How a Distributor Uses Print and Promotion to Win Direct Mail


Did you know that promotional products have been around in the United States since the days of George Washington? It’s not a history lesson, but Linda Neumann, owner of Brilliant Marketing Ideas in San Diego, likes to include tidbits like this in her self-promos. With a personalized letter that was both informative and entertaining, she found a way to merge print and promotional products for direct mail, beyond just a flyer or an assortment of seemingly random items.

Can you tell us about a campaign you worked on that mixed both print and promotional products?

Linda Neumann: Every quarter, I do self-promotion which includes print and promotional products. The last was for a mason jar that included AP Specialties Tootsie Rolls, and I developed a direct marketing letter that began by comparing which of these two items was developed first – the mason jar or the tootsie roll. I linked it to the promotion.

Letters are essential to sending self-promos. Asking which was the oldest, I explained that promotional products actually date back to 1789, when George Washington distributed commemorative buttons. Then I made an offer [and] some statistics on the percentage of people who do business with a company after receiving promotional products.

I usually get a 5% to 10% response with direct mail that I use as self-promotions. I also work with a client who has decided to send testimonials, and for this client we associate promotional products with each letter. They will send one each month to their list. The letter talks about the services they offer and the incentive to act quickly, and the promotional product keeps the message in mind.

How did you choose the products for this application?

NL: The products were chosen to be related to the message. So the first letter would talk about the customer being there when you didn’t know who to call for help. Next, we made a jar opener that carries the line “turn to us when you need help”.

A Brilliant Marketing Ideas self-promo

How did the combination of print and promotional products specifically meet the client’s needs?

NL: The products chosen each month were aimed at something that could be used at home and would remind them of the services provided by my client. Testimonials are more like case histories of the services and explain why they were beneficial to the client.

Did you encounter any obstacles while working on this campaign? If so, how did you overcome them?

NL: The obstacles were the costs on the production side of the campaign. Every month, over 1,000 packages needed to be shipped, and the customer didn’t want to pay a courier company to pack and ship their orders. They decided to have someone assemble the package in-house and take it to the post office to post. I introduced them to Pirate Ship, a discount postage system, to save money on postage.

However, showing them the comparison to the courier house for postage saved, address verification used, California sales tax exemption 1541.5 (related to non-payment of sales tax on the product using a courier house), and the saving of their in-house labor and the headaches involved, they moved production to the courier house and all products are shipped directly there for distribution.

What advice would you give to distributors wishing to carry out a similar project?

NL: My advice to other distributors would be to learn about direct marketing as a way to sell print and promotions together, and increase your business and customer value. They can’t get something like that easily online. Creativity is something they enjoy and will cling to.


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