Podcast Episode

Case Study: How to Get 50-80% Response Rates using Paper Piranhas

with Harvey Hirsch

Episode Notes

Harvey Hirsch is a retired Direct Marketing & Sales Promotion expert specializing in New Business Development Strategies in the B2B space. His work for clients has earned over 100 industry and trade association awards, and the average response rate for his campaigns has been an astounding 50% when targeting “C” level decision makers. Harvey’s unique personalized 3D-Variable Data Shaped Print marketing technology was granted a US Process Patent in 2003 and it allows him to provide new ways of approaching prospects that never existed before.

Harvey’s unique approach has resulted in astounding response rates, challenging traditional marketing strategies. They talked about his innovative three-dimensional variable data shaped print marketing technology and its game-changing effects on business development strategies. 

1. Be unique to stand out and get noticed.
2. It’s better to focus more effort on a smaller group.
3. Personalization can go way beyond name and address.

Connect with Harvey Hirsch
Website: http://www.harveyhirsch.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_1s30PUDVK0pp98AIq4C_Q

Connect with Jeffro
Website: https://www.frobro.com
Social Links: https://www.tiktok.com/@frobroweb

00:00 Harvey Hirsch achieves 50% response rate.
06:04 Innovation in printing: thick stocks and personalization.
08:42 Printer versatility brings innovation, gender-neutral messaging future.
12:42 Direct mail costs and customer engagement strategy.
15:38 Introduced interactive die cutting, transformed ink company.
18:55 Digital power yields 50% response, $1M bill.
22:23 Business owners need a mental shift for customization.
24:54 Support marketing program, doesn’t drive it. Public relations.
27:20 Appreciation for Harvey, tune in next time.

More Customers here: www.frobro.com/dominate


Harvey Hirsch [00:00:00]:
It gave us the ability to do things that the competition didn’t even know existed. 

Jeffro [00:00:13]:
Welcome back to Digital Dominance. Every day, we are constantly bombarded with promotions, offers, and demands for our attention and money. On the one hand, it can be annoying, but sometimes there are offers we don’t mind entertaining. There are some ads that we watch willingly because it was relevant to us. So promotion isn’t all bad. It’s about cutting through the noise so that you can get the right people to notice. Many big companies take advantage of their big budgets to take a general approach that relies on quantity. They hit everyone hoping that a small percentage will respond.

Jeffro [00:00:44]:
But what if it’s possible to get much more targeted, have a more personalized approach, and have a big percentage respond? The good news is it’s not only possible, it’s been done before, and Harvey Hirsch is the man who repeatedly made it happen. Harvey is a retired direct marketing and sales promotion expert specializing in new business development strategies in the b two b space. His work for clients has earned over a 100 industry and trade association awards, and the average response rate for his campaigns has been an astounding 50% when targeting sea level decision makers. Harvey’s unique personalized three d variable data shaped print marketing technology was granted a US process pa patent in 2003, and it allows him to provide new ways of approaching prospects that never existed before. So thanks for being here, Harvey, and welcome to the show.

Harvey Hirsch [00:01:29]:
Well, thank you for having me. So it whoops. It’s always nice to help out the industry, which is what you’re trying to do desperately.

Jeffro [00:01:38]:
Yeah. Definitely.

Harvey Hirsch [00:01:39]:
The industry the marketing industry, which, pretty much controls everything in the world, okay, everything has to be packaged and marketed. It involves strategies. And most of the strategies still today are based in the seventies. Get the message out to as many people as possible for as cheap as possible and try to run an average. Now that has failed miserably. The whole printing industry is shrinking drastically, and printers themselves rarely use print to contact clients. And it’s a shame.

Jeffro [00:02:18]:
It it is because there’s so much more you can do with that even with, print. So, we’re gonna be talking about a lot of these campaigns that you’ve done as case studies so we can learn the takeaways and show people what’s possible. So can we start by giving just a definition of variable marketing, and then we’ll kinda get into some of the stories.

