Direct Response

Everybody is promoting events on the internet these days.  But what about postal mail?  Is it really cost effective to promote an event with direct mail?  When I got started promoting my magic career, there was no internet. The postage cost to mail a one-ounce, first-class letter was 22¢. Now, it’s up to 48¢.  I used to have a threefold brochure listing “Magic For All Occasions” that I would mail by zip code.  There was so little competition then that I would actually get calls from just mailing these.

But hold on un momentito. The per capita income of the U.S. when I started back in 1984 was $2,231…and…the per capita income now is about $25,400. That means, first-class postage has risen in price by 617%…but…our average per capita income has gone up.

So, when you adjust for inflation, it is actually cheaper to buy a stamp now than it was more than 30 years ago. Trust me, for a “certain” reason, this is going to be a very exciting piece of information (after you finish reading this blog), which pertains to you. But, meanwhile, just for fun, let’s examine the cost of buying a first-class stamp each year all the way back to 1900.

In 1900, the cost of a first-class stamp was 2¢. It stayed at 2¢ for 16 years! Then, in 1917, the cost went to 3¢… which was a 50% increase. It stayed that way for two years until 1919 when they dropped the price back to 2¢!  You know what’s weird? When they went from 2¢ to 3¢, it was a 50% jump in price. But, when the price dropped back to 2¢, it was only a 33% reduction in price. Does that mean you could buy stuff for $20 and sell it for $30 (a 50% jump in price) and then buy it back for $20 (a 33% reduction in price) and thus make a 17% profit? (50% minus 33% equals 17%)?

Somehow, I know this ain’t so…but…it sure would be a neat way to make money if it was so, wouldn’t it? Anyway, in 1919 stamps were selling for 2¢ again and they didn’t go up until 1932 when they rose to 3¢. After that, the rate of a stamp stayed at 3¢ for 26 years all the way to 1958 when it started selling to the tune of 4¢ a piece. How long did that 4¢ figure last? Only five years this time. In 1963 stamps increased to a nickel (5¢) a piece. Five years go by and, in 1968, they are charging 6¢.

That rate only lasted three years. In 1971, stamps soared to 8¢ each. Again, only three years pass until the next price increase. In 1974, 10¢ would fetch you a first-class stamp. A mere one year later, the going rate hiked to 13¢. After three years of selling at 13¢, in 1978 the price of a first-class stamp advanced to 15¢. In 1981, 19¢. In 1985, 22¢. In 1988, 25¢. In 1991, 29¢. In 1995 they advanced to 32¢. In 1999, up a penny to 33¢. In 2001, up another penny to 34¢. Then, in 2002, the price of a first-class stamp went up to only 37¢.  In 2007 it went up to 42¢.  Now it’s 48¢.

What does all this translate to?  First-Class Postage Stamps Are Now The BEST Bargain You Can Get Your Hands On,(as any direct marketer worth his salt can tell you). About 10 years ago, only seven out of 100 pieces of mail were what Gary Halbert called “A-Pile” mail. That’s mail which is, or which appears to be, a first-class personal letter. By making sure all my letters got into that A-Pile, I had an enormous advantage over nearly everyone else selling by direct mail.  Today that same advantage is humongous!

People hardly ever send letters anymore. Instead, people are using email. In fact, I bet now, only about one out of 200 pieces of mail are (or appear to be) A-Pile mail.  In a blog I wrote years ago, I described how, when I was a little boy, the phone rang at my Grandma’s house and the operator would say, “You have a long distance call.” The entire household would come to attention. Someone would say in a hushed tone, “Grandma, it’s long distance!”

The impact of a long distance phone call in those days was tremendous.

Nowadays, of course, a long distance call is so routine, nobody gives it a second thought. Even an international call doesn’t cause much of a flurry anymore.  I’m a big user of FedEx.  They love me.  I don’t use FedEx because of their speed of delivery. No, I used FedEx because of…The Impact A Federal Express Package Has On A Recipient! This is especially true of someone who doesn’t work in an office. Even today, FedEx packages are given enormous attention by a person who receives one at his or her house. Now, because of that tiny percent of letters which are actually real letters…You Can Get A Similar Impact To Promote Your Event For Only 48¢!

Let’s add some grease to the frying pan.

I realize event planning and direct mail may seem like two different things at first blush, especially when everyone who is promoting is doing it online. But think about how little competition you have by using postal mail.  In a mailbox you’re up against three or four other mailbox messages.  A person’s inbox, however, is literally cluttered with junk mail.  You’re up against 30 other messages.  The expenses of catering, venue procurement and arrangement of all the other little details can seem overwhelming, but I think you’ll agree that correctly promoting it is far more important.

Studies reveal that nothing consistently drives money and business more than direct mail. Now if you’re of a certain age or you’re very online oriented or you believe the media you would think that nobody’s mailing anymore and that nobody’s reading direct mail.

There is a directory of major mailers and what they mail. Franklin Templeton Investments, Fred Pryor Seminars and Franklin Covey are listed here. These are all people mailing in the millions and millions and millions of pieces of direct mail. It is impossible to believe they’re all idiots because direct mail has metrics. It has real metrics. I mean if you send out a thousand pieces advertising your client’s party you know what you get back.

Hardly anybody does non-metric direct mail. In all other media, there’s a bunch of money spent on brand building and image advertising. And all the stuff that an argument can be made for it without being able to manage its effectiveness. But not so with direct mail.  I personally receive a ton of it because I make sure I stay on every list known to man. I have yet to get a direct mail piece that doesn’t ask for my response. All the direct mail I get asks for response. It’s the only media like that. Therefore it’s the only media where really everybody knows what they’re doing.

Television also has direct response folks there. But there’s a ton of people who aren’t direct response folks who are using television but not measuring what they’re getting from it. It’s the same with radio, with print, and with every online medium. Every place else but direct mail – the brand builders, the image advertisers, they’re there. They are not in direct mail. Why do you think they’re not in direct mail?  Because it is so ruthlessly manageable. So it is the last place any of them want to be. Are you starting to see why you need to be promoting your events through direct mail?

It’s the only medium where everybody who plays is playing based on hardcore response measurement and return on investment. 56% of chief marketing officers are “not prepared to be accountable for return on marketing investments.”  These are Fortune 1,000 guys. 63% said that marketing return on investment will be an important measure of success by 2017. It’s not quite as bad as Obama’s plan to cut the deficit in half by 2040, but the idea that marketing ROI may finally be important by 2017. So I guess these guys are all going to retire because less than half felt capable of managing its increased importance. Now these are their self assessments.

Can you imagine this?

I do a lot of trade shows and a lot of private shows, and direct mail is a huge part of why I get so many of these shows.  My rule is, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it! Take that money and go do something with it that you can hold accountable. Buy more decorations, buy a list of ideal attendees to the event and hire telemarketers to call the list.  At least you’ll have some return on your investment.

Like it or not, Event Planners are small time promoters in comparison.  Big corporations like Sony are the real players.  But aren’t they also wasteful with their budgets?  It seems to me that the bigger they are, the smaller the percentage of their budget that they devote to media that can be held accountable. It’s sort of a unique relationship between even big direct marketing companies. So the next time you see a first class postage stamp, think about the most cost effective way to reach your audience.  Direct mail may be a smart move for you.  A great place to go for resources on all of this is Every Door Direct Mail.

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