Direct Mail Fail

Direct Mail is still a focal point in todays marketing scheme. Just ask the experts at Chipotle that mailed me a coupon last week. Thank you Chipotle Marketing Execs for my tasty guacamole and chips #forfree.

As much as Direct Mailers can be a boon for a small business (or locally focused business), it can also have vast negative repercussions if done poorly. A improperly worded slogan, a misguided picture, the wrong telephone number and so on can negatively impact business.

Below is an example of one such mistake, which we should all learn from:

Chinese food anyone?

Chinese food anyone?

Overall the concept was clever; put a To Go menu on my door so that when I arrive home in the evening I would find it. Then I would be hungry for Chinese, see the lovely General Tso’s option and order $30 worth of Chinese Food.

There was some logic missing in the thought process…

No one wants to order from a Chinese Food place that is shutting its doors. The above menu suggests:

A. The company has failed once.

B. They can no longer afford to update their print materials.

C. No one should eat there since they can’t even get a to go menu right (What could possibly be going on in their kitchen?! That’s not real chicken?!).

Overall the attempt was well guided. From a marketing perspective they failed horrifically. Why would I want to eat at a place with locations closing? Don’t go through the effort to put a campaign together to only do half the work. All they had to do was update and print new menus.

It would be like sending an email blast with typos and broken links. You can easily fix that!

There were plenty of other items missed as well. Perhaps a call to action, a value proposition, etc. There are too many other places to eat in town to not differentiate themselves. Not everyone around town puts out such bad direct mailers, but something to entice the customer to walk in the door is needed. A few tweaks and this Direct Mailer could have gone from F to A+.

L.L. Bean Understands 21st Century Marketing

L.L. Bean Understands 21st Century Marketing We see it all the time. A well cultured and storied company struggle to bridge the gap between old age approach and the new age of marketing. One could easily foresee L.L. Bean falling victim to this trap, being a company stuck in the “old ways.” With a history of over a 100 years, L.L. Bean seems like the logical candidate to get stuck in the 1980’s.

When it comes to marketing, the playbook has changed.

But this does not mean culture and value propositions must change.

Think about it, when was the last time you wrote a thank you letter? It has likely been years. Sending that text or email with thx is just easier. Most sales are done via gmail and online (mobile) sales funnels today. The dynamics of sales have changed. The dynamics of customer acquisition have changed. The things that made L.L. Bean a titan of the apparel world 50 years ago are no longer pertinent. Now the approach is which athlete or reality tv star can we sponsor with the biggest twitter following.

For a company still located down the road from their original store, how can they compete in today’s world but still remain true to themselves? How does a billion dollar company stay down to earth, true to its roots and still compete with an entourage of full stack marketers?

Here is how:


An actual letter I received in the mail from L.L. Bean

An actual letter I received in the mail from L.L. Bean

Thank you for your L.L. Bean Boot order

We didn’t get your size wrong. We just wanted to let you know we appreciate your patience while our stitchers in Maine are hard at work handcrafting your boots. We make our boots right, not fast, so while you may have to wait a little while to get yours, we promise they will be worth it.


Raina Maxwell

VP Customer Satisfaction and Customer Advocate

Nothing says I am sorry like a true letter. Not an email. Not a text. A formal apology with a signature from a real person (she is real, click here for her LinkedIn). A physical letter gives you something to feel, to grasp, to comprehend.

The letter hits many important points. One of the greatest importance is being made in America. With many in the shoe space moving overseas, this is a testament to brand differentiation. The letter is short, funny and clever.

The most brilliant point about this note is not just the attached promotional item. The boot pictured above is a keychain, looks to be handcrafted and is a constant branding reminder. This letter helps reestablish the brand you are already familiar with. One where the quality of the product vastly outweighs the need it now mentality of todays world.

L.L. Bean makes an all encompassing statement with this “apology.” Essentially stating we would rather do it right than not at all. This is the perfect example of taken a potentially horrible public relations situation and instead reinforcing a corporate culture of caring and quality. Just for that I will gladly wait an additional two weeks for my boots. I may just buy an extra pair.

Online Presence Guidelines For A Small Business

When it comes to a small business online presence, most managers do not even know where to begin. The fear of making a mistake often forces inaction, resulting in loss of business. The best way to tackle this hurdle is to empower select employees with passion about your product. As a manager/ owner you must ensure that specific guidelines are set for these employees. This increases the success of any online campaigns while ensuring your brand is protected.

Here are some guidelines that can grow your online presence:

  • Have an approval process allowing on selected employees to represent the company online.
  • Define an online motto. Perhaps one that touches on the values of the company. For example “As a representative of, you must act with honesty and integrity in all matters.”
  • Stress that some things are just not mentioned. Listing these items is often the best way to go. Strong examples are: talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues and future promotional activities.
  • Ensure that those posting understand that they are representing your organization. It is beneficial to remind everyone that they be respectful of all individuals, races, religions and cultures.
  • A easy guideline is : When in doubt, do not post. It is always easier to fix something not broken.
  • If writing about a current deal, offering or special that the company is featuring ensure that all information is accurate. Advertising 50% off and only having a 25% off sale is mess waiting to happen.
  • When interacting with a customer online do as you would in person.
  • Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights. DO NOT claim authorship of something that is not yours. Do not use the copyrights, trademarks, publicity rights, or other rights of others without the necessary permissions of those who own it.
  • Do not post photographs, video or audio of other employees, suppliers, customers or agents without first obtaining their approval.
  • Be responsible to your work. In person customers are still priority number one. Obviously this guideline depends on your business makeup.
  • Understand that the Internet is permanent. Once information is published online, it is essentially part of a permanent record, even if you “remove/delete” it later or attempt to make it anonymous.

Obviously this list is not all inclusive but should serve as a good starting point for online success.

Marketing Should Move You

Someone tell the suits to quit trying so hard.

The other day I went on looking for some inspiration (yes while I was drinking a whiskey)

I was looking for web development enlightenment and what I found had nothing to do with html and css.

You often see big companies or small companies obsessed with pushing their products.

This curler will curl you hair forever.
This sock will sock your foot for eternity.
This wine will keep you drunk all year.
Some people buy it, I sure as hell do not.

The reality is that no one cares. Consumers are inundated with the same mess from tons of firms and it just does not work. That is why marketing has been a creative field. It is no longer A + B = C, it is F + D = Z and Z is 10 times more sales than C. In layman’s terms, the new age of marketing is triumphing over the dated tactics.

Successful campaigns are creating this feeling:

Trust me I have drank a lot of whiskey.

Next time I am in the liquor store guess what do I plan on buying?

This is a prime example of the product making a statement larger than life. Perhaps you do not comprehend? The short commercial is not about Tullamore Dew. It is about celebrating the moment, celebrating life. Enjoying the time we have, feeling the rain on your face or in this case your whiskey.

Or is this marketing campaign about Tullamore Dew?

That my friend, is a good commercial