How Paying for Postage Made me a Better Marketer

How Paying for Postage Made me a Better Marketer

Reader Comments (25)

  1. When you have to pay for your content to make it into someone’s hand suddenly you are very aware of what you are producing. It doesn’t cost much to publish and promote a blog post, so maybe you send it out before it’s really ready or is the best it can be. But when you have to actually put your money on the line suddenly the process becomes much more important.

  2. It does make you stop and wonder how much of the content that’s online right now would have gone out to potential customers if it all had to go out via physical mail. Probably not much, and what would have gone out probably would have been a lot better thought out and put together.

    Good points to consider before hitting that “send” button. Thanks Brian!

  3. Many people say that direct mail is dead, but I attended a class at Modern Postcard in Carlsbad a few months back where they showed the power of the medium. I was amazed at how effective it can be for certain markets. Like you say, Brian, efficiency is the name of the game.

  4. Thanks for the great comments…you are all right on the money.

    And I am not saying “everyone should start doing direct mail” either…but using the fundamentals of direct response that were cultivated over many decades of direct mail marketing is such a valuable skill for all marketers today, whether online or offline.

    I hope to coninue the conversation in the months and years ahead…there is a lot of interest in this “new medium” called direct mail among many digital marketers for sure…:-)

  5. Thanks for speaking up for direct mail. I was a graphic artist with a local direct mailer and designed ads and wrote and rewrote ad copy. Some clients pulled their ads because they received tons of business. 🙂 Let that be a warning to you: your business could go expand overnight.

    • Absolutely — it’s a significant investment, so you need to really know what you are doing, but done properly with the right message to the right list, it can be incredibly effective.

  6. I agree that a tangible something is more likely to be looked at. But I get so much trash mail that I just check if any is personal and chuck the rest. If a card stands out I will look at it. Most look like the other, just like the emails I get promoting this or that. Postcardmania, here in Clearwater, is mopping up and its customers are smiling.

    If email letters were done with more empathy for the recipients, it would make a difference. Most are to much hype, too much reach, too much sales pitch. Done with taste and with the purpose of making a friend of the customer more conversions would be made.

  7. Many of you know that Copyblogger’s roots are in the great classic copywriters — and many of those are direct mail folks. Thanks to Brian K for bringing some 21st-century direct mail knowledge to the blog. 🙂

  8. Thank you for educating the digital diehards on these important marketing lessons. It’s true—we’re all marketers using tools to accomplish our objectives. Everything should be approached with this level of precision.

  9. Excellent post! I was delighted to see a heavy-hitter like Brian Kurtz contribute to Copyblogger. Wow. It’s like a marriage between John Wayne and Adele! (You’re John Wayne, Brian…)

    Yes. Call me a direct response copy fangirl. Everything Brian said here was said to a roomful of 300+ copywriters at the AWAI Bootcamp in 2012. I was there (and so was Brian Clark). It was encouraging to know that no matter how people describe digital marketing, it ultimately is still direct response. It’s great when I see some of the younger writers discover that some old guy like Claude Hopkins can still be relevant with his classic marketing book “Scientific Advertising.”

    The only difference between 1923 and today is that we have more efficient tools to measure response. Ogilvy would have killed to have Google Analytics during his day.

    One lesson I’ve learned from the direct response marketers is that having to pay for postage made the ride that much more real. You saw results (or lack thereof) much faster. Those who struck gold recognized a “blockbuster” package when they saw one. They weren’t afraid to keep using it if it kept getting a solid response.

    Today’s marketer is starting to realize that although people need to be engaged with content, they still need to be persuaded to buy and there are proven, scientific ways to do it. Although some agencies have turned away from these tested principles, it’s great to see others pursuing them. Thanks for featuring Brian and his experienced insights. For those who don’t know who Brian is, you’re in for a treat if you listen to that podcast.

  10. Great article, Brian; especially this: “Everything you send doesn’t have to sell something, but everything you send must achieve something.”

  11. While I did cover a lot of these points in my keynote at AWAI in 2012, I have to admit that I’ve learned so much more since then by hanging around the smartest online marketers on the planet.

    They think I’m teaching them some stuff but the reality is that I’m learning so much more from them in the process.

    Combining today’s technology with best-in-class direct response fundamentals makes this the most exciting time to be a direct marketer…ever.

    And being a contributor on Copyblogger is actually a dream come true. Thanks for having me!

  12. Thank you, Brian.

    This is an article that needs to be reread and shared widely.

    There is a cost to publishing whether it be print or online. With print, the writer has to affix postage and the receiver has to take out the trash at the end of the cycle. Those actions can be measured in dollars and sense. (pun intentional)

    Often forgotten is the price paid to write in a “free medium.” Great content and creativity cost time, energy, and money to produce. But they are the price of entry because, we are asking for the time and attention of our audience which also can be measured in dollars and sense.

    By bringing our best, we are telling our readers that we respect their time. By giving them something of value, we are telling our audience that we honor them.

    That breaks the paradigm away from the marketing jargon of B2B, B2C, C2C, and even P2P, and supplants it with Human-to-Human.

