It appears that Vanguard is moving its investment platform from one system to another, and needs customers to take action to support the move. The email explains to the customer that a “3-step transition” is required, and doing so would take a “few minutes.” It includes four FAQs, but that’s all. The Call to Action is to “Transition Now” by clicking a button, which leads customers to the typical login page.
|Vanguard email to customers|
Furthermore, the request to the customer lacks any immediacy. The Call to Action should include a respond-by date. Internally, perhaps a decision was made not to include a date in the communication now because the IT folks have a year-long implementation plan. But even a soft request to take action by a specific date would help a customer decide to take action. Otherwise, the customer might ignore this or prioritize this task somewhere between, say, replacing the baking soda in the refrigerator and watching the last season of House of Cards.
Dear [Customer Name]
We have upgraded our platform for customers like you to make and follow your investments. This new, flexible platform will allow us to save money and make continuous service improvements, which will benefit you as we can lower our costs to serve you and improve your online experience.
Please help us move your account to the upgraded investment platform by completing 3 easy steps. It’s quick and easy—taking less than 5 minutes of your time. Just log into your account using the button below to get started.
If you could complete these 3 steps by February 28, 2019, that will help us help you. Thank you for your consideration and your time.
- Avoid industry jargon in customer communications.
- Any request for a customer to take action should include a date.
|Jet.com's NYC Landing page|
Scrolling down, I find the opportunity to purchase kale and an iPad.
|Below the fold on landing page|
|First fold-out panel with small call to action|
|Vanguard Security Update email|
The email opens in an emphatic tone. It speaks like a communication from Vanguard; that is, the tone fits their their brand identity of taking a stand for investors and treating them fairly.
The second paragraph contains the call to action. It cites a shared responsibility. It explains what is being requested and why.
The third paragraph includes a time-specific call to action. The response window is four weeks -- a bit long in internet time, but fair considering the actions involved.
Finally, there is a polite close reinforcing the cooperative nature of the call to action.
There are a couple potential minor improvement opportunities. I would consider adding a valediction, along the lines of "Sincerely, Vanguard Customer Service" or perhaps a couple FAQs. But these are based on my intuition and outside understanding of the target market. In the best possible world, if timing allows, an A/B test could be executed to see which edits would result in improved response.
- When communicating with customers, your communications style should be aligned with your brand.
- Requests to your customers should be date specific.
- A/B test every communication as feasible.
There is a clear Call to Action and an incentive for the customer to take action now. The email was sent on September 25 with an offer expiration date of October 4, so immediacy is encouraged.
But, what is Honey? Why would I add it to my browser? How do honey members save money, and compared to what? None of these questions are addressed in the email.
The other Fail is less important, but worth mentioning. According to the disclosure and the detailed Terms & Conditions found on Honey's site, only 40,000 customers are eligible for the award. Once that limit is reached -- even if before offer the expiration date -- the reward will no longer be available. This type of restriction is fairly common in direct-to-consumer marketing. I've included number-of-customer limitations in several campaigns to ensure the product is not oversold or to cap potential incentive liability. When I did, I would use this clause to my advantage by communicating it in the body of the email. PayPal could do this by including above the Call to Action a message along the lines of...
Be one of the 40,000 people to get your $5 bonus by October 4th. Bonus must be used by October 31st.*
This exclusive bonus offer is limited to the first 40,000 people to take action by October 4th. Bonus must be used by October 31st.*
- It is not enough to have a call to action and encourage immediacy in your direct-to-consumer emails. They should always include a value proposition.
- If your offer is limited to a specific number of customers, do not bury that restriction -- use it to your sales advantage.
The call to action is to complete a Census form. The reason to take action is to receive government money for programs I and my neighbors need. The reason to take action now is… well, we can’t take action now. Immediacy is lost. From a marketing standpoint, that makes this a Fail.
Presumably, the purpose of the advance letter is to improve the response rate of the upcoming Census mailing. However, someone who would not open the Census mailing envelope to come would also not open the envelope for this advance mailing. In other words, the advance letter is not worth the cost. If an advance mailing is necessary, use a postcard. It has a greater likelihood of being read by potential non-responders.
Lesson: If your call to action does not involve an immediate response, consider whether the vehicle will be cost-effective. When you mention a Web page in your direct mail, be sure that the landing page directly and seamlessly aligns with the stated reason for the recipient to go online.
|Not for me|
- There is not a specific Call to Action. It appears the objective of the postcard is to motivate people to visit www.mytireshop.com. However, the message about the website is that it is “your Fast, Local Tire Source.” The call to action should be specific, i.e., “Shop Tires Online at mytireshop.com”, with supporting features and benefits messaging.
- The URL is lost in the copy. It is the same weight as the rest of the copy, without a “www” preceding it, making it easy to get lost. It should have some distinction — at minimum an underline, different color, or italics. Having a “www” in front makes it clear that it is a website. Granted, the concept of having to explain that something is on the World Wide Web is a bit passé, but, perhaps, that is why there is a “www” in front of the same piece’s mention of www.generaltire.com. Which leads to …
- There are multiple possible actions from the communication. If a customer visits the General Tire website, they receive general information about the brand, but not about mytireshop.com. So why have multiple URLs on the same communication? Here’s my speculation: General Tire was willing to co-fund the postcard to promote their brand. That’s fine, but the postcard suggests that mytireshop.com sells only General Tires. It would have been better for mytireshop.com — and the potential customer — for the postcard to explain that “mytireshop.com sells General Tires and other fine brands” or have a similar headline-level message.
