How to Market Your Business With Self-Promos

Any business conversation about marketing begins (and often ends) with a digital marketing strategy. An Accenture survey found that a third of executives expect digital spending to account for more than 75% of their marketing budgets within five years.

So what does that mean for direct mail advertising, that venerable marketing war horse? Contrary to common belief, direct mail is still very effective. The Direct Marketing Association puts its cost per lead on par with email and pay-per-click advertising. Moreover, businesses spent more on direct mail in 2013 than the previous year, and people prefer to be contacted through direct mail over any other medium. The lesson is simple: mailers are still held in very high regard by both marketers and consumers.

“Everybody wants to email because it’s free,” says Ryan Sauers, the president and owner of Sauers Consulting Strategies. “Well that’s great, but if it never gets to the intended person, they never read it. Direct marketing is more important than ever.”

Direct mail is an essential tool for distributors to attract sales and stand out. Postcards, coupons, letters and more are all effective at spreading a brand identity.

But top distributors agree that “bulky” mailers containing distinctive self-promos are the best at conveying creativity and impressing customers. Overture Premiums and Promotions (asi/288473), for example, makes a habit of sending bulky mailers with humorous items to win over clients and prospects. One recent package included a custom coffee mug with an imprint that read “Awesome Ends In Me. Coincidence? I think not.” It was sent to good customers who spent a certain amount of money with the company. “We had so many of our clients giving us a call back asking for more,” says Tej Shah, VP of marketing and ecommerce for the Vernon Hills, IL-based distributor. Those conversations easily led into discussions about their upcoming events and interest in other items. “It’s something that we’ve always found phenomenal ROI with,” Shah adds.

Axis Promotions (asi/128263) makes sure to package its self-promos in custom boxes, tubes and mailers, and picks a carefully chosen item to demonstrate the company’s creativity. “You always hear about how many touches it may take to get that first order, and some of our biggest accounts are proof that it takes time,” says Marketing Manager Katie Smart. ”It’s not enough to rely on phone calls and emails alone. You need clever self-promos that open doors, creative marketing pieces that help you get that first meeting, and something in your marketing kit that helps you say ‘thank you.’” So don’t ignore your own creative advertising ideas!

It’s important to toe the line between clever and confounding. One credit card company sent Overture a remote control boat – “It had to be a $100, $150 boat,” remembers Shah – that was completely functional except for one catch: they had to call to get the remote that operates it. “It’s kind of smart but also kind of cheesy,” says Shah. “In our case, we never actually called. Instead of holding that piece of action over the recipient’s head, for current customers we send it as a thank you. ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you.’ It gets a great response.” For prospects who you haven’t done business with before, an actionable item in the mailer makes more sense.

Sauers stresses the need for balance with a marketing plan. The power of digital marketing can’t be totally ignored marketing your business online can be very powerful. Likewise, it’s foolish to throw all your efforts into digital marketing without mailers and face-to-face networking. “People want to completely stick with the old and not embrace the new, or embrace the new and forget the old,” says Sauers, who is writing a book on branding. “It’s about using all these tools.”