How we blew £1000 buying data and direct mail

How we blew £1000 buying data and direct mail, why we’re happy about it.

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How not to market your small business: The Let’s Face It Campaign



It’s a question we asked ourselves,

In order to find out, we sent out to 500 businesses… a picture… of our faces.

We’ll get back to that later…

The whole point of this creative marketing campaign, that we christened the Let’s Face It campaign, was built around the fact that, on average, people need to experience your brand SIX times before they recognise it.

We hope that it will give you some marketing campaign ideas. Here are the steps we took and the mistakes we made…


GOAL: More members for our video production service


HOW: The Six Times Rule BUDGET: £1000


So, our goal was simple: we wanted to gain more members for our video production service. How we were going to do it was by making sure people kept seeing our faces everywhere they went and our budget was One Thousand Great British Pounds.


Step 1: Buying Data

We bought 500 addresses and 500 emails from a very well respected company. This ate up £360 of our budget – but if you’re buying data, you need to pay a premium to make sure the data is accurate.

Which led us, very quickly, into MISTAKE NUMBER 1!


Mistake #1 Not Targeting

You see, we thought we were being really clever.

We started to cherry pick businesses. We thought about the amount of money a business was making in a year, the number of staff it had and where they were located. We wanted it to be really, really localised. This was all great.

Except, it wasn’t great. Because what we hadn’t done was to think about the type of industry. So, when all the data landed on our doorstep (those 500 lovely addresses), 25% of them were for industries that were never, ever going to use our services!

And by ‘never’ we mean NEVER with capitals and in bold – even if we sent them pictures of our faces six times a day! These were trades. You know the ones… You’ve got to love ’em – your boiler breaks: they fix it. 

No offence to them. They just don’t tend to market like the clients we are after.


What did we learn? 

Be selective when buying data.


Step 2: The landing page and email campaign (The First Encounter)

Everything we had read said ‘Don’t but email addresses.’ Now we get why this is the case, but we just thought we’d give it a shot anyway, just for the hell of it. This was going to be the first encounter out of the six.

We really didn’t have high hopes. Sending out emails like this to people who have never heard of you is a really poor way of trying to drum up business. As marketing campaign ideas go, it’s not the best.

It’s also spam, which is bit naughty and very annoying. Now, while it’s not big (or clever), like I said, we still wanted to give it a try just to see what might happen – so you don’t have to.

All in the name of research, you see.

If you’re going to send out email campaigns, it’s really important that you create a landing page specifically for that campaign. 

Mail Chimp (and other email services) will tell you who’s clicked on what and where on your emails – but they’ll only tell you so much.

What they won’t tell you is if someone interacts with your landing page. We wanted to know long people spent on the landing page and how they acted after they’d watched the video.

So, the first step was setting up a landing page specifically for the people we were targeting in this campaign. What you don’t want is a landing page that everybody can access.

If the link on the email had sent people to our homepage then the data and the measurement that we got would have mixed with all the other traffic that we get to our site.

And you need measurement because then you know what works and what to repeat.

So, what happened? 

Amazingly, exactly what we thought might happen happened!

A whopping 14% of people opened the email and ONE whole person clicked on the link we wanted them to. (sarcasm alert)

This one whole person did not actually watch the video and then left our site very quickly.


What did we learn? 

Nothing. It was as we expected.


I don’t want to write off the landing page straight away, or the design of our e-mail template. There wasn’t much wrong with it and we get much better results usually with our email marketing.

But the problem is this… People get sold to too much!

So, if they don’t recognise an email or name, then straight away they either delete it or just ignore it.

Buying emails just doesn’t work.


Step 3: The Direct Mailer (The Second Encounter)

So, a week after the emails went out, the prospects received our mugshots with a letter on the back inviting them to another landing page to find out how to get their face in front of other businesses.


Mistake #2 

The url to the landing page was buried in the body of the letter in the same font – so it just didn’t stand out. It just blended in when it should have been huge.

The letter was not a complete failure though; we had a spike in web traffic and video views from the areas we had targeted. People saw our huge logo at the top of the letter and googled it. But, they didn’t go to the landing page and as a result we lost our all-important analytic data.

The problem with this whole section is this. It’s not measurable.  We live in a world where you can now measure all of your marketing. You can use data to work out how people do anything: interact with your Facebook, Twitter, Ad Words, landing pages and so on.

But with our letter, we got no data and no answers – just unanswered questions:

Did it go straight in the bin?

