Marketing Information

Case Study: How to Get a Big Boost in Response by Taking Your Marketing to the Extreme

Want a big boost in response and quick sales from your next direct marketing effort? Then take your marketing to the extreme. What do I mean by extreme? I mean unconventional, break the mold, out-of-the-box, reaches-out-and-grabs-people-by-the-lapel marketing.

When you take your marketing to the extreme a lot of people will love it and a few will hate it. But hardly anyone will be able to totally ignore it. With a well thought out, well executed extreme marketing program your presence WILL be known, and in short order you WILL be rewarded.

Extreme marketing to the collision repair industry: A case study
Last year Positive Response helped a leading vendor to the collision repair industry put together an extreme marketing program targeting collision repair shops nationwide. What I'm going to do now is share with you the pertinent details of this campaign. Then I'll give you a few specific ideas about how you can use a similar approach to generate leads and sales for your business, plus a few other direct marketing nuggets.

My client, CSi Complete, ( is the leading provider of phone-based customer satisfaction indexing services to the collision repair industry. After getting their attention -- and a meeting -- with my own extreme marketing efforts they engaged Positive Response to help them put together a program for them. John Webb, the company's vice president of marketing said, "It worked on me. So I figured it might work on somebody else."

What we decided on was a three-step campaign aimed at 300 collision repair businesses throughout the United States.

Step one: Message In a Bottle
CSi Complete's first mailer was a Message In a Bottle -- a 32-ounce squeeze water bottle like the type you might take to the gym. The outside of the bottle was printed with an eye-catching graphic along with their logo and complete contact information. Inside the bottle, which also served as the envelope, was a letter.

The headline on the letter read, "Thirsty for more repair orders? Get ready to drink up!" Body copy talked about the many benefits of using the firm's CSI services. More importantly, the letter offered readers a free gift for talking with the company's Director of Sales, and 13 months of service for the price of 12 if they signed up for CSi's service by a specific date. As 2004 was a leap year we called this our special leap year promotion.

Step two: Bank bag mailing
Approximately a week later CSi sent out a second mailer. Mailer two was a 5.5" x 10.5" bank pouch imprinted with the words, "PUT MORE MONEY IN THE BANK." It arrived in a 9-by-12-inch full-window envelope with the imprinted side of the pouch facing the window. (Another attention-grabbing way of mailing this item is to mail it without using an envelope. To do this you simply tape down the zipper-pull and affix a mailing label and postage to the blank side.)

Inside the pouch was a letter. This time the headline read, "How to write more repair orders while lowering your overhead and improving workplace performance. And you can take that to the bank!"

This letter highlighted three ways CSi Complete helps collision repair shops bank more profits and reiterated our two-pronged offer.

Step three: Trash can mailing
After each mailing CSi's telemarketing staff made follow-up phone calls to book tele-meetings with the company's Director of Sales, Erich Keller. After two mailings and two phone calls a number of people had either booked a tele-meeting or indicated they were not a serious prospect for CSi's service. The remaining group, 208 companies in all, was sent a third and final mailing: a miniature trash can mailed in a box.

Inside the trash can was a wadded up letter with the headline, "Can do? Yes! CSi Complete CAN help you run a more profitable business." An overline -- copy positioned after the name and address but before the salutation -- read in part, "In case you've been throwing my letters into the trash, I wanted to do it for you this time." Body copy in this letter punched up the key selling points made in previous letters and once again highlighted the two-pronged offer.

So, how successful was this program? Very. It generated a healthy number of new accounts in a relatively short period of time. All totaled, the company's Director of Sales conducted 42 tele-meetings (a 14% response) and within three months of completing the campaign CSi Complete had closed nine new pieces of business. Within five months of completion the number of new accounts attributed to the campaign and promotional products had grown to fifteen.

Good advice from Thomas Edison
The great inventor Thomas Edison said, "Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully." That's good advice, not only for inventors but for marketers too. For example, CSi Complete's "novel ideas" can easily be used by owners and marketers of collision repair shops as well as other businesses.

Obviously a collision repair shop wouldn't use this approach for marketing to consumers. But for those businesses with the potential to do or refer a large volume of business an extreme marketing program makes sense.

For example, here's how the very same companies CSi Complete was targeting, collision repair shops, might effectively adapt CSi Complete's extreme marketing program to target corporate fleet managers and referring insurance agents.

Message in a bottle (Fleet managers) - Sample letter headline: "Q: How do you satisfy your thirst for top-notch collision repair AND unsurpassed customer service? A: You send your fleet's autobody repair work to ___________________."

Message in a bottle (Referring agents) - Sample letter headline: "Q: How do you satisfy your clients' thirst for top-notch collision repair AND unsurpassed customer service? A: You send them to ___________________."

