Sunday, September 8, 2013

Marketing Education via Junk Mail - Notes While Reviewing Local Coupon Books

Are you overlooking an awesome opportunity to gather ideas about marketing?

Have you ever gotten junk mail?

Of course you have!  All of us have!

However, it dawned on me that I was overlooking a GREAT OPPORTUNITY.

You know those coupon books from local businesses we get with our junk mail?

How much do different companies PAY to be in there?  (I do not know this answer...just leading to a point...)

I decided to take notes of my observations while leafing through those coupon book ad circulars.  If you, as a reader, also happen to benefit, that is cool, too.

Below, I include general observations and specific notes.


Here are the general observations I made while reviewing the coupon ad book junk mail:

I realized that there are two (2) major productive objectives to advertising a business via a junk mail coupon book:

Objective #1: Branding: Get me to notice your company.  (Future business or referrals?)

Objective #2: Respond to Call to Action (CTA): You want me to do something...visit, call, use your coupon, etc.  There are many coupons, but you want me to notice YOUR coupon (or ad).

To reach either objective (or BOTH of them), there are a few major keys that determine whether the ad is effective...not necessarily in any particular order:

Key #1: Great Headline
Sometimes, a great leading question or qualifying headline might grab the RIGHT audience to look more closely at that specific ad.

Key #2: Enticing Call to Action (CTA)  or Hook
None of us are looking through advertisements for anything other than enticing deals.  We are not looking for excuses to pay for things at full or regular price.  A great CTA makes me want to do business or contact you immediately.

Some of the CTAs were truly enticing.  Too many made my eyes roll.

Key #3: Brand or Company Name
Branding is only sometimes really important within coupon ad books via junk mail.

Sometimes, the brand name was emphasized for one-time sales types of businesses, which only makes marginal sense.  Branding is an awesome idea for repeat or referral businesses.  Hopefully, your brand is easy to spot or share if you have this type of business.

Sometimes, the company name is easy to find when it seemed to matter.  I was amazed how often it really was not.

Some places put more emphasis on their brands than the service they offer.  This might not have been so wise.

Key #4: Contact Information
It is always important to provide people with a way to respond to your ad.  It amazed me how difficult it was to find.  Sometimes, it was too far from the most eye-catching parts of the ad.  Other times, the print size was so small that it is difficult for anyone missing perfect eyesight to be able to read.

We found you and want to respond to your Call to Action.  Don't make it hard for us to answer that call.

Key #5: Unique Selling Proposition
If we do not know your brand, we might need a good reason to consider buying from you.

If you are not offering us an enticing deal (a hook), we need to

WARNING: If you stopped reading here, you will have gotten a good chunk of my message.  However, if you are curious, you can check my much less formal note-taking...some of these individual observations might be more interesting than others.  There is very little filtering happening from this point forward.

To visit The Ultimate Analyst company website click HERE.


Here are the notes I took while reviewing the coupon ad book junk mail:

Only sometimes does it seem to make sense to have an ad that is a separate page from the coupon ad book or newspaper circular.  The ad must be good for it to have any chance of being worth the extra cost for this.

Bright, easy-to-see pictures often seem to make more effective ads, especially when those pictures relate to the results of the service.  However, it's important to notice that pictures only seem to be effective if they appear to provide a realistic connection with the lifestyle of the targeted customer.  Otherwise, it seems like the picture would lose effectiveness from not being taken seriously.

Coupon book ads seem to be really effective for impulse buys that do not cost a lot to purchase.  Examples might include food, clothing, movie tickets, tanning, etc.

Coupon book ads seem like they would be less effective for products and services that (a) cost a lot of money and (b) often researched before making a purchasing decision.

Similar to separate page ads, full-page ads seem like they are more effective ONLY IF the ad is good.  Larger ad space will not compensate for a poorly designed ad.

When the same ad advertises multiple (only partially related) things, it seems to CONFUSE the message.  Exceptions to this seem to be grocery stores, restaurants, jewelry, etc.

If you have a service that offers multiple events, activities, or classes, it seems to be a poor use to ad space to try listing ALL of those activities.  It seems like it would be more effective to capture the intrigue of people who MIGHT be interested in the events, activities, or classes you have to offer.  Get them to call for a brochure or visit a website to see more a list of specific events or the event schedule.

