Travis Lee Interview

Travis Lee Interview

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Editor :

I’m thrilled to welcome today’s guest, Travis Lee, a mastermind in the world of direct mail marketing. He’s the co-founder of 3D Mail Results, and Travis has revolutionized how businesses think about and execute their direct mail campaigns with an innovative approach that stands out in a digital age. His strategies have helped countless businesses achieve remarkable engagement and response rates. Beyond the mailbox, Travis is also active on social media where he shares his insights and connects with both his clients and his fans. Travis, it’s great to have you with us today.

Travis Lee:

Wonderful to be here. Thanks for the invite and looking forward to sharing some direct mail expertise with some of our listeners.

Editor :

Excellent. Well, could we maybe start by asking if you could share what sparked the idea for 3D Mail Results and how you began this unique adventure?

Travis Lee:

It’s I think an interesting story. I think it’s actually fairly instructive. I’ll give you the cliff notes version, we’ll give the shorter version than we normally give. I started this business with my father in 2008, 2009, the years kind of blend together. Let’s just say it wasn’t a great economic time. I do remember that, so somewhere around then. My father had this business, it was called American Retail Supply. It doesn’t really matter what it did. They were a wholesale distribution company.

They had grown that business. He had grown that business using direct mail in a business where it was very much Salesforce-driven. Nobody did marketing, everyone did sales. People were hammering the phones, people were walking up and down the street. If you can imagine, we are serving mainly small retail stores, so not the big box stores.

They have divisions of us. They have divisions that do what we do. The bike shop on Main Street, that would be the typical client. You’d have what we affectionately call the foot soldiers walking up and down the street, knocking on doors and working the phones. He discovered this guy named Dan Kennedy, who I’m sure you are very familiar with, renowned marketing expert.

He discovered this guy named Dan Kennedy, who I’m sure you are very familiar with, renowned marketing expert. This was back in 1991, 1992, and he said, “If you can figure out how to get direct mail to work in your business, it can revolutionize it. It can be a force multiplier. You can do all the things you want and never leave your office.” He thought that sounded amazing. I can have salespeople now in my office, I can control them a little bit more, hear what they’re saying. There’s none of these sketchy expense accounts as they go around walking up and down the street, and we can control it. We can mail who we want to mail.

Anyway, his first direct mail piece he sends out, he gets a 25% response rate, which is obscene. That is absurd. No one should expect that. I debate whether I even say it, but it’s the truth, and so now he’s hooked. This is ’92, ’93. Boy, we’re coming up on 40 years, over 40 years. They’re all over 30 years, it’s amazing how it travels. Then that evolved into sending what we now call 3D mail, which we’ll probably show some of this, but we set these little tiny rubber feet in the mail or we send a message in a bottle in the mail, and it evolved into this thing that was way more than just paper and ink and envelopes and stamps. Well, now let’s fast-forward 2000, like I said, six-ish or so, seven-ish.

We were actually in a mastermind group, and for years and years and years we had used this stuff and people kept coming to us and saying, where are you getting your ideas? How are you finding these things? Our answer was always, well, in the States, we say we go to the dollar store and we walk up and down the aisles until we have inspiration, and then we run to the clerk and say, I need 5,000 of this little trinket. That meant we were telling people what to do. Well, it became evident that people didn’t want to do that, and that because of our expertise as a wholesale distribution company, it doesn’t matter what we sell. A widget is a widget is a widget. Could we buy these things from the same folks that we’re buying them from and wholesale distribute this stuff?

Anyway, we go to a mastermind meeting and we say, we’re thinking about starting this new division. You guys have seen the 3D mail that we do. Do you guys think it makes sense? We could have left that meeting with thousands and thousands of dollars in orders right then and there. This is November-ish of, like I said, 2007 or so. By March of 2008, again, the years get a little sketchy, but it’s around there.

Four or five months later, we’d started this new division and I was put in charge of running it. Since then, we’ve completely sold the other business. We’ve gone whole hogan to direct mail, and now we do everything from the wholesale distribution of the products to printing and mailing and stuffing and postage and sending it out the door for you with full mail capability. It really was a, we use this thing with great success, how can we now turn it into a profit centre and now a full-fledged business for us?

Editor :

Now you’re a full-service provider in this space. Direct mail in a digital world seems a little counterintuitive. What advantages are there to sending 3D mail?

Travis Lee:

That’s a great question. The biggest reason to send it is while everybody’s running over here, you should at least look around and say, should I be running over there? At the very least, when everyone else is running one direction, is it time to start thinking about running the other direction? That’s the first thing. Dan Kennedy, again, my mentor says, the masses are usually wrong. If the masses are wrong, let’s see if they’re all running that way, maybe we should be running that way. That’s number one. Number two, frankly, there’s just less competition in the mailbox right now. When we started doing pay-per-click ads in 2002, ’03, ’04, when they first introduced it, you’d get 25-cent clicks and 50-cent clicks, and pretty soon, those get to be $15 and $20 and $25 clicks. Now, the economics of the one has skewed the other. That’s first two reasons.

I got some stats here, I’ll actually read them off. I don’t like to read when I do these presentations, but I want to make sure I get these numbers right. This is from the USP, so United States Postal Service. Every five years they do a channel, what they call, I won’t get it exactly right, it’s a channel research where they research their channel being direct mail. These numbers are from 2020. They do it every five years. The next one will come out about a year from now. If you think direct mail is dead, let’s take a look at some of these numbers. 80% of people say they look forward to seeing what they get in their mailbox every day. Do you think 80% of people enjoy checking their email every day? Probably not 80%. 73% of US consumers prefer direct mail for communication because it allows them to read it at their own convenience, so there’s that.

66% 0f direct mail is open. Now I don’t know your email stats, but nowhere close to my email stats. None of my emails get opened at a 66% rate. One more because it’s a giant one here. Direct mail has an average shelf life of 17 days, compared to two seconds with email. If you send a package in the mail, on average that thing is going to sit around, whether it’s on the coffee table, the kitchen table or office table. It’s going to be sent to me maybe my wife sees it.  If it’s to my office maybe me, so you have this shelf life that digital just cannot, it just can’t compete with. I’ll give one more quick example. Think about it everyone orders pizza. I don’t care who you are, where you live, everyone orders pizza. Everyone gets pizza delivered.

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