After receiving a #10 envelope solicitation from my association for a recently published book, hand written on what looked like a piece of toilet paper, I accepted the offer to purchase and replied in their BRE.I didn’t give the crudely packaged solicitation a second thought as I tore off the bottom of a real toilet paper order form, that seemed to be hand written, and tucked it back into an envelop with a check for my order.My purchase behavior was the purest reflection of the direct response principle which says you can communicate with your customers in any format, often and generate involvement, knowledge of detailed information, voluntary or trial commitment and a close.I really didn’t care how the information came to me for I am a loyal member of this engineering association. Their package surely got my attention. They communicate with me often…and it sure makes sense to me that their frequent solicitation is what binds me to them.Of course, if I were not a member or with limited knowledge of the organization I might have been a little offended and would have tossed the solicitation. As a prospect I would like to see multiple formats/propositions in print, digital with interactive applications from them for my conversion to occur.How simple can this be…well when you look at the real and self imposed constraints of various industries you might get a different picture of how brand and direct response types throw these 2 solicitation principles to the dogs.Automotive PitchesLet’s start with automotive (national or wholesale) direct marketing. This environment has seen some of the best and proven direct marketing campaigns and some fairly week ones evolve.The above principle in the past has been shredded often in many of their campaigns because of;- Retail (dealer) promotional environments,- Targeting misunderstandings,- Lack of audience need identification,- Misunderstanding that slick and generic product communications will do the job in a direct response environment,- Need to quickly address perceived problems without real media/audience planning,- Supplier list packing of customer and prospect contacts…greed,- Lack of client sophistication and time lined evaluative metrics,- Continued use of (formula) campaigns and lack of real backend campaign measurement.In many cases select elements have been the achilles heal of this industries direct marketing and brand promotional efforts.Even so, many campaigns are successful because of integrated tactics and targeting;- Internet banner campaigns that drive traffic to a IPP (site) for prospect qualification,- Sweepstakes and Microsite Games to involve prospects with vehicles,- Newspaper free standing inserts to select markets for dealer traffic building,- Mid promotion emails blasts to qualified prospects,- IVR (Interactive Voice Response) follow up calls and POP offered as separate add on for dealers,- Post analysis survey sample of the dealers with reporting of traffic/sales, micro site clicks, FSI response with advertising campaign metrics and,- Micro site post program sales match to determine the effectiveness of the program.Another multiple objective dealer traffic and brand awareness builder might include the following digital elements;- Personalized URL Email promotional website,- Branded content, vehicle content, and test drive offer, viral video postings,- On You Tube & video sharing sites,- Game drawings,- Rich media banners unique to the vehicle,- Lead generating sweeps and,- Geo-targeted online media.Don’t get me wrong, many regional and national integrated campaigns have outlined some telling KPIs that include; test drive redemptions and sales, vehicle sales rates and “ups” by medium, cost per sale and attitude repeats. And it really is not fair to criticize if the cost of the direct marketing program, at minimum, is recovered by sales.The Survey PitchAnother direct mail format I received that I thought had trampled one of my direct marketing assumptions was a questionnaire that slowly and subtly initiated a pitch while at the same time asked me questions in a standard survey format.As I read the questions I became more intrigued as I discounted legal issues and the negative ramifications on this organizations products by wrapping a brochure under the guize of a quantitative survey.It didn’t matter that while I was answering the survey questions I realized the instrument had departed from normal question and answer formats and was conveying hard information about a multitude vehicles and brands and was in fact trying to turn me into an intender.The obvious communication power of the format and reinforced in a digital promotion, at the same time, was strong. As I answered the questions I realized some obvious sales and communications strengths which slowly broke my concern about wrapping this wolf (brochure) in a sheep’s (survey) clothing.If I was able to procure the cross tabs from this survey/pitch I would probably conclude;- Readership (checked answers) for the first few questions was low yet probably stabilized as readers became more secure in the format,- Readership could be easily altered for future copy and offer modifications in this format,- There is no question about the measures of involvement (read/check) with the survey/pitch and reader interest in talking with a dealer or test driving the vehicle described,- Secondary measures of involvement by the large numbers who wrote comments between questions would lead me to believe that recipients were positive about the information conveyed and that it was memorable.- There will probably be minimal negative statements about the obvious conditional bride— you fill out the questionnaire and we will give you a cash award and a promotional brochure in questionnaire clothing…standard practice for years.- The questionnaire probably has done an outstanding job in getting the respondent to request further contact, therefore increasing future buy rates,- Decreasing the cash pay-off for returning the questionnaire might sacrifice the rate of return (readership) for an increase in sales conversion percentage,- After a series of copy, list and offer tests there might be a greater chance to draw recipients and readers through the entire piece,- Graphic devices and illustrations should make the words work harder and help with involvement and sales and,- Providing supportive rationale, specifications, lengthy and complex product information and data, static illustrations and confidential price information will effectively pull responders through an array of product information with which they will become directly involved.The absolute rate of sales generated from those that received, completed and returned the brochure/survey should be positive based on the readership that bred responder involvement.Regardless of the issues involved in these creative direct marketing communications I still hold that if you continue to vary the propositions, formats and media your prospects receive the greater the chance for their conquest.Of course, your customers in general will listen regardless as long as you communicate with them frequently or they tell you to stop.Ok, It really wasn’t real toilet paper but you got the point.