- Benefitmessages are missing. The features messaged here are specific to the tire, the ability to install the same or next day, and that it is a “Faster, Local Tire Source.” (How is a company with a foreign-seeming toll-free phone number local?) The benefits that could be messaged but are not are Peace of Mind, Ease of Use, Joy, and so on. For example, “Install the same or next day” could be “Relax. Visit www.mytireshop.com today and enjoy your new tires tomorrow.”
- There is no method of tracking success. Customers go through a sales funnel: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Desire, Action. The business behind mytireshop.com could easily learn how many customers move from Awareness (receiving the postcard) to Interest (visiting their website) by using a personalized URL that tracks who visited the website — or, at the very least, a vanity landing page specific to the mailing to count site visits. Once online, both methods can be used, along with Google Analytics, to see how many people complete the sale process — and how.
- The phone number is not mentioned as toll-free. While most people know that “800”, “888”, and “877” are toll-free phone numbers, many consumers do not yet recognize that “866”, “855” and “844” are also toll-free. Some people might counter this by explaining that most people use mobile phones with unlimited voice usage or pay regardless of the phone number; however, there are still people that call from landline phones. For those who prefer to call from home rather than visit the website, this piece should help get them from Awareness to Interest by reminding them that the call is free.
|Postcard front - heavy on GT|
- When mailing to homes by address, dedup your list by address.
- Have a clear call to action that stands out.
- Include only one call to action and one URL on a communication.
- Communicate benefits.
- Establish and utilize a results tracking method.
- If your phone number is toll-free, message it as such.
As a longtime customer of AT&T, it’s good to know that the company does not take my business for granted. This simple communication is respectful of that. It arrived in a plain window envelope, which is sure to get a high open rate among existing customers. After all, the recipient does not know if it is a bill, Change in Terms Notice, cross-sell, or perhaps a refund check. The body of the communication is simple and straightforward and avoids footnote overkill, saving the required fine print for disclosures. Nevertheless, the creative merits a Fail because:
• The call to action and response methods are buried in the body of the letter, making them hard to find.
• There is a description of features, but minimal focus on benefits of the bundled services.
• The close does not incite action or reinforce the call to action. Granted, this concept is designed as a soft up-sell, but the last paragraph or the P.S. could be used to remind the customer of the specific phone number or to visit the specific URL before the offer expiration date or at least “soon”.
• The P.S. does not tie to the body of the letter and has no call to action. Consumers who open mail typically read the P.S. first, before the body of the letter. But the P.S. does not mention the $67.99 telecom bundle – it mentions DIRECTV. A basic direct mail rule of thumb is that you cannot sell two things at once. Richard V Benson wrote this on page 2 of “Secrets of Direct Mail” more than 20 years ago, and he likely was not the first. But this letter tries to sell both a telecom bundle and a non-bundled TV service.
Learnings: Make your call to action easy to find. Optimize use of your P.S. Do not sell more than one product or bundle in one letter. If you sell something in direct mail, ensure that your response channels are fully in sync with your solicitation to sell that product first before attempting to up-sell.
The letter also has an odd use of punctuation. For example, there are no periods at the end of the bulleted sentences, but there are periods separating the digits in the phone number 1.800.695.8242. This is the first I have seen this approach used in DM the United States -- and it is not used on any other communication from AT&T or even on the back of the letter. The en-dash is used a couple times to break a thought in a sentence, however there is no space before or after the dash. (However there is space around the dashes when listing call center availability times.)
We missed seeing
your pet for at least one important vaccination.
pet’s immunity to diseases is a vital part of its total health care program.
So, we wanted to remind you of the vaccinations and dates due for each pet.
They are listed on this postcard.
Please be sure to
order preventative medications and make an appointment for preventative
treatments now, because further delay could be harmful to your pet. Call us at
Wright Veterinary Medical Center today at 610-865-2611, because a healthy pet
is a happy pet.
- What goes out on your mailing list is based on what you put in as your list criteria, so be sure your mailing list accurately reflects your intentions.
- Keep your call to action clean and simple whenever possible.
- Marketing communications should communicate a benefit. Points are not a benefit — they are a vehicle of earnings toward a benefit.
- Keep your call to action consistent, and reinforce it whenever possible.
|Inviting Outer Envelope|
"Welcome to the Neighborhood!"
- Outer Envelope. The outer envelope clearly identifiers the sender. It is stamped, which suggests a personal correspondence. The teaser “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” is in an inviting color.
- Letter. In lieu of a typical Johnson Box, the letter tastefully displays what a new member might expect to enjoy at the MoMA. Displaying the organization name and return address on the side (as well as choosing a font that visually matches the MoMA brand identity) is inviting. The interior highlight colors match the outer envelope teaser. The copy describes the overall benefits of membership and is inviting. The letter is personally signed by a relevant individual, and it closes with a postscript that reinforces the offer.