Bank bag mailing (Fleet managers) - Sample letter headline: "You know what your company wants from a collision repair shop: Top-quality work AND superb customer service. You'll get both when you work with ___________________. And you can take that to the bank!"

Bank bag mailing (Referring agents) - Sample letter headline: "You know your clients. And you know what they want from a collision repair shop: Top-quality work AND superb customer service. They'll get both when you send them to ___________________. collision repair. And you can take that to the bank!"

Trash can mailer (Fleet managers) - Sample letter headline: "Can do? Yes! (Name of fleet manager's company) and _________________ can build a strong working relationship that benefits everyone." Sub-head: "In case you've been throwing my letters in the trash I wanted to do it for you this time. But before you trash this, my final letter, consider?"

Trash can mailer (Referring agents) - Sample letter headline: "Can do? Yes! (Name of Agent) and _______________ can build a strong working relationship that benefits everyone." Sub-head: "In case you've been throwing my letters in the trash I wanted to do it for you this time. But before you trash this, my final letter, consider?"

This is just one example of how a collision repair shop might adapt CSi Complete's successful program to achieve their marketing and sales objectives. As for other ideas and products, you are limited only by imagination -- yours and that of others whose ideas you can adapt. For example, a different spin on the message in a bottle might be to send it out in a plastic baby bottle. Yes, you read that right. I said BABY BOTTLE.

Sample copy: "Remember the really good old days?When the world really did revolve around you? When your every want and need was tended to? Well those good old days still exist - at _________________." Alternative: "For craftsmanship and service so good you'll see why our competitors are always crying about us stealing business from them - send your fleet's autobody repairs to ______________."

As for a different spin on the bank bag mailing, send your letter out in a translucent blue plastic piggy bank shaped like a bowling pin. Throw a couple of pennies into the bank.

Sample copy: "Mediocre craftsmanship and unresponsive service got you feeling blue about your company's autobody repair shop? For top-notch work and unsurpassed service that will bowl you over send your fleet's autobody repairs ___________________. Give me a call today and let's strike a deal. And I promise, we'll NEVER treat your business like small change."

Then again, you may want to take an entirely different approach with your extreme marketing campaign. As I wrote, you're limited only by your imagination. Not in the collision repair business? Again, use your imagination. The bottle, bank bag, trashcan campaign can easily be tweaked to suit just about any business.

Key factors will impact your success
It's been said that the typical executive gets 175 pieces of mail a week so making your mail stand out is crucial to your success. After all, "attention" is the first step in both the sales and advertising process. But direct marketing is a three-legged stool and in order to maximize your success you'll want to make sure all three legs of your stool are strong and sturdy. Those three legs are -

1. List - Make absolutely sure you're sending your mail to the right people at the right companies. Your list can account for up to 40% of your success.

2. Offer - Make sure you have an offer that gives the prospect a reason to talk with you or meet with you. And the offer isn't what a great job your shop is going to do for them or their clients. Your offer is the stimulus for action. It's the "deal." The quid pro quo. "I'll give you a free video, a special premium, a chance to win?if you'll?."

The use of a premium, the proverbial "free gift," has historically proven to be a very strong offer, pulling four times as many responses as typically is the case without a premium offer. And this is important. Because your offer can account for up to another 40% of your success.

3. Copy - If you invest good money using memorable, attention grabbing mailers in your extreme marketing campaign?but give short shrift to the messaging that goes with it, then all you have working for you is a GIMMICK. And a GIMMICK will only take you so far.

My advice is always this: Unless you would hire yourself (or your staff member) out for pay as a professional direct response copywriter please DON'T write your own copy. The additional response you'll gain by using the services of a skilled, experienced professional will be well worth the investment. Especially when you consider that your copy accounts for up to 20% of your success.

Love and hate (but mostly love)
As I wrote at the beginning of this article, when you take your marketing to the extreme a lot of people will love it and a few will hate it. But hardly anyone will be able to totally ignore it.

For example, in a recent effort of my own I had two diametrically opposite phone calls in the same day. One call was from a somewhat irritated man who wanted his company removed from my mailing list. No problem I said. A couple of hours later I had another call from a gentleman with a big smile in his voice chuckling to me about "the really cool mailers you've been sending me." He scheduled a meeting with me.

Research has shown that well done extreme marketing much more often elicits the latter response than it does the former. In fact, in one extensive test program the response rate for an extreme marketing effort was 74% better than for that of a more conventional effort. To which I say, go forth and do likewise.

Copyright 2005 by Ernest W. Nicastro

Ernest Nicastro, a sales and marketing Pro for more than 25 years, heads up Positive Response, a marketing consulting, advertising and promotions firm. For a FREE copy of the Positive Response Special Report, 77 Sure-Fire Marketing Tips Guaranteed To Boost Results send an email (subject line Tips to For more information on how Positive Response can help your business grow call 614-747-2256 or go to

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