Is It Possible For A Piece Of Direct Mail To Induce A Heart Attack?

Copyright 2006 Derek Naylor

As I opened my mailbox, I did what most folks do when they get their mail…

I turned into a humanized version of a mail sorting machine. Within an instant, I have already identified junk-mail, a few bills and a stack that requires further investigation to determine if it’s worth keeping or belongs in the trash can.

But today was no ordinary mail day. Today, I was given a mild heart-attack by what I found in my mailbox.

As I sorted through the week-old stack of mail, an envelope jumped out at me and instantly had my full attention. Not only did it have my full attention, but it had already created an emotional response within my body. My heart rate raised, blood vessels tightened and my breathing pattern increased.

I’m not exaggerating here, this is 100% true…

The envelope had a logo that is instantly recognizable to any grown adult in America. The envelope appeared to be from the I.R.S.

Since it wasn’t tax season and I own a business, I instantly thought I was being audited. Now, I have absolutely nothing to hide, but the thought of the time and hassle an audit would take sent shivers up my spine.

Here’s where this gets interesting – do you remember in my previous messages when I discussed the first job of marketing? Interrupting or getting attention through the use of the brain’s automatic search engine called the Reticular Activation System (RAS)?

Well, this story illustrates that process perfectly. See, if you remember, the RAS is constantly looking for items of priority around us. In other words, things we really want, things we really want to avoid, things that are dangerous, familiar or problematic.

The I.R.S. looking logo falls front and center into the “Problematic” zone.

When this happens, it’s impossible to ignore taking some sort of action.

Unfortunately for most businesses that spend their hard earned dollars on advertising and do a decent job on the “attention” step, the next action is usually a pitch into the trash can or ignorance of the remainder of the message.

But before I continue on that subject, let me finish this story because it illustrates a very, very, very important point in sales and marketing.

As I opened the envelope with hope that I wasn’t being audited by Uncle Sam, I quickly realized that I’d just fallen victim to a false alarm. The ad was from – get this – Parenting Magazine! Needless to say I was relieved, but ticked off at the same time.

See, the creative geniuses at Parenting Magazine thought they were being super-sneaky by making the envelope appear like it was coming from the I.R.S. But, like so many other advertisers, they neglected to consider what happens when the recipient figures out they’ve just been duped.

Do they think that evokes a positive emotion? One that makes me think: “Boy, that sure was clever, just for their cleverness, I’m going to subscribe to their magazine!”? Do they really believe that their prospects are so dumb that they can be tricked? If you think about it, it’s almost insulting their target market.

Sometimes I wonder…

Has that ever happened to you? I’ll bet it has at one level or another. Most savvy marketers know that they must get attention for their ad to work. This is why you see talking frogs, cute kids, screaming people and other odd things so common in advertising. The advertiser wants your attention and most do a great job of getting that far.

But that’s where it all falls apart. The instant a prospect figures you out, your chances of success are reduced faster than you can imagine.

Interruption only lasts for a few seconds, you now need to engage them into the remainder of the advertisement.

Very rarely can this be done when you use false alarms like Parenting Magazine did. The real secret is interrupting with a headline or opening statement that is RELEVANT to your product/service.

In your case, interrupt them based on problematic situations or desires surrounding self-storage.

To make this important point clear, allow me to use one more example so you understand. If you authored a book called “How To Make $1 Million in 30 Days Or Less”, what are you going to write about? Cooking? Parenting? Cars?

I hope not…

Of course you’d write about the art of making money right?

What if you purchased a book about making money and when you opened it up, you read a bunch of cooking advice? You wouldn’t read that book for long would you?

Advertising and Marketing are no different. Whether it be direct mail, radio, T.V., Billboards, Internet or print, you must interrupt based on relevant hot buttons in the RAS and then ENGAGE or gain INTEREST based on fulfilling on your interrupting promise.

So, the first 2 of 4 steps to the marketing code are: Attention/Interrupt, then Engage/Interest.

The next step is called Decide/Educate. This is what to do after you have their attention and they’re engaged, ready to read or listen to your message.