Harvey Hirsch [00:02:37]:
Okay. So variable marketing is when you’re using a database. And the more information you have about the customer, the prospect, the more information you can place into the direct mail piece that is going to them. And I was using data back in my early career. But in those days, you printed out a Cheshire label and had it affixed to the mailing piece. It wasn’t personalized. One message fit all. And that’s what you tried to do when you were creating the message.

Harvey Hirsch [00:03:10]:
And as I got involved with digital, I realized that’s obsolete. I could talk to each person individually. And instead of mailing out 10,000 pieces, I can mail out 50. And I could test my market, and I could test my message, and I could keep going. So what I was getting in the mail, I brought with me. This is this is stuff I get. These are all from banks. Okay? They’re all banks.

Harvey Hirsch [00:03:39]:
There’s nothing here that makes me wanna open up these letters. Okay?

Jeffro [00:03:46]:
Yeah. I mean, the thing is, everybody stops with personalization at the name. You know, name and address, and now they consider it personalized, but you’re talking about going the next level beyond that of information about their role or their goals or anything like that that, you know, allows you to further tailor that piece just for them.

Harvey Hirsch [00:04:04]:
Well, what happened was, I was I was launching a a product for Sharp Electronics. I was launching their own personalized printers. They made the, color printers themselves. They didn’t get an engine from somebody else and just build a case. And they hired me to, to launch these in 3 different marketplaces, government, large industry, and print for pay. And I asked them if, their their machines can print 10 point paper because you need 10 point actually, 9 point in order to make a business reply card in those days. Everybody’s using business reply cards. And they didn’t know what a point was.

Harvey Hirsch [00:04:47]:
And I said, okay. So can I, borrow some of your machines to see if we could print your mailing piece right on the machine? And they they gave me their 2 beta units, and we figured out a good sheet of paper. We started printing it. In fact, I probably could show you I mean, you can edit this. Right?

Jeffro [00:05:06]:
Oh, yeah.

Harvey Hirsch [00:05:07]:
I could show you the piece we did because, ah, here it is. So, these were some of the pieces that we made for Sharp Electronics. And I like to engage people. I like them to open things, to touch things.

Jeffro [00:05:27]:
And you’ve got edges that aren’t all straight. You’ve got edges that match, you know

Harvey Hirsch [00:05:31]:
Oh, everything I do is like white cutting changes the paradigm right away. Okay? And they loved it. And I was able to do it for all their dealers just by, you know, showing them 1 piece. And this is metallic paper. This was really, like, ahead of the game. And, this one also went out to all their dealers and to potential customers. So we had a breakthrough piece. Oh, it’s still it’s still connected.

Harvey Hirsch [00:06:04]:
But this is the stuff we printed on their copiers. And I liked it so much that, we were able to generate, I think, 5% response just going to potential customers for the machines, for the copiers. And the more I got involved in it, it was amazing. It was just like I had a large drum copier and it couldn’t take anything more than 80 pound stock. So when I started playing with the thicker and thicker stocks, I realized that the shorter straight paper path was the future of printing because there was no torque on the paper. So ordinarily, because with die cutting, you need to print at least 500 sheets, then you make a die, then you take the printed piece and the die to a finishing house and they stamp it out. And that’s pretty much the state of the art today, and we’re talking 2024. Okay? So, if you want to have a die cut piece or a three-dimensional pop up, you’re gonna have to print 500 pieces, and there’s no room for personalization.

Harvey Hirsch [00:07:15]:
You might be able to merge data a little bit, put the name, the name of the company, but you can’t really type in a personalized message because in the die cutting process, you could lose up to 15%. And you don’t wanna do that. That’s an expensive process. So when I was at Sharp with my staff running this printed the this, mailer, I was watching this amazing machine print 4 colors on one side, then we take it out. We’d flip it over and print the back on the other machine, and the color was consistent. It was nice. And 1 night, I was up there with, with some food for my staff because we had to be there 2 shifts because the machine only printed 11 sheets a minute on the bypass tray, and we had to do, like, 12,000 pieces. So, we were there for a week, and we used up, like, 56, toners.

