I just received a living anachronism in my mailbox today – a local vendor card deck.
This format used to be much more popular, and was often used for B-to-B lead generation 20-40 years ago. If you’re younger and aren’t familiar with these, they are a package of roughly 3″x5″ lightweight cards, printed front and back, packaged up in shrink wrap like a candy bar, with one card acting as the “host” or sponsor and carrying the address block. Each card is a two-sided ad for a different local business, often themed around a group of industries or services pitched to a specific target group. For instance, if I were a deck publisher, and I was creating a deck to send to a list of recently changed addresses, I would likely target new movers by including paid ad cards from a roofer, a cleaning service, a painting company, a landscaper, paving contractor, pool company, lawn service, gutter sales and cleaning, chimney sweeps and other services that people moving into a new home or a new neighborhood might need.
This one appeared to be pitched not to new movers, but homeowners in general, as it is addressed to me or “Current Occupant” and contained cards from a fence contractor, a counter top company, a landscaper, a pool company, and several others surrounding home ownership and renovation.
I picked out maybe three vendors that were relevant to my life and my needs, and pitched the rest. The Host card offered a packaged up bundle of prizes by combining offers from three of the vendors, including a restaurant, a pool builder and an interior design firm. The offer isn’t very explicit, but the slug line offers FREE dinner for two, and drives you to a website that will inevitably explain how these three go together to help me win a free dinner for two at the restaurant.
This format has lost popularity over the years, but at one time was quite lucrative. I know of direct mail publishers who churned out an industry-specific B-to-B deck every quarter, and went on vacation for two months until the next one needed to be put together. Once the ads are sold on a long-term one- or two-year contract, it’s just assemble, print, package, mail. Pretty simple, but the list maintenance was pretty high, in order to keep response levels up and advertisers happy and coming back, and the level of detail to get a larger deck produced correctly is pretty high – it’s like printing a magazine with no editorial and no binding.
With the advent of local look-up directories on the Internet, such decks as the one in my hand are anachronistic at best, but they must pull and make economic sense to the advertiser, or they wouldn’t exist. Kudos to the publisher for making the math work for them and for keeping this format alive.
If you’ve seen something in your mailbox that was unexpected, let us know, we’d love to hear about it . . .
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