The persuasive power of a map

David Ogilvy called direct marketing, “My first love and secret weapon.” I feel the same way. The power of a handful of direct marketing techniques has turned so-so campaigns into winners for me more times than I can name. One such technique is including maps in direct mail and email marketing messages. I’ll break the marketing power of geomapping into two tips.

#1 Don’t just tell consumers that they should visit you — show them how, as specifically as possible

Social psychologist Howard Levanthal conducted some experiments in the 1960s to see if he could persuade Yale University students to get tetanus inoculations. In his efforts to see if mailed brochures would work better using fear as a motivating factor, he stumbled upon something more persuasive.

He included a change in the booklet that boosted response from 3% to 28%. As reported in “Effects on Fear and Specificity of Recommendations Upon Attitudes and Behavior,” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1965), he and his fellow researchers included a map of the campus, with the Health Department office circled, and the times when inoculations were being offered.

In other words, he made visiting the health department more real to the students by showing them how it fit into their lives and their schedules.

With digital printing, you can do one better: You can produce maps that include two dots: You are here and Here we are. I’ve used this technique, and it’s not easy when you’re mailing to a lot of neighborhoods, but seems to be well worth the effort.

#2 Tell them how close they are to you

People don’t look at maps until they are curious about what you have to sell. But you can help them grasp how easy it is to reach you if you tell them right in the headline. If they are closer than they thought, that’s great news. And to quote Oglivy again, “All advertising is news.” Here’s an example of one such headline:

We had the challenge of informing residents living near a community hospital that they should go there for the vast majority of their healthcare needs. The hospital, which was tucked away in a residential neighborhood and was easily overlooked, had witnessed much of their business being drained away by a neighboring medical center.

Our opportunity to start winning this business back came when we were hired to promote a series of open house events (by we, I’m referring to a team I led in a “former life,” as they say in business). The events were to celebrate a complete redecoration of the public-facing areas of the facility.

The headline of the mailing was blunt: You’re less than 10 minutes away from award-winning healthcare. We could say this honestly because we had done drive-time calculations, and created three versions of the mailing. One stating the above, and two others saying 5 minutes and 15 minutes. The database with drive times told us which mailing to use for each address.

When the first event rolled around, it was fascinating to watch people arrive, with mailing in hand, to claim the promotional item we were giving away. They needed to take a tour and turn in the mailing in order to get their gift. That, of course, meant that we could read their names and addresses off of the cards, and add these prospects to a customer relationship management (CRM) database. From there we could re-mail with other offers and news.

It was definitely a group of pospects worth re-marketing to, for these three reasons: 

  1. They were responsive. The response rate for the group closest the hospital was 3.7%.
  2. They loved us. Many raved about what they saw, saying things like, “It looks more like a hotel lobby than a hospital!”
  3. They were now truly our neighbors. Thanks to the geomapping technique, they all knew exactly how to find us.

2 Replies to “The persuasive power of a map”

  1. Your notes just echo much that Cialdini discusses in his book Influence Science and Practice. In particular he talks about people being motivated more by something they might lose than something they might gain.

    Also of interest given the value of Social Proof you might have been able to say: “Look what your missing out on, hundreds of your neighbours are already using this hospital”

Comments are closed.