Kicked out of "Charm School"?

Back when I was a freshman in high school, my well-meaning parents signed me up for "Charm School". Maybe they thought my propensity for being "blunt" needed to be curtailed...or they wanted me to be more of a "girly" girl, having grown up with brothers...or they wanted me to be able to thrive in the competitive suburban Ohio high school popularity wars. I have no idea. It was kind of a thing back then: prepping young women to be more "charming". (I'm hoping it's now obsolete...I never did this with my daughter. Oh, and she's as blunt as she wants to be, thank you very much!) As I discovered, "Charm School" entailed mostly learning how to put on makeup in a flattering way...doing one's hair in a stylish manner...and practicing walking down a runway (as if I was going to be a fashion model at 5 feet, 4 inches tall!) It was all in preparation for our "grande finale" show at the end of the program. As part of the grande finale, there was a talent show segment showcasing a few of the students who were chosen to perform. So I decided to try out using my mostly self-taught piano-playing skills. I showed up for the try-outs in the huge, mostly empty downtown Dayton auditorium, with a handful of middle-aged, stern-looking judges seated in the front row. I then sat down at the grand piano on stage and pounded out a 7-minute rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". Beautifully played, I might add...hitting all the big chords loudly and perfectly...then softly and dramatically ending with the last notes: "And she's buy-i-ing a heav-ennnnn...." My stiff-lipped audience was unimpressed. I walked away dejectedly, having just played my heart out, and went home. But to my surprise, later that day I got a call saying I'd been selected as one of the talent show performers. HOWEVER... I had to pick a different song! Something a bit more "mainstream"... I told them I'd come up with something else, though it made me sad to do so. "To be a rock...and not to ROLL..." Oh well...there was a reason in the year or so since we'd moved to Dayton from Florida, my mother often referred to it as "Dumb, dreary, [and other "d-word" descriptors] Dayton". In any case, I went to the music store and picked up some sheet music for a popular albeit bland song at the time, "Baby What a Big Surprise" by Chicago...and spent the next week or two teaching it to myself. You can bet this is NOT a classic tune played decades later like "Stairway to Heaven" still is today. In fact, I just heard it this morning on a Sirius station, which made me recall this memory.

Now I'm inspired to hit the piano over the weekend and brush up on "Stairway to Heaven". Luckily, I still have that sheet music that I originally taught myself from decades ago...

So at the Grande Finale show, I pounded out "Baby What a Big Surprise" on stage, not nearly as passionately as I would have played "Stairway to Heaven" a packed auditorium of Dayton, Ohio suburbanites who were pleased as punch to hear this non-offensive, completely forgettable, "white bread" tune played. I managed to avoid getting kicked out for any more "rock and roll" antics and got my "Charm School" diploma. But they couldn't take away my bluntness and feisty-ness! And that's where we are today. If I see something landing in my mailbox or inbox that I think is in need of a "re-thinking" (to put it kindly..."charm school" training at work!), I'm not afraid to point it out. Like I did in two recent "What's in Kim's Mailbox?" breakdowns. In both of them, I looked at offers that are sold online sending out a direct mail sales piece to have people go from "offline" to "online". The perils (and profits) of going "offline" to "online" It's a hot new trend as people crave more physical "touch" with the promotions and brands they interact with, and marketers realize the longevity of a printed piece that hangs around for a while...versus a blip on a screen that's there one minute and gone the next. Also there's been less competition in physical mailboxes in recent years (though that's starting to change)...and it seems the worst USPS delivery issues are behind us, though we're not out of the woods yet and there are other challenges like postage costs. Having cut my teeth on direct mail as a direct marketing young ' so many of the other top copywriters who've been doing this for a while...I'm glad to see it making a resurgence. It makes me happy when I see things being done right...and it drives me crazy when I see things being done knuckleheadedly wrong. And I'm not afraid to be blunt and call them out! Let's take last week's example (if you missed it, you can find it on my blog here). I profiled a self-mailer I had received from Organifi, one of the most successful online marketers of green drinks in recent years. While there was a lot here that was done right, there were several issues I found with the copy, compliance, and offer that I pointed out. Not least of all--the fact that it left the prospect trying to decide between 4 different greens drinks that were not that clearly differentiated. But the worst sin of all was that in order to place an order--or even find out how much each option cost...and to take advantage of the special 20% discount mentioned in the direct mail piece...the link in the promotion was to their main website. By sending the prospect to their main website, they were suddenly hit with even more product options, not immediately shown the ones in the mailer, and also hit with a different 10% off offer (with no mention of the 20% off discount in the mailer). In other words, it was a big giant DISCONNECT...which, after spending all that moo-lah designing and printing up a beautiful, 4-color mailing and ponying up the postage and list rental costs... ...would allow for only the most committed buyers who were willing to do the "work" of figuring out what the heck greens drink to get and how to use that 20% discount code they were promised... ...while the other 99% of the maybe 3-5% that would even bother going to the website would throw their hands in the air and give up! In response to my somewhat scathing breakdown of this Organifi promo in last week's issue, I got this email from Copy Insider Alex "Bey" (I think that's his last name)... Kim,

