Reprinted from National Underwriter Product News Marketing

Rene Gnam Stresses the Value
of Targeting Individuals, Not Firms

by Christopher Dauer

Rene Gnam, a self-proclaimed "direct mail evangelist," spoke recently on effective methods to overcome "the impression of the dreaded J-Mail," or junk mail, in a company's direct marketing. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Professional Insurance Mass Marketing Association in LaQuinta, CA, Mr. Gnam outlined a variety of methods for successful direct mailings.

Foremost on the list of priorities for effective direct mail, he said, is to mail only to appropriate businesses or individuals. "What we're really talking about is segmenting our database," said Mr. Gnam. "You can target your audience, and then invent your benefits, from database information. If you know a policyholder uses his truck for a living," he pointed out, mailings can be targeted to that.

Next, he stressed the importance of clarity and honesty in all advertising copy -- the latter for a slightly unexpected reason. "Ask yourself what your initial audience is going to be," he said, "and what percentage of it is female."

He suggested that while mailings to homes or businesses might be addressed to men, "they're probably opened by women." He then went on to cite university studies that indicated women had 12 percent better memories than men.

Women Remember Dishonesty More Than Men - Don't Cheat!

"One dishonest statement, and they'll remember," he said. Dishonesty, he noted, might include the exaggeration of claims. "Customers can see through exaggeration," said Mr. Gnam, "and they won't respond."

Companies should keep in mind who they're mailing to in other ways as well, he pointed out. When you write to a company, you're less likely to get a response than if you write to individuals," said Mr. Gnam. Also, "specify the name of a person who can be contacted," he advised. If a client, or prospective client, has a question, or if something's wrong, he will want to speak to an individual, Gnam said, not a department or other impersonal entity. Drawing a parallel to a hotel or restaurant, he noted if a problem arises, he would not want to speak with a "customer service department," or a "marketing department," where I'll just get another sales pitch -- you want to speak with the manager!"

Also remember, he continued, that although a mailing might be targeted to someone at a specific level, "he or she most likely has a boss," so all mailings should address the overall goals of the company.

A final benefit to targeting individuals, he said, was the potential growth for other insurance products. "If you can approach a client with direct mailings as a homeowner, you can then move to health insurance, then to a spouse, and his kids -- and you're creating a buyer who can see that you're focused on his needs."

Good Copy Should Telegraph The Point It's Making

Next, he continued, "never hide your proposition. You can romance a little bit, but don't hide the point. Tell me why I should read it."

A mailing that is likely to be read, he said, is one that comes with a "highly explicit guarantee. Yes, even life insurance can have guarantees -- not that the policyholder will stay alive, but a guarantee that the policy will be accepted, that there'll be no medical exam, and that this company will offer the lowest rates available if you respond now," he said.

All of these tactics, said Mr. Gnam, concern "psychographics," as opposed to demographics. Psychographics, he said, move beyond numbers to "what we want and how we act, rather than what we do." For example, he pointed out that some people might be interested in immediate benefits, while others may be thinking of the future. "Some people look ahead, and some stay where they are," he said, so mailings should attempt to address both concerns.

Further, he said, don't try to alter anyone's basic beliefs, as that might alienate a prospect. "Don't argue with anyone you're dealing with," he said. "Don't try to change someone from a Democrat to a Republican." But persuasion that's subtle, he said, "works like a charm."

Discounts and Color Work Well When Handled Properly!

Psychographics can extend to simple business techniques such as discounting, Mr. Gnam added. "A 25 percent discount is usually better than 20 percent," he commented. "But never discount more than 50 percent as the client gets suspicious, and thinks something is wrong with the policy you're selling."


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400


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Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

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