Gfx: Courtesy Victor Urbina

Victor Urbina Minding your Business: Sword Swallowing & Direct Mail Is NOT For The Faint Of Heart

What’s your favorite circus performer? Is it the trapeze artists? Maybe the lion tamer? Or is it the clowns? My favorite circus performer is guy, or girl, who swallows the swords. It’s the perfect combination of excitement and suspense.

I mean they risk their lives every time they go out and perform. One false move and that’s all she wrote. It’s not for the faint of heart. And it takes a lot of patience to do it well. Let me tell you why I’m bringing this up.

I was reading an interview in the New York Times with a sword swallower this past weekend. In it he talked about his craft and “taught” readers how to become sword swallowers. As you might imagine his recommendation is to start VERY SLOWLY. In fact, he recommended starting with an object that doesn’t have a sharp point.

This makes sense. It’s not the best idea to go grab your “ninja sword” from you closet and try to shove it down your mouth. That will surely not end well. As he described the process of becoming a sword swallower it started to remind me of direct mail.

Weird, I know.

The connections your mind makes when allowed to wander will surprise you. It reminded me of direct mail for a couple of reasons. Let me explain.

When you swallow a sword the first thing you need to do is, “Get everything in a straight line.”

In direct mail what this means is that before you even dig into any promotion you need to get it straight. You need to know who your target market is going to be. You need to know what your offer is going to be. And you need to know when you’re going to mail your promotion. Without getting these 3 things in a “straight line” your promotion isn’t going to work.

The next thing he suggested was that you needed to “learn to control your gag reflex”. He suggested learning to meditate so that you can use it to relax when you’re swallowing a sword.

In direct mail that means you need to have accurate expectations when you go into any promotion. You need to understand one thing. People aren’t waiting by their mailbox for your postcard or letter to arrive.

“Control your gag reflex” and accept that only a small percentage of people will take you up on your offer. If you have a main and back-up offer you appeal to more potential customers.

He then talked about making sure the sword you’re swallowing has a “cross guard.” This is so you don’t accidentally completely drop it into your stomach. I thought that this was great advice. A rookie sword swallower might not even think of something like this until it’s too late.

In direct mail this is the same as having controls in place so you can check return on investment. These controls help keep track of your promotion. You don’t want to accidentally keep mailing it if it’s not working.

The last two things he mentioned was to “work slowly and never panic.”

The direct mail light bulb went off in my head immediately after reading this. In direct mail you have to “work slowly.” If you have a budget that lets you mail out 5,000 pieces the best thing to do is to start mall and mail out 500 at a time.

Wait for the results to come in and then try again. Don’t panic if you get bad results. Because you’re testing small you can always go back and rework your promotion. Or maybe who you’re mailing to. By working small it will allow you mold your promotion so that you get the best results possible.

I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who hate direct mail because it didn’t work for them. Usually, because a salesman convinced them to mail 5,000 pieces without testing first. This is probably the worst thing you can do and I can’t blame them for hating direct mail.

Direct mail whether you believe it or not IS a lot like swallowing a sword.

To get good at it you have to learn to “get everything in a straight line” before mailing anything. You need to control your “gag reflex” and have realistic expectations for your promotion. You need to have a “cross guard” in place to check ROI as your promotion is going on to prevent it from killing you.

And you need to “work slowly and never panic.” If you’re mailing small amounts at a time it should give you time to fix anything that isn’t working. Instead of panicking and canceling the whole thing.

Still, there’s a lot of people who are convinced direct mail doesn’t work. I wish someone hadn’t tried to get you to swallow the whole sword on your first try.

If you want someone to teach you a bit of “sword swallowing,” join me on Wednesday, September 21st. I’m hosting a FREE workshop trough the El Paso Public Library.

The workshop is called Marketing 101: How To Create Ads That’ll Generate MORE Customers, Clients and Patients. It’s going to be from 5:30pm-7:00pm at the Sergio Troncoso Branch Library located at 9321 Alameda Ave.

To RSVP and get a FREE copy of one of my books email me at [email protected].

Hope you can make it out and remember, Life is a series of missed opportunities, so go for yours.TM