How to make a direct mailing break through the clutter

The most successful business-to-business mailing I ever produced was early in my career, for a company called Acro Automation (*). It was a lead generation letter, mailed in a standard window envelope. But the envelope was stuffed with a wad of real shredded money. I bought the tangled remains of one-, five-, ten- and twenty-dollar bills direct from the U.S. Treasury, in eleven pound boxes. Each was enough to fill approximately 2,500 envelopes. Showing money fragments through the window of the envelope, along with a printed teaser that explained their relevance, was enough to trigger an 11% response rate from a notoriously non-responsive audience of production engineers.

A publicity shot of me with the Acro envelopes, back when I still got carded in barsShortly after that mailing the government called an abrupt halt to the sale of this byproduct of monetary obsolescence. They apparently didn’t appreciate my use of ex-money to generate more of the real stuff. But the lesson had been duly noted. I had learned how to reach out and grab the reader by the imagination: Be unique and outrageous.

I was reminded of this lesson when I read Seth Godin’s account of marketing one of his books. Read his story and take heed. Reconsider that me-too mailing you were planning for your next promotion. Why settle for average when you can break records — and in the process, accumulate great stories, such as mine about the Treasury, and Seth’s about his similar, bureaucratic battle with International Paper?

*I had nothing to do with their current web site, by the way, but I was involved in the acquisition of their four-letter domain name. At the time I had no idea how rare these would become. I was also responsible for another one of those: If I only knew then what I know now, I would have treated these as the valuable client assets that they are!

3 Replies to “How to make a direct mailing break through the clutter”

  1. I used to operate a Direct Mail program at a newspaper. I told my clients that the piece had to capture the attention of the reader between the time they picked up the mail and walked to their trash can.

    This is a great example!

Comments are closed.