Online is the answer to everything!” the e-marketers proclaimed. “No more printing books or newspapers or sending that ‘old school’ mail! Ha! Now, we can market on the cheap and get things done in an instant!”

Well, about that.

As Confucius once said, “Online is the answer only if you truly understand the question.” (I saw that on Facebook, so it has to be true.)

In any case, I feel pretty strongly that we’re all entitled to my opinion, so here goes.


Different, yet the same?

Online is one very important part of the equation. Whether it’s 80% of your equation or 20% of your equation is the main consideration.

Online and offline media are different, like a street is different from a road, or an avenue is different from a boulevard. They have a different style and speed, but each can take you where you want to go.

They have their perks — low-cost mass inbox delivery versus in the hands of your ideal customer at home. They have their own potholes such as getting snagged by spam filters or a rotten mail list that happened to go to abandoned apartments. Oops.

Regardless, they are merely routes for message delivery, and one is not inherently better than another. (I’ll get to the ideal mix in a bit.)

Yet, there are two primary factors to influence your reliance on these strategies:

  • Targetability. Can you isolate the best and most probable customers?
  • Deliverability. Do the intended targets see, hear and read the message?
  • Recall/memorability of your message. Yes, I just put three items in a list I worded as “two.”

I did this purposely to force you to read back if you’re of the comprehension mindset (likely over 42 years old) or of the scan mindset (likely under 30). Or you’re just bored out of your wits. And thus the age, recognition and recall question pops in.


Print as memory aid

Email has taught us — excuse me, forced us — to scan. Txt hs taut us 2 bcom nrly ill iterate. The proliferation of mass messaging and site skipping has rewired our short-term memory into an ever-shallower pool of fleeting information.

According to Norwegian researchers at Stavager University (who study more than whales, apparently), people who read printed material are “…significantly more likely to recall and feel an emotional connection over e-readership.”

That’s. Rather. Huge.

As you market your contracting wares, recall and connection are invaluable traits.

E-communication (email, social posts, e-based articles) buzzes in and out — deleteable and forgettable with distractions aplenty whispering sweet nothings about vacation money, male enhancement and Dodge Vipers on sale. Our eyes scan, our mind wanders — let’s dismiss the Viper, shall we? — and your marketing message falters.

Further, for all its ability to crackle in effortless multiplicity through the airwaves seconds after hitting send, e-messages have the physical appeal of a neutered gnat. The tactile quality of print is something e-marketing can’t touch.

Two of my favorite and very web-savvy digital-age marketers, Seth Godin and Timothy Ferris, recently admitted to rekindling a long-dormant but happy reunion with — drumroll, please — magazines.

“Reading, turning pages, getting away from distraction,” cooed Ferris, “is something I have sorely missed and consider a guilty pleasure.”

Imagine someone saying that about a billboard or radio ad.


Direct mail is back—big time

Anyone who says “direct mail is outdated” is, ironically, outdated.

Online giants Amazon, eBay, Ikea, Yelp and Angie’s List have massively increased their direct mail marketing. Even Google — with possibly the most online influence of all — is now one of the largest spenders in direct-mail marketing. Why?

It works. And it works very well when you use the right techniques.

Maybe you suspected this all along, but mail has not always been the ‘popular’ choice. (If the crowd was always right, they’d all be rich, thin and successful.) But here’s how popularity contests can steer you wrong.

See, email is the new “junk” mail, while real mail has regained its high-payoff status.


Direct mail is different now

Sending out a zillion cheap postcards is not the right method, nor are dull institutional mailings (often from manufacturers) or amateur pieces crammed with every service you offer, emblazoned with starbursts, discounts and company vehicles.

Those are all doomed to fail, yet contractors are continuously misled about what works and what doesn’t. You can’t believe the contractors we speak to who say, “I tried direct mail and it didn’t work.” Of course it didn’t. It couldn’t work using bad messages to a weak list.

The new direct-mail messaging pushes customers’ buy buttons using psychologically magnetic offers. They can also tie in with your online efforts (as you’ll see).

Direct mail also offers the following benefits.

Hyper-targetability. Lists rule results, and as much as I’d like to tell you the message is most important, it’s not. With mail, you can sell the items you choose, to the exact homes, matched to the exact message. No other media comes close.

Super controllable. You can send 1,000 or 25,000 — all at once, or in batches — at the times you want. No weird waiting around like online. Plus, you get results quickly so you can make adjustments.

Attracts qualified buyers only. “Mass mailing” is over; now you pinpoint the buyers you want with the message they want. Plus, “list matching” today can nearly clone buyers, increasing your response. Direct mail has gotten smart.

When you put a great message in a highly deliverable, tactile medium to the best prospects, you can expect results.

But what happens when you combine it with online media? Look out.


Media integration for normal humans

It’s time to quit thinking of online and offline as separate entities or somehow at odds. We’ve watched numerous retailers blend offline and online sales to blistering perfection. Formerly high costs and complexity have now come within reach.

Though we have campaigns for some larger, forward-thinking contractors with up to 20 different integrated pieces, we’ve tested some very simple and cost-effective integration campaigns with remarkable results.

Media integration can now be used to win big, just like the largest retailers. A clean and valuable combination like the above is a great start. Test results before you move on to more complex campaigns.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon lost nearly $1 billion of investor money, swimming for 8 of their first 11 years in significant red ink. He thought he was in the online retailing business. Then he realized he was in the list-building business and began to market to that.

I submit that in this very modern marketing age, you are not in the contracting business — you are a marketer of contracting services. The closer you adhere to that definition, the better both parts of your business will get.