unless the profits from sales would seem to warrant such a huge expenditure as would be necessary in such a case. Furthermore, the duration of the campaign would tend to regulate the character of the material. A campaign of short duration might use expensive material which, if used in a campaign of long duration, would make the cost prohibitive.
While direct-mail advertising cannot be used to make direct sales for all products, it can, in other instances, either produce inquiries or pave the way for the salesmen; it may be used simply to keep alive the interest in the product or the house and thereby retain and increase goodwill; or it may be used solely for getting lists and correcting them. But these purposes are seldom separate and apart. The campaign which produces inquiries usually also creates good will or keeps the interest alive until the salesman can call.
The time between the various pieces of follow-up should be sufficient for the prospect to consider thoroughly each argument set forth—each point needs to be made forcefully without antagonizing him. A hotel manager, anxious to secure the convention of an important organization, so bombarded its officers and the members of its executive committee with daily follow-up material that he lost the convention.
Measuring the Returns
Can strength be gained by the addition of a mailing piece? Just which mailing pieces show a lower cost per inquiry or a lower cost per sale? Questions such as these can only be answered from the record of returns from each mailing. With detailed and accurate records of results obtained, it will be possible to eliminate the mailing pieces that are bringing the smallest returns.
Many national advertisers keep a careful check on their magazine and newspaper advertising and, when a specific piece of copy shows more “pulling power” than other pieces in the campaign, it is used over and over again. The same procedure is applicable to direct advertising. When any particular mailing piece brings greater response than others in a series, it is a good one for the advertiser to use as a pattern for subsequent material of a similar nature.
The Element of Timelines
One of the important advantages of direct-mail advertising is that of timeliness. By means of direct media, the manufacturer or dealer can reach the logical prospect at the psychological time. The furniture dealer sends his literature to those whose engagements are announced in the papers, suggesting that he can help furnish the new home; when births are announced, dealers offer baby carriages, infants’ wear, and cribs. Experience shows that direct-advertising appeals may be timed as to hour, day, month, and the season of delivery, as well as to the event. When a time appeal is attempted, depending for its success on the clay or hour of delivery, it is necessary to secure the close cooperation of the post office department. But planning a campaign to reach the prospect during a certain month or at the happening of a certain event, such as initiation, marriage, graduation, etc., is comparatively simple and easily accomplished.
Timing the appeal by the event is used principally by retailers. Manufacturers, usually located at a distance, find it impossible to make their appeals coincide with the events unless they are known with sufficient definiteness to warrant planning far ahead. Christmas and vacation periods are examples of occasions which offer a ready opportunity for timing appeals.
Many national advertisers are making use of the “day” and “week” idea. We have national “Electrical Week,” “Clean-up Week,” “Safety Day,” “Mother’s Day,” and others ad infinitum. All these industrial stimulants provide the dealer with a chance for injecting timeliness into his advertising.
The rapidity with which a direct-advertising campaign can be produced and mailed is a strong point in its favor. An interesting example is given by W. C Clifford in, “Building Your Business by Mail.” A wholesaler received word early one afternoon of the reduction in price of a constantly used staple article. That same afternoon, he prepared and mailed 1,200 postal cards notifying the dealers of a special offer on this article. Ten days later, the competitors of the wholesaler became aware of the situation and reduced their prices. Had this wholesaler turned to the newspapers or trade papers in order to announce the price reduction, at least a day or two, or perhaps a week or more, would have gone by before the advertising appeared.