Harvey Hirsch [00:08:13]:
And I’m watching the paper go into the machine and then statically, 2 pieces got connected and went through the machine. I thought it was gonna jam. And it came out the other side, and I peeled them apart. And I said, oh my god. This is amazing. So I went and I got some specialty paper, and I ran it through the machine. I got it up to 14 point, and I told the engineers that your machine prints 14 point. Hell, your machine prints color on 14 point paper.

Harvey Hirsch [00:08:42]:
I mean, the more versatility a device has, the more products you could print off of it and the more money a printer could make by buying it. So I was competing with Canon, which had a very good machine, and Xerox, which had one of the best machines on the marketplace, but they were very limited to the amount of paper that they could print on. And the wider variety of paper allowed me to do some strange things. So when I looked at, the industry as a whole, I I tried to figure out where this machine and the ability to merge data would come in. And, one of the things we did was, well, we changed the the shape of postcards. Okay? And they all had to go into a clear plastic, envelope, a sleeve, so the post office could put them through their machines. And we changed everything. And then I got to the point where, okay, why make 1 message for men and 1 message for women? Because that’s really the future.

Harvey Hirsch [00:09:57]:
I would say, gender specific mailing. So we made gender specific pieces. Okay? And we were able to change in a minute the data going in there and talk to people right on the front of the postcard and on the back.

Jeffro [00:10:19]:
And for those of you listening, he’s holding up pieces of mailers that are shaped like piggy banks or butterflies and, you know, a cracker with bites out of it. Right?

Harvey Hirsch [00:10:28]:
Yeah. For comedians for Jewish comedians. I mean, it gave us the ability to do things that the competition didn’t even know existed.

Jeffro [00:10:37]:
Right. Well and this is something I wanna highlight because you’re really you’re talking about customization, personalization, but there’s 2 problems you’re solving here. 1 is getting your thing to be looked at. Right? That’s the first problem. You know? Whether it’s email, you know, we focus a lot on the email subject line because that’s what people you know, that’s what gets them to open some interest, something intriguing. With a direct mail, you know, we get the stack of mailers and junk mail. We pick out the ones that look interesting. So if if you’re just another rectangle, another white square, nobody’s gonna look at it, and you’re definitely not getting past the front desk.

Jeffro [00:11:11]:
But if you’re shaped like a big piece of cheese with the guy’s name on it or something or his favorite chips, you know, that’s gonna get set aside, and they’re gonna look at it. So that’s step 1. And then step 2 is customizing the message once they look at it so it’s even more compelling and you get a response. Sorry, folks. Had a brief technical difficulty there, but we’re back. We’re gonna continue our conversation. Harvey was just walking us through some of the cool unique things that he did with die cuts and metallic paper and, making this these direct mail pieces so personalized and unique that they stand out. People notice it in the stack of mail.

Jeffro [00:11:46]:
They look at it, and then the message is tailored to them. So the response rates he was getting was fantastic. So, let’s just kind of continue with that. I mean, obviously, we wanna learn from that whether our campaigns are direct mail or email or anything. You know, we can take those principles and use the customization to go beyond just name and address, to actually change the look and feel of the promotion for that particular demographic, whatever they are, or for that individual person. If you, do a good job picking your list of who you wanna reach out to, then you can get super specific on those Digital. And there’s no reason you can’t do that with today’s technology.

Harvey Hirsch [00:12:28]:
No. In fact, if you’re not using data, you’re wasting your money. If you’re not personalizing, you’re wasting your money. I mean, the average cost of a direct mail piece to do this can you see this?

