“Storyselling:” The Art that Makes a Sale

Direct mail marketers may not always put the topic of story telling at the top of their to-do list, but they should. “Storyselling,” as I call it, is the art of telling an emotional and compelling story in direct mail to effectively convey a call to action that sells a product or service, or gains a donation from the recipient.

A good story is something the recipient can read easily and which effectively touches that something inside of them that urges them to take action. Let me give you an example.

We work with an important non-profit agency in southeastern Wisconsin that provides multiple social services to a wide variety of people. When we first became partners in direct mail campaigns with them, they were spending $25,000 per year on direct mail, and receiving about the same amount in return. Notwithstanding the potential lifetime value of the donors who made the gifts, this is still not the kind of return an agency executive wants to see.

We have been working with them for eight years now, and each of the direct mail pieces we have done for them has focused on an emotional, factual story of one element of their programming. Of course, we have done considerable work in finding the right lists to target.

In those eight years, they have increased their annual direct mail expenditure to about $185,000 … with an annual return of more than $1 million! Now that’s a return a non-profit exec can get behind!

I had the privilege of doing a pod cast on the topic of storyselling at the recent DMA Convention in Chicago for Target Marketing Magazine. Here’s the link. Please take a listen and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or comments … or if you’d like to explore a direct mail partnership.

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct

Something New Hits the Social Mix

Don’t look now, but something interesting is happening in the sprint to garner user attention through social networks. And it’s not MySpace or Facebook or any of the other well-known players in that market that appeals to web users who want to find mirror images of themselves online.

No, it’s coming from people whose names aren’t quite as new and “techie” sounding … folks like eBay and Yahoo, for instance. People with nice, familiar, “safe” sounding names. The people we’ve all been interacting with for some time now.

Now they’re adding networking, allowing their users to share their interests with others … in other words, to socialize. This is quite different from the early days of message boards. It’s the MySpace model, if you will, and it’s a brilliant idea to capture audiences of people who will be able to view their online destinations as their social networks.

I say “brilliant” because this seems an almost obvious step that could have been lost in a “can’t see the forest through the trees” oversight, albeit one that took much longer to develop than one might have thought. It’s the brave new world that looks beyond just attracting the millions of web users out there, but keeping them around to read ads and spend money. All together, that’s what marketing is all about.

But before just handing the “marketing genius of the year” award to any of our favorite oldie but goody web destinations, they’re going to need to demonstrate that they not only understand the importance of social networking, but how to make their messages relevant to the audience they hope to draw … and keep. We all know the web is a quicksilver world where users appear and disappear in a flash if nothing interests them — often never to return.

The challenge now lies in the testing and re-testing of messages and techniques that will allow eBay and others to succeed in becoming true social experiences. This one is worth watching. Stay tuned!

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC