You've probably seen and used some of the obvious ways to combine online and offline marketing – business cards and brochures with your website's URL on them, for example. But there are other ways to combine the two. This article discusses some interesting elements from one recent campaign.
Sage Lewis analyzed this clever direct mail campaign in a video for Search Engine Guide. It started with a piece of regular postal mail he received, which looked hand-addressed. That apparently personal touch is what convinced him to open it. Once he did, he found two items inside. One was a fancy postcard inviting him to be a contestant on a game show called “The Switch is Smart.” The postcard included a URL, but not a full explanation of the company or the product being marketed.
Intrigued, Lewis went to the website. He found a fancy flash presentation that asked him three fairly simple questions. He could interact directly with the presentation to answer the questions, and got lots of praise (“You're so smart!”) whenever he answered a question correctly. When he got to the end of the presentation, he discovered that they were selling routers – switches, actually, hence the name of the “game show.” Switches and routers are normally a pretty boring product, but this kind of campaign certainly captured some positive attention, at least from Lewis.
The point Lewis made about the campaign, however, is that it's the sort of thing that just about any small business could replicate. You'd modify things based on your own market and resources. The apparently hand-addressed envelopes weren't really done by hand, but run off a printer using a font that looks like handwriting. If you're not trying to reach too many potential customers, you could actually do them by hand, either by yourself or with some help (just make sure whoever is doing it has neat handwriting, and takes breaks from the task so his or her handwriting doesn't deteriorate too much).
Likewise, getting a batch of fancy postcards done with a pretty picture on them isn't difficult; check with your local print and copy shops. The other components of the campaign may be a little trickier depending on whether you have access to any flash gurus, but as Sage points out, you don't actually have to do a video. You could put some kind of poll or survey on your custom URL instead.
By the way, it really should be a custom URL, or at least a part of your site that isn't accessed any other way. Make sure you put Google Analytics on that page so you can get information on who has visited it. And once they've gone through the fun part of the presentation, make it easy for your visitors to convert.
There were a number of elements to this campaign that you'll want to keep in mind as you look at ways to suit it to your own offerings. The first one is that it's a personal campaign, from the hand-addressed envelope that uses the person's actual name, to the invitation, to the website that was custom-designed to encourage the visitor to interact with it. The second element is that it inspired curiosity; the postcard told just enough to make a recipient wonder, but not quite enough to make them throw it out as just another piece of marketing.
The third element is the way it played on the recipient's ego. The invitation to be a contestant in a game show, however hokey, tells the invitee that you think they're smart – like a winning game show contestant. Even if you don't use the game show angle, you could do the same thing with a survey (“We would be honored to get your valuable opinion.”). The fourth element is that going through all the material – visiting the website, playing the video, and answering the questions – was fun. If you can make your marketing material fun and enjoyable, rather than annoying, you're partway to a conversion already.
But there are two final elements about this campaign that really stand out for me. One, it is truly a combined campaign. If a recipient doesn't go to the URL on the postcard (or someone ended up at the website by some means other than receiving the card), they won't get the full marketing message. Which brings me to the second significant element: the campaign depends on the recipient to “finish” it so that they get the complete message. This may be more of a leap of faith than many marketers or businesses feel comfortable taking, but it can also cause the recipient to feel at least a little invested in your message (after all, they could have chosen not to go to the URL on the postcard). It's certainly worth thinking about as you plan your next marketing campaign. Good luck!
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