Thursday, January 08, 2009

MCM Voices' Guide to Voice-over Postcard Marketing

This post has a grand title, doesn’t it? There are many people who know much more about voice-over postcard mailing than I do – Anthony Mendez is one of them and he has been of tremendous help to me over the years - thank-you my friend!! But this here is my guide, because I’ve just concluded a process that took me a good 6 weeks, which tells you that I can take any simple project and turn it into an all-absorbing, life-sucking event. Maybe I can save you some time by relating how I approached this.

Part I: The reason. The purpose of this postcard mailing extravaganza is to announce to clients, would-be clients and agents the national broadcast premiere of a documentary that features my voice. The broadcast is February 2nd, and although the point of the mailing is not so much to get people to watch it as it is to make them aware of it, I still wanted this card to arrive in time to give them the option. So Part I is to have something worth announcing. If you have such an annoucement to make, a postcard is a great way to do it. It is eye-catching but not disturbing to a busy person, and the busier a person is, the more likely it is that you want to work with them. Plus they can keep it propped on their desk indefinitely to remind them of your existence, which a phone call or an email might be less likely to achieve for the long term.

Part II. Postcard design. I chose VistaPrint for this mailing extravaganza, and their templates steered the mechanical process. See my earlier post about this, and Anthony’s before it. Knowing the format the mailing list itself needed to take affected my choices in editing my database, so I do recommend choosing the vendor early in the process. I was lucky to have a graphic already available for the front of the card. The back was simple: Announce the event, making it sound as important and MCM-centric as possible, and add a list of recent impressive clients along with my contact information. Simple, but requiring considerable thought and care in choosing words. Make every word count!

Part III. The mailing list. I’m not talking mechanics, like what format does the list take and what do you do with it. Rather, who are the recipients? I have a database of 3500 but not all of those are active contacts and of the active ones, not all will get a card for various reasons. I need to maximise my postcard mailing dollars because a huge mailing can run into big money. So how do I narrow down the list?

My database represents 4 years of painstaking marketing. Every one of the names on the list was researched with considerable care, but especially at the beginning of my voice-over career this research was not necessarily done with the optimal criteria for identifying ideal clients. And of course, the definition of ideal is going to be different for a beginning voice talent and for an experienced one, and for every individual voice actor, and one’s goals naturally evolve with experience. My complete database includes companies that looked promising according to their websites, but actually don’t do a lot of work that requires voice-over, all the way through high-end production companies that use voice-over every day. It includes companies that produce ads for a few small local businesses and companies that write and produce national commercials. The process of going through this list has taught me a lot about the kind of company I want to be doing business with in the future and will greatly affect the kind of companies I contact from now on. Simply by focussing on return-on-investment for a postcard mailing, I was compelled to narrow the list to a select number of names, and to refine my criteria for choosing potential clients in the future. This has had a significant impact on my business plan! I set a goal of 600 for the mailing, and ended up with 636, including agents. Not too bad.

In the process of culling, I was also visiting each company’s website at least once in order to review the business and consider the likelihood that we would ever work together. This was also the time to check the contact information and identify or re-identify the best person to receive a postcard and to make sure the mailing address was current. LinkedIn was a huge help here. Many was the time I searched a name in LinkedIn to confirm that the person was still with the company and to see if their title was the same. This entire review process took about a month and a half of intensive work but future postcard mailings should be incomparably easier thanks to this investment of time (and the ease of retrieving data and notes from my beloved Time & Chaos).

Part IV. The mailing. Once the mailing list was complete, the rest of this process rushed to its denouement with dizzying velocity. I double-checked my postcard design (who am I kidding? It was more like the 20th time I had checked the design as uploaded to VistaPrint!), and I uploaded my mailing list. That upload was swift; then VistaPrint mercilessly and unfeelingly announced that about 30 of my entries had invalid addresses and the US Postal Service would not deliver to them, beg them as I might. I checked each one, and in all but 8 cases I found that indeed, there was something wrong and I was able to make the correction. The other 8 I saved to their own spreadsheet for further examination and then deleted them from the uploaded master list. I got all the way to checkout, looked at the grand total dollar figure, and then had a clever idea. I thought, I will just Google “VistaPrint discount codes”and within a few minutes I had reduced my grand total dollar figure by $127! Hooray!! I proceeded to check-out, clicked Submit and the deed was done. I then immediately was shown an offer to have an order of 50 postcards sent to me for a reduced price with no charge for shipping, which I immediately accepted because I knew I was going to think of friends and relatives and maybe a few more potential clients to whom I simply had to mail a card.

There you have it. Perhaps in a few months I will report on the results of this campaign, or maybe I will be under my bed, wailing, refusing nutrition and inconsolable at the lack of results, but for now I'm elated to have finished this enlightening process and full of hope for the future. Comments and stories of your own experiences welcomed!

Note: Help & advice from Marice Tobias, Anthony Mendez and Elaine Singer is gratefully acknowledged.

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