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Stick Them with a Crossword Puzzle

One of the toughest tasks facing any marketing person after getting the prospects’ attention is to hold their attention for as long as possible until the sale is made.

One of the best ways to hold their attention is to get them involved.  You must make your marketing piece sticky.

This is particularly true for direct mail marketing.

There are several creative techniques available that can be employed to help boost response to a direct mail offer.

One of the best is to include an interactive or involvement device.  Traditionally such devices include stickers, tokens, peel-off tabs, and other creative elements requiring the prospect to do something besides read the sales copy.

I was reminded of this the other day when a self-mailer arrived from my local credit union.  It was an offer for Long-Term Care insurance.

I can’t imagine a tougher sell than Long-Term Care insurance.

Insurance, itself, is generally a tough sell – Long Term Care has to be at the top of the list.


While almost everyone believes that later in life they’ll have a need for Long-Term Care insurance, the stuff is very expensive.  And the annual premium is usually due in one-lump sum each year.  Ouch!

As a result, most of us put off buying it until it’s too late to buy it…we are already headed to the care facility – or maybe not.

Here’s the front and inside panel of the Long-Term Care self-mailer my spouse received a couple of weeks ago.  Notice anything unusual about it?

Like a moth to a flame, I was immediately drawn to the crossword puzzle.  “What’s it doing here?” I asked myself.  Why did the creative team add a crossword puzzle to the self-mailer?  What were they hoping to accomplish with it?

Carefully studying the copy in both versions of the crossword puzzle I realized it was a visual device to draw attention to the reasons behind, and need for, Long-Term Care insurance:

  • Tax savings
  • Assisted living
  • Quality care
  • Independence
  • Rising costs

And you’ll note in the bottom visual of the inside panel of the self-mailer two additional words of copy have been added and circled in red – FINANCIAL SECURITY…the primary benefit of having a Long-Term Care policy.

I was impressed by the creative team’s use of the cross-word puzzle visual to make a very boring subject matter a bit more interesting.  I definitely spent more time studying the self-mailer because of the crossword puzzle.

But as I thought about it longer, I realized the creative team missed a golden marketing opportunity here.  They could have taken the crossword puzzle idea and turned it into an involvement device.

As stated above, the purpose of an involvement device is to get you to spend more time with the marketing piece – time spent thinking about the offer and the benefits provided by obtaining the product or service being presented.

An involvement device takes your prospect beyond the superficial reading of the copy, getting him or her to become invested in the benefits of owning what you are selling.

As marketers, we know that the longer a person spends considering your offer, the more likely he or she is to take the next step and contact you for more information or to buy what is being sold.

Had I been a member of the creative team working on this project, I would have suggested that we create approximately five relevant Long-Term Care questions that are answered by placing each answer in the appropriate place on the crossword puzzle visual.  These questions could include questions pertinent to your bank or credit union.

For example:  5 Down: “Average age of someone buying a Long-Term Care policy?”

People love the intellectual challenges of a crossword puzzle.  Many of them receiving an offer like the one shown above could not resist getting a pen or pencil and attempting to answer the questions.

Not only does such a device make them more attentive to your sales copy, they spend a much longer time involved with the product or service you are selling.

Now for the payoff.

In the call-to-action section at the body of the sales copy, you mention that the correct answers can be found at www.yourbankname.com/longtermcare.  Better yet, also include a QR code that can be scanned with a mobile phone.

Very few people can resist verifying their answers.  And for those of us too lazy to spend much time thinking about the answers, we are still curious enough to go to the website to check out the answers.

One thing is certain, had the marketing folks behind this self-mailer used the crossword puzzle as an involvement device, there would have been significantly more visitors to the website landing page.  And likely more credit union customers requesting appointments.

The next time you are working on a marketing campaign that includes a newspaper ad, statement insert, teller handout, brochure, or direct mail piece, remember the value of adding an involvement device.

It’s a proven tactic for generating more readers, more inquiries, and more sales.

Now for “practice what you preach.”

Okay, for those astute readers of the blog, I am guilty of using a play-on-words in the headline.  I simply couldn’t help myself this one time.  I’ll try and avoid it in the future.

Tagsassisted livingblogcreative elementscreative teamcrossword puzzledirect mail marketingdirect mail offerfinancial securitygetting the prospects' attentionindependenceinvolvement devicelike a moth to a flamelocal credit unionlong-term care insurancemarketing personmarketing piecemobile phonepeel-off tabsplay-on-wordspractice what you preachproductQR Codequality carerising costssales copyself-mailerservicestickerstax savingstokens