Oh boy.

It's crazy how many big companies do so much awful advertising. Well, awful in the sense that it's stupid. All your pointers are so 100% spot-on. Focus on ONE problem. ONE solution.

Send them to ONE landing page which sells the exact same thing they were just promised with the EXACT same copy.

The world is full of unlimited opportunities for us smart direct marketers.

Reminds me of what I heard Dan Kennedy quote from somewhere else:

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"

Regards, Alex Yes, Alex sees the light as well...and I love that quote from Dan Kennedy! After I got Alex's email, I decided to go back and look at an similar direct mail piece that I profiled back in a January edition of "What's in Kim's Mailbox?" You can find it here. It was a mailing I received from Persona about a personalized nutrition program. It was a similar self-mailer format as Organifi used, with celebrity spokeswoman Kelly Ripa on the front of it. (This past week, I received the same exact mailing again from Persona, which tells me it's a "control" and it's working!) I decided to take a look at how they were managing this crucial "offline to online" ordering step which I hadn't taken a look at before when I broke this piece down. So let's do a "part 2" sequel to that original "What's in Kim's Mailbox?", shall we? What's in Kim's Mailbox? Here's the front of the 4-page self-mailer I've received at least twice now from Persona promoting their customized nutrition packs:

See that offer and call to action that are featured right on the front? It's also clearly and prominently featured on the inside spread and on the back cover. (Not shyly hidden away like on the Organifi promo...where it was like, "hunt and you just might see it!") Don't make it hard for your prospects to buy from you! Unlike Organifi, this direct mail piece from Persona makes it EASY... Take a look at the clean graphics inside...and the fact that, like Alex commented, it's focused on ONE solution, not 4 different ones that leave you frozen by indecision like the Organifi promo...

Nor do you have to hunt around for a call to action like on the Organifi promo I profiled last week. On the back of the Persona self-mailer, it's clear as a bell what action you need to take next...

...And those visuals have you "pre-experiencing" the product before you even get it, while showcasing the product's unique selling proposition (USP): a customized "recipe" for YOU! So let's do the "test" that Organifi flunked so badly last week. What happens when you go to that URL that's featured in the call to action? Here's where it takes you...

Lookie there...NO disconnect! A dedicated landing page that picks up seamlessly where the direct mail promo left off. Where the direct mail call to action said, "Take our FREE assessment...", the call to action you see on this landing page is to "Start free assessment". There are a few other distractions like "Why Persona" and "Explore" for those who may be skittish about giving away personal info in the assessment. But generally this is a streamlined, dedicated landing page that keeps the prospect focused on taking the desired action and most of all, doesn't CONFUSE them! The lesson here is, if you're doing a direct mail piece and driving folks online as the sole ordering option...or even if it's just one of your need to also invest in a dedicated landing page that works in tandem with your direct mail piece. (Are you listening, Organifi? I can't be any more blunt than that!)'s shocking I didn't get kicked out of "Charm School"! But it's served me well. Yours for smarter marketing, Kim P.S. If you missed my announcement of the upcoming online event on March 18th to memorialize the late Clayton Makepeace, you'll want to grab your seat here. It's free to listen in, and you're not going to want to miss the valuable lessons shared by the likes of Carline Anglade-Cole (who's organizing it), Gary Bencivenga, David Deutsch, Parris Lampropoulus, Marcella Allison, Pauline Longdon, Bob Bly, and many others (including yours truly!) It's 3 hours of "gold" you won't want to miss!

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