“Online is the answer to everything,” proclaimed e-marketers. “No more printing books or newspapers or sending old-school mail. 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’s gotta be true.)

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

Online is one very important part of the equation. Whether it’s 80 percent or 20 percent 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’ve got a different style and speed, but each can take you where you want to go.

They’ve got their perks as one allows low-cost mass inbox delivery while the other offers hand delivery into the palms of your ideal customers at home. They have their own potholes, as well, such as getting snagged by spam filters or a rotten mail list that lands your materials on the doorsteps of abandoned apartments. Oops.

Regardless, they’re merely routes for message delivery; 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:

1) Targetability — Can you isolate the best and most probable customers?

2) Deliverability — Do the intended targets see, hear, and read the message?

3) Recall/Memorability of your message.

Yes, I just put three items in a list I worded as “two,” purposely forcing 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.


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 Rangel Research.

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, one’s ability to recall and connect with the information is invaluable.

E-communication (email, social posts, e-based articles) buzzes in and out. It’s deletable and forgettable. It comes with distractions aplenty whispering sweet nothings about vacation money, male enhancement, and Dodge Vipers on sale. Our eyes scan, our minds wander — 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.

Seth Godin and Timothy Ferris, two of my favorite and very web-savvy digital-age marketers, recently admitted to rekindling a long-dormant but happy reunion with… drumroll… magazines. “Reading, turning pages, and getting away from distraction is something I’ve sorely missed,” cooed Ferris. “I consider it a guilty pleasure.”

Imagine someone saying that about a billboard or radio ad.


Anyone who says direct mail is outdated is, ironically, outdated.

Online giants, like 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? Because 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.

Email is the new junk mail, while real mail has regained its high-payoff spot. But, please know, 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 polar bears.

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:

• Hyper-targetability — Lists rule results. As much as I’d like to tell you the message is the most important factor, 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 copies all at once or in batches at the times you want. No weird waiting around like online media offers. Plus, you tend to get results quickly, so you can make adjustments.

• 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, which drastically increases your response. Direct mail has gotten smarter.

When you put a great message in a highly deliverable, tactile medium to the best prospects, you can expect results. Yet, what happens when you combine it with online media? Look out.


It’s time to quit thinking of online and offline as separate entities and stop pitting them against one another. We’ve watched numerous retailers blend offline and online sales to blistering perfection. Once considered expensive and complex, marketing campaigns are now 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. This is an example most anyone can follow:

Case Study: Dixie Electric and Plumbing wanted to add HVAC to their business for the first time in their 80-year history. They had zero HVAC customers but had a great reputation and customer relationships. They asked us to remain completely silent about this endeavor until they launched this campaign, which included:

• One direct mail letter sent to 3,381 customers;

• One direct mail postcard sent seven days later to 6,640 homes;

• Two emails to customer list: The first timed with a direct mail letter and the second timed with a postcard; and

• Three social posts — one prelaunch and two during the campaign.

Results: “We recently added an HVAC division to our company, yet didn’t know how to get the word out. After you put together our initial pieces and plan, I am fairly shocked to say we did just over $200,000 in sales of a brand-new service in just over a month. We still can’t believe it.” — Noble Yelverton, Dixie Electric, Heating, Plumbing & Air

(You can request the full case study, including examples, by emailing freestuff@hudsonink.com.)

Media integration can now be used to win big, just like the largest retailers are. A clean and valuable combination 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 eight years of the company’s first 11 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.

Publication date: 6/13/2016

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