Did they pop it on their to-do list?

Did they even open it?

At least with the e-mail we knew they had opened it or deleted it, so we could tell it didn’t work!

how to suck at marketing - lets face it edhow to suck at marketing - lets face it dave






The images we sent


 Step 4: Facebook Advertising (The Third Encounter)

Social media needs to be at the centre of any marketing campaign ideas and the moment we sent that first email, we stepped up our social media activity and created a Facebook advert – again with our faces on – which would target the same people we sent the letter and email too.

Okay, we couldn’t be sure it was them exactly, but thanks to Facebook’s targeting/insight options we took an educated guess at how to reach them – similar industries, location, etc.

Here’s the great bit… on average that month anyone who saw our advert on Facebook saw it 18 times!

The ad cost us about £90 but we actually picked up a couple of completely unexpected jobs from it, without really meaning to. A nice little bonus!


What did we learn? 

Facebook ads work!


Step 5: Linked in Adverts (The Fourth Encounter)

The next step was using LinkedIn. Again, we targeted locally and took our best shot at targeting the same people.

Now, I’m no expert on LinkedIn adverts. I’d never done it before, so I just watched a few videos on YouTube to see how it do it… and ended up with officially the world’s smallest advert. 

So small, in fact that it was the size of a pinhead. Whoops!

In the end, a gargantuan 9,633 people saw the ad and it received a massive (cough) ZERO clicks.


Mistake #3 Check all the options! 

It was pretty much the exact same ad as the Facebook ad, yet nobody bothered, so I don’t think it was a problem with the ad.

So why didn’t anyone click it? Well, being the smallest advert ever produced in the history of advertising didn’t help, that’s for sure.

Actual Size of advertlets-face-it-linked-in


I’m no LinkedIn expert, but an advert the size of pinhead won’t entice people to call you, or even see you. I’d not set it up well, so I can’t write off LinkedIn completely as an advertising channel, but I would advise not bothering with those small adverts down the side!

At the end of the day, it wasn’t the end of the world. As nobody clicked it, we didn’t spend a penny.


Step 6 Remarketing (The Fifth Encounter)

You know those adverts that follow you about when you leave a website? That’s what remarketing is.

So, on the landing page we created for this campaign, we put in some remarketing code from Google. The banner ads I designed for these, which would follow people about, carried on the Let’s Face It theme and had our faces on it.

creative marketing campaign idea

Our remarking tracker ad.


Mistake #4: 

Schoolboy error. It turns out that in order to activate a remarketing campaign, the code has to have been accessed by 100 visitors. 

And our landing page had… er… none.

What did we learn? Well, nothing – we don’t know if this had any effect because nobody really went on the landing page. 

HOWEVER, what it did do was wake me up to the whole idea of remarketing. Having figured out the 100+ thingy, I put in the tracking code on some of our other landing pages…

Suddenly, we were popping up everywhere and following people around with our ads – to the point where we were getting comments on Facebook and had people within our network saying things like, ‘You’re everywhere I go!’

And we were! We were on Facebook, LinkedIn, and if they had been to particular pages on our site, on every blog they visited after that.

Remarketing keeps you front of mind. And that’s very important.


Step 7: Phone Calls (The Sixth Encounter)

This would have been the sixth encounter. On past email campaigns we’ve done using Mail Chimp, we’ve called everybody that had clicked on the link. But, we’ve only called them because the analytics of the landing page they’ve gone to have been good – and we can see that they’d spent a fair few minutes on the site.

So, it’s not really a cold call, it’s a warmer call – and from that we’ve invited them to come and have a trial session with us. And it’s worked.

So, we were all set to do that with this campaign.

The only thing is that only one person had clicked on the link and they had spent next to no time on the site! So, we didn’t bother!



So, what have have we learned from this whole disaster?!

Well, was it really a disaster?

Okay, so we lost £1000 and got no direct business from what we had planned. However, we picked up jobs along the way – just by learning and by making mistakes.

And what we really got it out of it is that we’ve realised that Facebook is probably a really good place for us to advertise and we’ve seen the power of remarketing too. Anything that gets us thinking about marketing campaign ideas has to be a winner.

To us, it’s about taking risks. If you’re taking risks, you’re learning. And eventually that will pay off.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Tom Shurville

    Great watch/read! Will you re-do the experiment with your learnings and then compare the difference in ROI? Let me know if so!

    • admin

      Hi Tom

      Not a bad idea, will keep you informed if we do. Glad you enjoyed it.

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