Phone numbers should be SOLIDLY colored.  The numbers should not have any fancy design within them, because while the design can be clever, it makes a blurry effect.

Great pictures do NOT overcome the lack of (a) a unique selling proposition or (b) special hook to grab my attention.

Referring people on a printed ad to watch a video on YouTube is extremely ineffective.  (Why should we take time to watch a video about YOUR company?)

Similarly, is anyone really typing in the URL of a company's Facebook or Twitter account?  (If so, are they really a new customer looking to buy from you?)  I cannot help but think this is a waste of ad space.

Large Picture + Small Text = Ineffective Ad

A big ticket item (i.e. garage installation) on an ad too small to show pictures large enough to showcase high quality work makes the ad ineffective.

Neat Idea: Diagram showing what involves a 21-point inspection (for a service business)

Great Idea: Auto Repair Shop offering Free Towing

BIGGEST WORD on AD = Best Description of Business -- Great Idea; if I am interested in this type of business, I will take time to check the smaller print details.

Interesting Idea: Coffee Shop Offering (a) Sign Language Night each month and (b) Artist of the Month who gets to display his/her work in that shop

BAD IDEA: Unfamiliar (and hard-to-read) logo dominating space (and attention) from another picture showing a demonstration of good, quality work

GOOD IDEA: Hook is the MOST noticeable part of the ad.


Tree Care Service using a generic picture of a tree = INEFFECTIVE.  (looks like too many other like companies) -- Same ad offered a $50 Discount, but it was NOT easily noticeable.

Early Learning Center not showing any (a) benefits of this service, (b) hook to get you to look, and (c) no unique selling proposition (why we should send our kids to THEIR learning center) = either an arrogant approach or a lame ad

UNIMPRESSIVE HOOK: 5% of Profit Donated to Charity

MORE IMPRESSIVE HOOKS: Donating 10% of Total Proceeds, Donating 25% of Profit
(Truth be told, I do not know what the "right" levels of donation would be, but I know that 5% is not going to entice hardly anyone.)

MARGINAL IDEA: Using multiple hooks/deals on the same ad; they dilute the potential to appreciate any one of the deals being offered.

BAD IDEA: Catering Company WITHOUT pictures showcasing some of their food (UNLESS this catering company is well known where they are advertising)

FAIR: Water Softener Company showing a bland picture of a gray water softener (Better Idea: Use a picture of something that shows the BENEFIT of using a water freshly poured water in a crystal glass...maybe even showing the pouring motion the splashes)

GOOD IDEA: When service or high ticket items show a beginning price (i.e. Starting at $749) - no need to attract calls from buyers who are not prepared to pay your price

AWESOME LOGO: La Marsa (a Mediterranean restaurant) - includes colorful looking shish kabob

Logo: La Marsa Mediterranean Restaurant - Shish Kabob
La Marsa Logo: Can't you just TASTE that shish kabob?

POINT OF CONFUSION: Why only offer a "deal" to new customers rather than extend the offer to currently existing loyal customers?  (I saw this in several places.)

SLAP-IN-THE-FACE COUPON: New Customers $10 Off, Existing Customers $5 Off

PHONE NUMBERS IN AD: Why list more than one landline within the ad, especially when one of those phone numbers is EASY (Phone #1: xxx-5000 vs. Phone #2: xxx-1581)?

GREAT IDEA: Lead with a Question to make people think, ESPECIALLY if you have an "afterthought" service business (i.e. fireplace or wood burning stove cleaning)

"Is your (product at home) ready to use this Fall?" - AWESOME LEAD/HOOK

KUDOS: A landscaping company uses a LEAF within its company logo, and it uses that same leaf in place of standard bullet points (solid circles), almost reinforcing the brand.