    And don’t we all want to be treated in a way that honors our humanity? To do otherwise, is too high a cost for doing business.

    Now you’ve given me a sound-bite of a question to ask myself before I hit publish: “Put a stamp on it?”

    Now…on to listen to the interview.

  13. Timely piece for me personally, Brian. I highly respect your experience and your willingness to change.

    Just recently I started receiving hands on instruction from someone who has 30+ years experience in direct sales copywriting…someone you probably know through AWAI circles. I’ve only had two sessions with this person so far and can already tell that what they’re teaching me will take my online writing to a whole new level.

    My experience includes agency copywriting along with freelance copywriting, and I also have an affiliate marketing blog, so I’m seeing how these writing skills all mesh together as you described. Eventually I’ll adopt the all encompassing “marketer” title.

    I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the traditional direct sales letters down the road as I get schooled along the way by my sensei (who shall remain nameless here.)

  14. I really like this point you make “Using their language always trumps “perfect” grammar and usage.”

    It all comes back to the audience, don’t it?


    No but on a more serious note I totally agree with you. It’s fine to break the rules of the language but you need to know the rules backwards first.

    I’ve been writing in my blog for about 8 months and I haven’t occasionally deviated from the rules. But when I do I make sure it for significant ‘entertainment’ value.

  15. Postage stamps, post offices, direct mail – reading your spirited post is like opening a box of old photographs.

    Been doing Direct Mail in the 90’s and early 2’s. As you describe, a school of hard knocks and great way to become a (better) marketer. Together with my friend who runs a successful financial services firm in Atlanta GA we used to toil long and hard to produce direct mail winners. Winners didn’t happen as often as not, but the part I loved, once you had a winner you really did. You could just re-use it forever. Even 20 years later, when business is soft, my friend just pulls out that old direct mail piece from the 90’s, and with zero or minimal changes, direct mails it in the knowledge that it will pay off handsomely (even with today’s cost of postage).

    The biggest difference between postage stamps and on-line marketing – might be money. Direct Mail requires bags of cash just to get started. Like a casino where the cheapest chip costs a couple of grands. While the entrance to online marketing is free – so the online marketing field is much more crowded.

    If it weren’t for the fact that people turn away from online marketing when they realize it, too, means work, we’d be in trouble :-]

  16. I especially enjoyed your emphasis on turning a “like to have” to a “need to have”. This cannot be achieved by merely filling your content with fluff. It is essential that you tell the TRUTH – this includes possibly acknowledging its fall backs before the reader does.

  17. Must pay the design, the print and the delivery; you better get it right on all the stages; from the copy to the target where it gets delivered, even to the paper where it gets printed, huge investment, usually a piece reprinted in the thousands, no stop button, no edit ad button, once its done its done, once its gone its gone.
    But it does work, and thickens the skin, makes you understand the needs of the market, the consumer, in a real world scenario.
    Great post…Hey Brian, don´t you feel like starting a direct mail campaign from fresh sometimes, just to align the copy chakras….?

  18. Loved your comment, Jorge…and yes, I actually “start direct mail campaigns from scratch” all the time even today…and while it’s incredibly challenging, nothing scales like direct mail.

    When you do it right, it’s the best feeling in the world…the planning of the creative, the design, the offer, the list selection and segmentation…and it’s all tranferable online.

    And MOST rewarding: The leads/prospects/buyers that come from direct mail almost always have a higher lifetime value than any other source.

    Every marketer in every medium should be tracking lifetime value…nothing more important in direct marketing yesterday…or today.

    And remember, when you are looking for a return on investment for your advertising, it’s ALL direct marketing.

    Even when a new direct mail campaign doesn’t work–like our recent Alternative Cancer Treatments “encyclopedia,”–it’s satisfying.

    We had a book that was so important to share with the world and to try to scale it via direct mail was the right thing to do.

    Well planned direct mail always makes me proud.

    I know…sounds old fashioned…:-)

  19. ”We’re not “online marketers” or “direct mail marketers” — we’re just marketers.”
    This says it all!
    After 15 years working is sales as part of corporate america, I realize I did many things wrong – all in the name of clearing my to do list as much as I could by the end of each day (which greatly endangered point #8 you mentioned Brian).
    But this dark time is behind me now, and posts like this are real eye openers for me.
    I now realize that free is not cheap, since it can cost you a customer (chances are, it did cost me several customers over the past years).
    But it’s never to late to learn isn’t it?
    They should teach a class on the negative impact of botched emails in high schools.

  20. Hi Brian,
    Since 2014 is the first year I’ll be “paying for postage” at least once every 3 weeks (with the newletter I’m shipping to my customers under the influence of your advice); I also expect it to be my best year ever.

    And, you know, there is something very special about writing someone a letter. Something that I think I had lost over the last 6 years I spent selling only via email.

    I’m looking at the first letters I’ve written so far, and people seem to love them and, most important of all, to be reading them until the very end !
    This probably was not the case anymore with our emails, so thanks for helping me & my company in rekindling the contact with our customers.

    And congratulations – both to Copyblogger for getting Brian to write his first guest blog post ever (that’s a big first !) and to you Brian, for making it count !

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