- Buckslip. The
buckslip insert clearly and simply reinforces basic membership benefits and
includes a call to action.
- Personalized Response Form. The Membership Acceptance Statement already has the prospective member’s name and address. The form includes mention of to whom to make out a check and includes an option to pay the membership fee using a major credit card.
- Business Reply Envelope. The reply envelope is postage-paid, meaning the recipient won’t need to spend effort finding an envelope or a stamp. The FIM Bar and barcode will ensure smooth and fast response delivery.
|Standard Business Reply Envelope|
Prepaid postage allows for easy return & fast delivery
- Open the letter with the recipient’s name. Perhaps there wasn’t space with this design; but, if you are going to take the effort of having a personal-style letter solicitation, open with “Dear Marc Davis” – or, if the list source data allows, “Dear Marc.”
- Explain some elements a bit better. When communicating museum features and benefits, consider the fact that the intended recipient is new to New York City. For example, the back of the letter and the buckslip mention free admission to “MoMA PS1.” A new neighbor might confuse that with something related to a SonyPlayStation.
- Reinforce the promo code. To get the discount, the new member has to enter a promo code mentioned in the body of the letter. Someone simply scanning the letter, however, would be hard pressed to find it. It should be listed in the Acceptance Statement in #1 under “Four easy ways to join” and it could be reinforced in the postscript.
- Create a matching landing page. The current call to action mentions moma.org/join, which appears to be the standard page for new member enrollment. Unfortunately, that page has even more options than the letter – creating even more potential for confusing prospective members – and the page also doesn’t reference the new member discount. This means the recipient of the letter couldn’t use it to get the targeted discount. A matching landing page can have an inviting URL (i.e., moma.org/newneighbor), visually match the solicitation, and show only simplified, relevant membership levels at the offered price without forcing the new member to enter a promo code. In addition, quantifying page visits can support gauging overall prospective membership interest resulting from the solicitation.
- Avoid the zip+4 on the outer envelope return address. This bit of technical accuracy doesn’t help optimize mailing the package and detracts from the light, personal feeling of the solicitation.
- When choosing
to communicate to prospective customers around life events, make sure your list
source is accurate – and mail on a timely basis.
- When soliciting new customers to your program, offer few and simple options.
(Edited to correct hyperlinks.)
I recently received this postcard introducing me to Truvia, a zero-calorie sweetener.
Visually, this postcard makes Truvia seem like a compelling alternative to sugar. The picture on the front suggests this is something I could use when baking a cake, making a smoothie, or sweetening coffee. Plus, as a potential customer, the postcard offers me the opportunity to try out one of their products for free.
Free is a great price for a new product. It is a proven way to get a potential new customer to go outside of their comfort zone, to try something new, and to experiment a bit. It's such a common sales practice that drug dealers reputedly offer the first hit of crack cocaine for free. Customers get addicted, and they pay for more drugs. A sugar-alternative zero-calorie sweetener shouldn't be treated like crack cocaine but, hey, the makers of Truvia certainly want me to be hooked.
|Postcard address side|
The address side of the postcard includes supporting copy: a well-written product explanation, a benefit statement, an explanation of how to use the product, and a coupon for a free 16-ounce bag. I'd say that's sweet (pun intended).
The Call to Action is simply "Find it at your local ShopRite." Therein lies the rub (or, should we go with the pun, the 'topping'). From where I live in Queens, the nearest ShopRite is typically a 25 minute drive in traffic -- under 10 miles as the crow flies, but that crow doesn't have to worry about Big Apple traffic. So, no disrespect to ShopRite, but I won't shop there when there are 3 supermarkets and a Target within walking distance.
So, would I give this call to action a Fail for Targeting? Not really. Presuming this was a national campaign, I can't fault the marketing manager for including someone located several miles from an eligible supermarket. It's pretty complex to design targeting criteria based on travel time to a supermarket chain.
However, I could give the call to action a Fail for Creative. The coupon is valid at any retail location that carries the product. It turns out that, according to the Where to Buy link on the Truvia web site, the advertised product is available at a nearby Foodtown. Rather than mentioning only ShopRite, the postcard should have mentioned their "Where to Buy" website, e.g.
or visit www.truvia.com/where-to-buy for other nearby locations
Make coupon redemption easy for your customer by offering relevant redemption options.
Em dashes are used in a few places in headline and body copy. These are often interruptive and can be a good replacement for a comma. But utilizing a triple-dash style with no space often gives the reader the feel of there being two sentences rather than a single broken sentence. Take this line adapted from the outer envelope rear teaser:
|Back of letter|
- Consider the Timing of your marketing communication relative to seasonal level of consumer interest as well as macro-marketing conditions.
- Direct mail may not be the best method to reach out to your existing customer base when there are lower-cost methods available.
- Consider how you use dashes in every sentence.
- Have an offer that compels immediate action.
- Use your database to personalize your marketing communications and customer interactions.