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Best of NAMA 2020

Some companies and their agency partners are proving up to the task in creativity and database management to reach customers via direct mail - even when target audiences see the daily pile of mail get bigger and bigger. Such efforts are evidenced by their entries to the annual Best of NAMA competition sponsored by the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).

The following brief case studies describe the programs of the first-place award winners in four direct mail categories: response-generating – single, response-generating – series; outbound only – single; outbound only – series.


Response-generating – Single

To introduce both a new way to control brush in forests and the economic benefits this new method provides, American Cyanamid helped forestry customers pocket some cash, literally.

Forest farmers and forestry consultants in the Northwest and Southeast who received Cyanamid’s oversized brochure found not only information on the benefits of using Arsenal herbicide in a new practice called "preharvesting," but also found the back-pocket view of a pair of blue jeans, with a business-reply postcard in one pocket and a dollar bill in the other. It caught their attention.

"With direct mail you want to stand out and get noticed," says Stephanie Dean, communications manager for the forestry group, American Cyanamid, Parsippany, N.J.

The mailing is a good example of the success possible when starting with a sound strategy and executing it well, according to Dean and Joy Parr Drach, group account supervisor with Dudnyk, the Horsham, Pa., agency that teamed with Cyanamid to develop the direct mail program.

The same brochure was sent with information specific to each area’s forestry. The Northwest was a new market for Cyanamid.

"Competition is strong in the Northwest," Drach says. "Because the product is well-suited for this new use, the intention was to leapfrog the competition by switching the market to this new treatment option.

"The creative execution did a good job of reinforcing the selling point," she says.

Traditionally, direct mail provides a 1 percent to 2 percent response rate, according to Dean. To get response rates higher than that, you usually have to offer a premium.

"We didn’t offer a premium, but our response rates were high," she says. "In the Southeast, we had an 8.4 effective percent response rate. For the Northwest, we had a 15.9 percent rate."

In fact, many recipients who sent back the reply postcard for more information also wrote about positive experiences they had had with the application technique.


Response-generating – Series

Novartis Seeds combined the latest in one-to-one printing technology with its extensive customer database to up the ante on the degree of customization it was able to achieve with its "Mini Seed Guide" direct mail series.

Using what it knows about a customer, Golden Valley, Minn.-based Novartis Seeds winnows down a typical 28- to 36-page seed catalog to one that is tailor-made for a customer’s farming operation and local growing conditions.

"We tried to reflect the customer’s business - dairy, beef, swine, cash grain - by using appropriate artwork in their brochure," says Marv Black, Novartis Seeds director of marketing services.

Novartis Seeds aims to assist today’s farmer by helping to "pare down what he has to consider" and at the same time provide a consistent message so the "message from the company is same as the message from dealer," Black says.

Black wanted the guide to support dealer efforts. Dealers, who participated on a voluntary basis, provided the information for the brochures. "It was the dealer’s brochure, in effect," Black says. "We just printed it for him."

The campaign consisted of two mailings. The first was sent in the fall after harvest. The second guide mailed before planting.

"The first communication allowed for recommendation and the second reinforced the recommendation, and reaffirmed customers’ seed orders to help prevent back-door losses," says Lisa Weary, account consultant with Relationship Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa. This agency worked with Novartis Seeds to execute the campaign.

Compared with a dealer’s average sales growth, sales for the dealer who sent the first brochure increased by 17 percent, according to Black. For those who sent out the second only, sales went up 16 percent. For those who sent out both of them, sales went up more than 30 percent.


Outbound Only – Single

To remind southern cotton growers that no secondary pest gets away from Baythroid, Bayer Corporation sent growers a package designed to lure them in.

Fishing is a hobby for many of the 1,000-plus-acre cotton growers in 15 southern and western states. These growers received a shiny box with a colorful, wide-eyed design on top from Kansas City-based Bayer. Inside, along with a lure, is a brochure about secondary cotton pests with the phrase "Remember the one that got away" on the cover.

"The brochure was designed to educate growers about the scope of secondary pests. We connected the premium with the analogy about the one that got away to say nothing gets away from Baythroid," says Michelle Tollefson, account executive with Valentine-Radford Advertising, the Kansas City agency which helped Bayer develop the direct mail piece.

"Bayer used a dimensional piece with a premium for impact," Tollefson says. "And it needed to be relevant to the audience, so we decided on a fishing lure, since fishing is such a big hobby in these southern states."

The objectives were to communicate the message that Baythroid pyrethroid is the leader in secondary cotton pest control and to inform growers about these pests.

The piece was mailed last year at the end of June, just in time for summer fishing season. Bayer’s sales force also liked the "fishy" mailing. "Some of the sales reps wanted extra pieces to use when making personal contacts with customers who hadn’t received the mailing," Tollefson says.


Outbound Only – Series

After focus group research determined that golf was the No. 1 sport of ag dealers, PCS Sales decided to take a swing at using a golf theme.

PCS Sales, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is the world’s largest fertilizer producer, marketing their products through retailers.

"Our challenge was to make people want to spend time with your message when you’re selling a commodity," says Brian Peters, account supervisor with Fergus & Associates, Glenview, Ill. This agency worked with PCS Sales to develop the "Predictable" direct mail series. PCS already was using the "predictable" theme in its advertising, which highlighted the company’s reliability in the face of ag industry changes. The direct mail program extended that theme into a golf environment.

Working in conjunction with Golf Digest magazine, Fergus & Associates created a series of six, six-panel outserts, each with a golfing theme, to wrap issues of the magazine. A free magazine subscription then was given to almost 1,000 of PCS’s top customers.

"Finding out that Golf Digest was something that our customers enjoyed reading turned into a really successful way to reach them," says Jerry Streisel, public relations manager with PCS.

"The program allowed for some interaction between customers and the PCS sales team," Peters says. The sales force developed the mailing list. The outserts, which were sent with the magazine about every other month, encouraged customers to call or mail back a card to salespeople to be eligible to win prizes, including a golfing trip to Calgary, Alberta.

"The biggest benefit was found in follow-up focus group research a year later, where dealers who were on our mailing list had 100 percent recall of the series," Peters says. "And they requested to be part of the program again." AM


Debby Hartke is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Louis, Mo.

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