Before starting my own design company, I worked as a marketing communications manager for several large corporations. One thing I vividly remember is the constant deluge by a variety of vendors (agencies, printers, photographers, specialty services) soliciting my company for work. Well, namely they were soliciting me in particular as their contact target to the company. Mostly this onslaught came in the form of direct mail. I would say it was a safe estimate that I received a good 15-20 promo pieces a week from a vast number of companies extolling their virtues as to why they would be a perfect choice to do business with our company.
The problem was most of the approaches were just plain boring. I often got the standard 10 x 13 envelope, which housed the ho-hum 9 x 12 two pocket folder with the obligatory business card slotted on the left inside pocket. There would be a cover letter and couple of fact sheets and some sample ads thrown in for show. Other mailers were your typical slim-jim trifold mailer or in most cases, the good old 5 x 8 postcard. Yes, some were slicker and better done than others, but I soon came to the realization of just what I was witnessing. That being, I had a birdseye view on a daily basis to see new business marketing as one vast onion field. But every once in awhile a rose would appear in the onion field.
There was one particular company that would send me something unusual every month. It was always a “dimensional” mailer and for the lack of a better word, it was cool. It usually came mailed in a perfectly square small black corrugated box. One time it was an ornate Japanese tea cup with a haiku poem affixed as a tag to the handle. Another time it was a mini hardcover novel personalized with me as the author. And most of all, each mailing was more beautifully designed than the other. Whenever I got one of these gems, I would run down the hall and show everyone from the receptionist to the mailroom guy.
OK, I’m sure you’re saying, “Well, they must have paid a fortune to send stuff like that. Who can afford that?” Instead, what you should ask yourself is, can I afford to send something less memorable? Here’s what I can tell you about the above example. For six months, I forever mentioned and championed this company to my superiors as an agency we needed to utilize.
And mind you, this was no small prize, we had large advertising and marketing budgets. To take it a step further, I didn’t know these guys from Adam other than receiving their innovative mailings, and they were in St. Louis and we were in New Jersey! I eventually got them in the door and they didn’t disappoint. Their work for our company was just as fresh and exciting as their mailers. And you know what? They made me, the marketing executive they targeted, look good for recommending them. It taught me one of the golden rules of agency to business marketing. It’s really very simple: make the contact, whoever that might be, such as a secretary, look good. Impress them and make them look innovative to the powers that be, and you’ll be well on your way to landing the plum projects and lucrative accounts for every level of company.
When I did start my own company, I never forgot this valuable schooling in Marketing 101. When you begin to look at things from another angle, or another dimension so to speak, you see new opportunities to really stand out in a crowded marketplace. So I knew that dimensional design would be, and has become, a very key component in my own company’s success.
Just the other day, I was in the office of a long time client and noticed a dimensional box invitation my company had designed for him over five years ago, sitting prominently on his shelf. I had even forgotten about this piece and I asked him what his affection to it was. He said, “It’s still the best conversation piece in my office. Whenever anyone walks in here, they usually ask what it is, and a heartwarming, funny story ensues.”
Still think dimensional and unconventional advertising and marketing is too expensive? I usually explain it to my clients like this, “think of it as cost per customer, not cost per piece.” And remember that one customer piece that I mentioned above now has a shelf life of over sixty months and is still going strong. Can you really put a dollar value on all the goodwill that has bought me with my long time client?