Jeffro [00:12:40]:

Harvey Hirsch [00:12:42]:
So the average cost is about a dollar 47. And if you’re mailing out 10,000 pieces, you’ve got, what, $14,000, right? If you’re getting a half of 1 if you’re getting a half of 1%, you’re spending 1,000 of dollars for that lead. And once I realized that, my question to clients was always, if you had the chance to take that customer out for lunch, spend $60 and talk to them for an hour, would you do it? And they all said, sure, we’d do it. So all I figured out how to do was send the invitation to lunch. In such a way that people could call, that the salesperson could call and say, I mailed you that whatever, that crazy, you know, thing. And they would get on the phone, and it started changing the way I thought about direct mail because direct mail is where you’re going directly with your message to a specific type of person who buys your product.

Jeffro [00:13:42]:

Harvey Hirsch [00:13:43]:
Okay? And all all your clients are different, so you have to deal with that. And I started playing, all sorts of games, and I realized that once my patent cleared, I was able to die cut a sheet of paper and then print on it. What that allowed me to do is make three-dimensional products in short runs instead of the 500 that you normally need. But even more than that, when I started playing with it, one of my products is the suit mailer. Can you see that?

Jeffro [00:14:14]:
Mhmm. It’s a

Harvey Hirsch [00:14:15]:
traditional suit that opens up. So if I had a 100 names and 20 of them were in the military, they would get that suit. And we’re talking about marketing being the same thing as war. You know, you wanna take over somebody else’s territory? Well, they don’t wanna give it up that fast or invite them to a gala event. Or if it’s a medic, you know, this this message changes, but the three-dimensional power doesn’t, and this is what I was able to accomplish. And little by little, I started experimenting, and I’m gonna show your viewers something that they’ve never seen before. And I’m gonna walk them through this because this is gonna change the way they market. Alright.

Harvey Hirsch [00:15:05]:
Digital is in print as well as being online. And it’s very critical that they understand the power of print. Most print today has no power, and that’s why the industry is shrinking. Postcards, letters, and envelopes, they died in the seventies. Okay? When when IBM Selectric came out, you were able to merge data and personalized letters in the seventies. When you got a personalized letter, you opened it up. But then millions of them were flooding the market. Nobody wanted to open them up anymore, so they lost their power.

Harvey Hirsch [00:15:38]:
So I had to come up with all sorts of things, and die cutting was part of it. If I could die cut and shape things and get them interactive, that’s what I did. And we were seeing with the clients a large response rate, and everybody wants a large response rate. So one of the clients we had is an ink company, Superior Printing Inc, and I told them I told the marketing director, I said, I don’t work in ink anymore, but if you have a database, and and they did. And what they wanted to do was set up an on-site ink mixing facility at a printing company 20,000,000 and above. And they had Salesforce. They had reps all over the country trying to get in the door to sell this to the printers, and they couldn’t get in the door. So I said to them, can you get me the name of the president of that printing company, the sales manager at that printing company, and the facilities manager at that printing company.

Harvey Hirsch [00:16:43]:
So they went out, and they got all that information. And we set up a database with each sales rep and the printers that they were contacting and the names correctly spelled, I hope. And what I did was I I I had to figure out, okay. How am I gonna impress a printer that’s been in the business for 20 years and has seen it all, literally, and and and they were all men. I think we had 1 woman who inherited it, but it didn’t matter. So what what I did was I created a system where this is the box. It is literally something I bought at Uline. It was a stock box.

Harvey Hirsch [00:17:23]:
There were only 227 names that we could go after that they had collected of printers 20,000,000 and above. And what I did was I created this box. Now let’s see if I can open it up so you could see. And it was shrink wrapped, and it had delivery information built into the postage. So I would get notified 10 o’clock in the morning so and so got the box, and I would call the, rep in that area. So in this box, can you see that? Yeah.

Jeffro [00:17:57]:
He’s got the Easter grass, there’s some goldfish, and then a bunch of cutouts of fish. There’s an envelope on the top. Lots of color.