GREAT OPENING: "Payment Plans Available" - seems like a good hook to me


COOL COMPANY NAME: Rugrat Resale & Consignment

NICE NICHE MESSAGE: "Attention Hunters: It's time to clean up your freezer!" for animal processing (with a local emphasis on boneless deer processing)

AWESOME: Before/After pictures that show either (a) before dirt or (b) visually appealing after results

BAD IDEA: Landscape company WITHOUT pictures (not counting a non-landscape like logo, like a lighthouse)

"Family Owned and Operated" - Is this really a selling point?  It's "nice" but does not affect MY buying decision.  Does it affect YOURS?  (Your family might be ROTTEN at this.)  The only exception I can think would be food made from a secret family recipe you cannot get anywhere else.

MISSED THE MARK: Image of hot chick is NOWHERE NEAR the hook, contact info, nor any unique selling proposition.  In most cases, the man will look at the chick and nothing else.  The woman will miss the pertinent info (almost glossing over the ad BECAUSE of the "hot chick").

OBSERVATION: Pictures for Design/Visual Improvement Services cannot be in Black & White--MUST be in Color.  (i.e. landscaping, tree service, interior design, etc.)

GREAT HOOK: "Free 1/2 hour phone consultation" for a counseling service.

GOOD IDEA: Retail business offering significantly different levels of the same type of product: (a) demonstrating each level with a picture and (b) a price.

GREAT NAME FOR STORE: Smokers Only - Tell me that smokers do not feel persecuted today, and we have a store that lets THEM feel like it's ONLY FOR THEM!?!  Not bad for a niche target market.

ALMOST THERE:  FitZone for Women is a great concept.  There are many women who prefer to avoid men during their workout for various reasons.  Unfortunately, the ad I saw made it REALLY hard to see "for women," because the print was so small.  If you target a definite, niche market, there is not any reason not to make it clear to THAT NICHE MARKET.

GREAT ATTENTION GRABBER: "Beware of Deadly Oak Wilt, Call Now for Fall Pruning"

OBSERVATION-COLOR CONTRAST: Light and dark color contrast does not guarantee the printed ad is good, but it significantly improve its chances.

AWESOME HOOK: "Cash in a Flash" - Are you not intrigued to find more?  'nuff said

POOR PLANNING: When colors on your ad are similar to colors used on ANOTHER AD on the SAME PAGE - Ads blend together

OBSERVATION-CHIROPRACTOR SERVICE: Chiropractors do not really need a fancy ad.  They do not need an image.  People needing (wanting) that service will respond to the first thing they see.  Just make it easy for these people to call you for an appointment.

OBSERVATION-PHOTOS: Eye-catching photos need to near the Call to Action the Hook.  I noticed an awesome picture of refreshing water...only to have to look REALLY HARD to find the name of the company and some way to contact that company.

WORTHLESS HOOK: "Free Quote" or "Free Estimate" - Is anyone really fooled by THIS one, anymore?

STRANGE COMBO: Words in Color + Graphics in Black and White

BAD IDEA: Light Text on Light Background (or similarly, Dark Text on Dark Background) - too difficult to read

IMPRESSION-MEN vs. WOMEN-SALES: Many Women appreciate ANY sale or discount; few Men will respond UNLESS it is a 20% Discount or More - Who is your target market?  Does your sale reflect this?

BAD IDEA: Using pictures of people that are SO small that you cannot discern any of them = Waste of a Graphic

OBSERVATION: If the printed advertisement is broken into visual sections, make sure it is visually OBVIOUS that everything is part of your ad.  What made me think to mention this was an ad with a black background with 2 white boxes/red line border trim.  Each box had separate graphics.  Initially, I thought they all were separate, but all 3 parts were the same ad.  It was NOT obvious, though.

LAME: Including a picture of your family.  It's "cute" but not particular effective...I don't think, anyway.

 --"FREE DAYS" in BIG LETTERS, dates beneath in smaller but large letters (within a PINK CIRCLE)
--Under that circle is a YELLOW section, "Pick Your Day and Attend a FREE Class - Sign up THAT Day and Receive 50% OFF the Joining Fee" - Talk about creating motivation to sign THAT DAY!
--Under that yellow section is a Black Section with White Lettering - containing the contact info

I realize that I need to go through this exercise more often.  We think we're doing it, but we notice a lot more when we take physical notes.  You might not have gotten this far, but I did, and I will review these, again.

For now, I see I have a lot of work to do with my own stuff.

Do you have other observations you see on printed junk mail Coupon Ads?

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