You can't build a brand using a cookie cutter approach

February 8, 2014

I can't tell you how often I receive direct mail postcards in my mailbox that use cheap and junky looking templates -- you know the kind, insert [your own photo] here...insert [your own contact information] there. The themes are meant to apply to thousands of businesses in each product category.


The whole point of advertising your business is to stand out from your competition, so why would you want to be lost among the sea of generic templates? It drives me nuts to see so many people continuing to use these novice approaches in marketing -- especially given that these generic postcards are not even saving people money for the most part. When I receive these postcards in the mail, I immediately think that if this person doesn't value themselves enough to craft a message that's unique to their brand and the benefits they provide, I'm not calling them...ever (unless it's to pitch my own services to redesign a more compelling postcard).


I recently received a postcard from a local realtor. Without mentioning any names or specific tag lines, their tagline drew upon their vast experience serving Lake Norman's communities. The problem? It was a generic template which used [a lake] in the background. Last time I checked, our beloved Lake Norman had no mountains behind it. So, if you're trying to convince me that you're the local experts and how much you love serving Lake Norman, you've lost me. The postcard comes across as looking unprofessional and disingenuous. They probably spent a few thousand dollars on a mailing that actually damaged their brand and image. If you are committing the money to spend on direct mail, why settle for anything less?


You have the opportunity to be spot-on with your message, your brand, and incorporate the same recognizable fonts and colors from your business card or other marketing material. Template postcards depart from your brand and aren't helping you establish that repetitive and familiar engagement with your target audience.


So, how could the Lake Norman realtor team's postcard been effective? For starters, they should have used an image of Lake Norman that we'd all be familiar with -- it could have been taken from the shores of a familiar place like Jetton Park or the dock at one of the area yacht clubs. It would have shown them -- a friendly and approachable looking team standing by the lake. This conveys the sense that they are a part of the community here. In addition, the postcard should have used the same colors and fonts as their other advertising (which I've seen them do quite well in other venues) to carry through the brand and be recognizable.


Another example for building your brand and setting yourself apart comes from the realtor team that gave me the idea for starting this business to begin with. My next door neighbor was a realtor when I lived in The Farms a few years ago. She showed me something that her office assistant did with amateur software and had printed at a local office supply store. The postcard was flimsy and had an awful mix of bad fonts and horrible background textures (burlap, to be specific). When she told me these cost her somewhere around .40/card to have printed, I had to step in! I was able to provide her with a completely custom postcard at a fraction of the cost that utilized the same tan and pine green colors throughout our community's other marketing material. While they weren't associated with Crescent Communities, the subtle use of the community's color scheme set the impression that this team was a part of this specific community. We did two versions of the postcard -- one was only for residents in the community. The realtor team introduced themselves as fellow homeowners and talked up their value as realtors since they lived and breathed this community day in and day out. It was a very specific message to a very specific group. The second version of the postcard was still branded with the same basic color scheme and feel, but it was addressing potential communities in the area which might be ripe with prospects for wanting to sell and move-up to a community like The Farms. Again, using a very specific and targeted message. Prospects like to feel like you're addressing them personally, and template postcards don't do this.


Below are some ideas to make your postcards more specific to your brand:


  1. Make sure the fonts and colors are consistent with your other marketing material.

  2. Establish a tone for your marketing (playful, serious, conservative, funny, hip, high-end, budget-friendly). Whatever vibe you build your brand on, it should be incorporated in all your marketing.

  3. Who are you and why are you better than your competition? Template postcards just slap on a picture and different contact information. Use the space to communicate why you are different.

  4. Incorporate the use of testimonials, but only if you can be specific. A testimonial from Tom and Linda Stevenson looks suspicious and made up; however, if you can say Tom and Linda Smith from the Peninsula, or a specific neighborhood, the credibility factor is solid.

  5. Use a call to action to for consumers to check Angie's List or visit your website for reviews and testimonials.

  6. If you are providing an offer, make it specific. Postcards with $50 off messages fall into the generic category. If you encourage people to save the card for a $50 gift card to 131 Main upon completion of services, it's a subtle way of showing people that you are a part of the local community by that extra layer of detail. In addition, if you offer $50 off, they've forgotten that discount before the ink dries on the check. If you provide them the same discount in the form of a gift card they will have to plan to use, they are thinking of your business and the gift card you gave them until they have the chance to use it. Then, they subtly remember that great dinner out as a gift from you. Major value points and equity for your brand!


Please visit Message in a Mailbox on Facebook for other great tips and ideas to make your marketing stand out and work more can be doing more for less!

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