Harvey Hirsch [00:18:03]:
Fish are personalized. Every single one is personalized. I put it in color so you could see it. So we had 7 die cut fish. We had personalization all over, and then an a seven that opened up, and inside of it was a personalized hand folded origami fish with their name on it. Okay? And it opened up again. Then I took this piece, and I changed the artwork, and I put the copy for the sales manager in one of these, and then we reformatted the copy for the facilities manager talking about less waste, things like that. And it was the same thing, but just different artwork and different copy.

Harvey Hirsch [00:18:55]:
Now to be able to do that today is almost impossible. You have to set up all different plates. But this is the power of digital. And what happened was and I don’t want you to take my answer to that. His direct magazine, when they found out about it, they interviewed the client, and the client said, yeah. We got a 50% response rate on that, which is unheard of, but everybody in the industry was certainly writing about it because they had never seen anything like it. And the client billed about $1,000,000, which isn’t too bad. Okay? It allowed me to prove and validate that personalization of three-dimensional and die cut pieces is the future.

Harvey Hirsch [00:19:42]:
So printing is still in its infancy. Okay? Creative people don’t understand the value of personalization. They think design is everything. Copywriters think copy is everything. And having done all of that, I’m gonna tell you and everybody that’s listening to you, it’s a combination of a lot of elements. Okay? If you don’t make the customer react in a half a second, you’ve lost it. If you’re not fighting for jumping out of that stack of mail with a shape or a color or a box, you’ve lost it. Okay? You’re just like this.

Harvey Hirsch [00:20:19]:
These people waste $30,000 a month and and and get nothing back. Okay? And so I’m it What?

Jeffro [00:20:27]:
It’s a great opportunity to, well, because it’s tangible too. It’s physical. We’re so used to staring at our screens or scrolling on our phones. If we get something interesting and unique that’s in the real world, of course, we’re gonna notice and pay attention to it. And you’re right. A lot of companies just aren’t doing that or they’re just taking the, you know, the quantity approach and hoping that somebody happens to find it.

Harvey Hirsch [00:20:47]:
That’s essentially the state of the art today. And because of that, printers are dying. They’re gobbling each other up just for their Rolodexes. It’s really a struggle because printing is such an honorable profession. But magazines and newspapers can’t make it on just subscriptions. Okay? So the whole printing industry is shrinking, and I’m and I’m saying that it’s still in its infancy, but the creative people have to learn about it. The clients have to start collecting data to understand this, and printers have to start offering something that isn’t automated, something that’s assembled by a human being and checked, and and then it goes out in the mail, or in some cases, hand delivered, or in some cases, with somebody dressed up. Alright? We used to do this.

Harvey Hirsch [00:21:39]:
We used to have a friend that he would we’d dress him up as a chef, and he would go into a a selected business at 8:30 in the morning with a tray of specially baked apple turnovers. And inside that tray would would be a a message. You know, not all turnovers are as tasty as these, but if you turn over your marketing to us, we’ll leave you with a good taste in your mouth. I gotta tell you. If he if he went out to 10 people in in one day, I got on the phone with 10 people.

Jeffro [00:22:08]:
Yeah. Guaranteed. So

Harvey Hirsch [00:22:10]:
that’s the key is how do you set up that funnel? And nowadays, it’s they drop 10,000 pieces, and nobody’s gonna follow-up with a phone call because nobody’s gonna see that piece. It’s really a thing. So

Jeffro [00:22:23]:
It it is. And I think there’s a mental shift that has to happen for business owners. Right? Because they’re looking at, okay, the cost of this campaign, oh, an individual custom mailer is gonna be, like, you know, $5 instead of I can send these for 40¢ or, you know, instead of taking a step back and saying, okay. If I put in a little bit of upfront work to customize this and make it good and just send it to the top people that actually care about wanting to see this and ensure that they see it by doing one of these things you’re talking about, making it stand out of the pile, sending a singing telegram person to deliver it, whatever it is. Okay. You’re gonna have much better returns. It’s gonna be cheaper overall in terms of the campaign, and your response rate is higher, so it’s going to be a bigger win overall. So it’s definitely worth thinking about.

