Some of the questions you may be asking
Here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If you need additional information, please call us — Bob McCarthy or Sheryl King — at 508-473-8643 or send us an email.
Q. How would you describe your business?
A. We are small marketing communications firm specializing in direct mail and direct response.
Q. What specific services do you provide?
A. We provide copywriting services for advertising, direct marketing, marketing collateral, PR and email/web promotions. Specifically, we write brochures, sales letters, newsletters, product sheets, annual reports, press releases, articles and speeches. Graphic design services are also available.
We also provide project coordination — meaning we supervise the work of vendors and suppliers, keep track of schedules and budgets, and manage all the details to get your project out the door. We work with printers, mail houses, website companies and list companies.
In addition, we provide direct response strategy to help you improve response from your advertising, direct mail and email.
Q. Are you an agency, freelancers or consultants?
A. A little bit of all three. We are, after all, a small firm so we can be flexible to our clients’ needs.
For most of our clients today, we produce full-service campaigns. We handle the copywriting, graphic design, printing, list research, list processing, mailing services, everything you need for a direct mail/direct response campaign or collateral. On occasion, for creative services only — for brochures, booklets, newsletters, etc., — we are hired on a freelance basis. And then there are a few clients who want only our advice or supervision — in which case, we are hired as consultants.
Q. Do you specialize?
A. Our copywriting services cover a wide range of marketing activities but most of our full-service work is focused on direct mail and direct response marketing. We have acquired a great deal of experience and knowledge in the techniques of generating response. We are acquainted not only with the creative side of the business but also, and perhaps more importantly, with the strategic side, including list research and response analysis.
Q. Do you work for large or small businesses?
A. We work with businesses and non-profits of all sizes. We also provide copywriting on a subcontract basis to direct marketing firms and ad agencies.
Q. Do you have experience in my industry?
A. Probably. Over the course of 20+ years, we have covered the spectrum of industries including technology, communications, manufacturing, distribution, retail, publishing, health care, recreation, banking, investment services and non-profit organizations.
Q. Who are some of your clients?
A. Some names you may recognize are Thomson Financial Systems, Digital Equipment Corp., Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, SunGard Financial Systems, Sun Microsystems, Syncra Software, Fidelity Investments, John Hancock Insurance, Koch Industries, Oxford Global Resources, Business & Legal Reports, Riverside Amusement Park, American Ramp Systems, Babson College, Cellular One and the Scottish Rite Freemasons.
Q. Do you work on a project basis or a retainer?
A. Almost all of our work is handled on a project by project basis. On occasion when a client needs help in many areas or when project specifications require extensive research and planning, we may establish a monthly consulting arrangement.
Q. How do you charge?
A. All projects are estimated in advance with as much detail as possible. For copywriting and other creative services, we usually provide a fixed fee estimate.
Production costs are estimated separately, including the variable costs for the mailing lists, printing, data processing, addressing, mailing and postage.
Q. How many pieces do we need to mail?
A. We have no minimum quantity. You can mail just a few hundred pieces if you want, but typical quantities are between 5,000 and 20,000.
Q. What type of budget should we have?
A. This is largely dependent on your production costs. Direct mail production costs can range from 60 cents to $1 or more per piece. Copywriting and creative fees are separate from production and can range from $1,000 up to $5,000 or even $10,000 depending on services needed and the complexity of the project.
Q. I’m not sure what we need. Can we hire you just for advice?
A. Of course. We provide direct response strategy as a consulting service. We also offer a QUICK CONSULT which is a one time (4 hour) consultation for just $495.
Q. What types of direct mail formats do you use?
A. We work with all formats. We use letter packages, self-mailers, postcards, survey mailers and catalogs. Which format we use for you will depend on your marketing strategy, audience profile and budget.
Q. What kind of response rate can I expect?
A. This is a frequent, but impossible, question. Predicting response rates for first-time clients is never recommended. Nevertheless, our experiences with other clients and different types of direct marketing applications have given us some understanding of what to expect. There are no guarantees, however.
First, it is important to understand that mailing to your company’s existing list of previous responders (either prospects or current customers/donors) will almost always produce a higher response (sometimes 5 to 10 times higher) than mailing to an outside prospect list.
Second, lead generation mailings will almost always produce higher response than order generation mailings. Keep in mind that prospects respond to lead generation without any significant commitment, but order generation (including fund-raising) requires respondents to make a financial commitment.
As for actual response rates, if mailing to an outside prospect list, we typically expect a 1-3% response rate for lead generation. Of course, we’ve had some lead generation campaigns produce response rates as high as 13% but that is the exception. Order generation mailings have much lower response rates — usually fractions of 1% — when mailing to outside lists. Most often, first-time order generation and fund-raising programs produce new customers and new donors at a loss. These organizations, however, realize that this loss is eventually recouped through subsequent mailings.
Q. How long have you been in business?
A. We (the two partners, Sheryl King and Bob McCarthy) started this business together in 1990 but each of us has more than 20 years of experience in direct marketing, advertising and marketing communications.
Q. Are you active in the direct marketing industry?
A. Yes, we are both members of the New England Direct Marketing Association (NEDMA). Bob was president and a board member in the early 1990s. Bob has also been an instructor in the direct marketing programs at Bentley College (Waltham, MA) and Merrimack College (Andover, MA).