How Your Mailer Will Not Go in Their Waste Basket

At home, we usually stand over a wastebasket when quickly perusing mail. Yet home is a great place to reach us because we relax in our own surroundings. Here are the two most likely ways to get us to put your outsized card on the counter to keep and use.

The first way is to make an immediately obvious and alluring offer. Paradise Foods, for example, has me trained to look at their outsized postcards with the image of a raspberry torte, or quiche pie – some $ 14.95 delicious made-by-Paradise Foods item I can get for free when I spend just $ 25 at their upscale grocery store.

The second way your business can cut through the clutter at home is to offer helpful tips that they immediately see they need, if not now, then later. This mailing isn’t four-color, but looks more like a helpful how-to sheet – because it is. Tips can trump advertising in credibility and cost.

The owner of local advertising agency approached the owner of a quality quick-copy printer whose work he admired to discuss a profitably way to partner. Together they invited the owner of the best local video production house to join them. Together, they co-produced and distributed a CD and booklet that could also be downloaded from their web sites and blogs or given away. It prominently displayed the faces of the business owners, company names and contact information. Together they reduced their overhead in co-creating the campaign.

The package was launched as a public service campaign: “Thirty Ways Smart People Make Their Homes Safer.” That’s a hot “halo” topic for homeowners and for media coverage. Plus it is a great way to introduce prospective client to the partners’ talents.

In brief vignettes, narrated by a popular civic leader, we literally see demonstrated the things to do to make homes safer. For example, a fireman and policewoman circle a home, describing to the Realtor the specific places motion-activated lights should be added and hedges cut back. A hardware store rep shows a librarian and PTA representative good places to store the fire extinguishers and install smoke detectors. In short, this ensemble cast takes turns showing each other what the viewer – the homeowner – could do in one weekend day.

But here’s the really clever part of the partnership. Who else in town has, as a vital part of their job, serving or selling to homeowners? Realtors and fire fighters, of course. The partners approached – not only the local fire department and largest realty firm – but also a hardware and a paint store, beauty salon, video rental outlet, home renovator, pizza joint, school PTA and city police and library.

Their offer? To include, as co-sponsors of this public service campaign, the names of the businesses that enlisted their people to distribute the CDs and booklets.

Hair salons serve people who must sit still, a handy time to read.

Fire fighters have down time they could use to build goodwill, parking their fire engine in busy parking lots, at schools and elsewhere, getting out to distribute the safety information.

Realtors, busy networkers, hand out the helpful packet at the mixers they attended, and to past and prospective clients. Realtors also offer it as a “welcome to the community” gift to newcomers.

Police offer the video or CD at neighborhood Neighborhood Watch meetings where they speak in homes.

The hardware store displayed a specially-priced, bundled package of the “must have” home safety products (smoke detector, fire extinguisher, motion detector light) right next to the continually-running CD, viewable at an eye-level TV monitor in the store.

The partners also asked all co-sponsors to post on their site the link to the landing page explicitly made for this campaign. That’s where people could download the video, audio and tips booklet – and see the list of campaign co-sponsors, each with a link to their site.

No press releases were sent to the media. A reporter at the local newspaper sniffed out this story on her own (she thinks). The partners gave her “an exclusive” on the story. That same reporter also wrote a “back story”, a behind-the-scenes description of how the partners met and collaborated in making the educational product.

As the local newspaper is part of a newspaper chain, the story was automatically sent it out to the sister papers. Eight others picked up their story, because it had an evergreen and universal appeal.

As you might imagine, this multi-supported campaign swept through town. As is often true in teamwork, some co-sponsors worked harder than others – and were easier to work with. Those were the people the original partners asked to participate in a second campaign a year later.

The partners’ alliance attracted media coverage outside their market, which enhanced their reputation as “national experts” to attract customers in their local market. This campaign is an amalgam of campaigns I’ve helped craft. Your version will be far more clever, efficient and sticky than mine – and I’d welcome the chance to learn from you.

Now people in the professions of the partners – but who live in other communities – are downloading asking for copies to see how they can create a partnership-based community service campaign in their area.

By the way, a sure sign of customer-attracting power of partnering around this “make your home safer” is that the big guys have now adopted it. But that doesn’t mean you can launch your local version with local partners – it just means that it would be mighty profitable for you to do so.

BOLA TANGKAS