Harvey Hirsch [00:23:05]:
Well, look at your potential client. What is that client worth on a one time buy or on a lifetime buy? It’s certainly worth more than a dollar 47. Okay?

Jeffro [00:23:18]:

Harvey Hirsch [00:23:18]:
And when you send something like this, you’re telling them that you’re just like everybody else. You really don’t wanna do that. What what you have to consider, though, is the person you’re mailing it to isn’t always the person that gets the mail. And the person that gets the mail plays triage with what the c level is looking for. And I had to cut through a lot of that stuff, and I realized that it was a woman, 35 and above, that was getting the mail for all my targets. So I created a butterfly mailer. Can you see this?

Jeffro [00:23:55]:

Harvey Hirsch [00:23:56]:
Alright. And it’s personalized front and back with the person’s name on it. Well, the response was off the scale with this one. Okay? But what do you do for men? Well, I started playing with this. Can you see this?

Jeffro [00:24:11]:
There’s products?

Harvey Hirsch [00:24:12]:
This is an invitation, and you pull it out. And what happens usually is, well, this one got stuck, is that the piranha comes out with it. And inside is, also, it’s a personalized stuff, including a bike card with bikes taken out. I’m telling you, this changed my whole attitude with with marketing. Marketing was working better than I ever dreamed. And not the traditional stuff, you know, like billboards. Billboards are great at 50 miles an hour. You got 5 words.

Harvey Hirsch [00:24:54]:
It supports your marketing program. It doesn’t drive it. Okay? But but to be able to get your message into the hands of your target. Okay? So I believe very strongly in public relations. One of the things we did was we made a pizza box. We dressed the guy as a pizza delivery guy. He went into the newspaper, says this is for the journal the, you know, the journal department, you know, where the writers are. And inside was a giant pizza that they were able to open up, and it pitched them.

Harvey Hirsch [00:25:28]:
We got written up everywhere for the client, anyway. You know? So you have to think differently. And and if you’re not including die cutting, you’re not doing yourself justice. It adds a nickel to the piece. Okay? The cost of the die, depending upon how intricate it is, is one cost. That’s a fixed cost. Then setting it up to press the printed paper, that’s another cost, but it’s worth it. Because if you do it right, it’s gonna separate you from the pack.

Harvey Hirsch [00:25:57]:
The average American is is bombarded by 2,000 messages a day. You have to make a lasting impression, make them smile, and get them to react to it, at least to remember it. So when you follow it up with a phone call, you could take them out to lunch, talk to them for an hour.

Jeffro [00:26:13]:
Yeah. So, I mean, I I kinda wanna wrap us up right there because that’s the biggest takeaway. You have to make a lasting impression. You’ve gotta do these extra steps up front to make yourself get noticed so that people even read your message in the 1st place. So these are all great stories. Thank you, Harvey, for sharing all that with us. I love how creative the approach is. I think it’s a great reminder and inspiration for everybody listening to, you know, do something different.

Jeffro [00:26:36]:
It’s way more fun to do it this way than sending the boring mailers anyways. You don’t like writing it. People don’t like reading it. So do something interesting, and that’s how you’ll get noticed. So, guys, you can connect with Harvey. His links are in the show notes. Find him on LinkedIn. Watch his videos on YouTube.

Jeffro [00:26:50]:
Harvey, do you have one quick tidbit that you wanna leave people with, before we close out?

Harvey Hirsch [00:26:56]:
Quick tick tidbit. Look, you only get 1 shot to make a lasting impression. Make them smile. Okay? Stop trying to sell something in a postcard. Okay? Get get noticed. Get laughed at, and then make the phone call and get the appointment. That’s really what you want. Alright? Did that help?

Jeffro [00:27:20]:
Oh, that’s great. Yeah. That’s a great thing to end on, guys. Take Harvey’s message to heart. Alright. And thanks again for being here, Harvey. Thanks to all of you for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time.

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