Baiting the hook

“Emails get missed at a higher rate than print does. We’ve found across all audiences that the physical inbox has less clutter and every piece is viewed versus our digital inbox that is constantly overflowing.”
– Elton Mayfield, Co-founder, ER Marketing

If you ever wanted to swim with the sharks then heed the lesson of the goldfish. As the Director of Marketing at Goldfish Swim School Franchising, LLC, Shana Krisan has been instrumental in setting the business’ foundation for the emerging and rapidly-growing franchisor. And when she thinks about campaign success, it starts and ends with her school of franchisees… and there are many.

Over a decade ago, Goldfish Swim School was founded in Birmingham, Michigan in order to provide swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages four months to 12 years. Today, Goldfish teaches more than 85,000 students per week with over 80 franchised schools open or in development in more than 26 states and Canada. In addition, they were recently recognized on the “Entrepreneur Franchise 500” as #1 in their category for the second year in a row.

She says, “Working in the franchise space, our goal is to always provide support and scalable solutions to help our franchisees grow their local businesses, while simultaneously protecting the Goldfish Swim School brand. We provide franchisees with many different marketing channels and solutions to market their locations, knowing that they know and understand their markets and how to customize the materials better than anyone else.”

In the last couple of years, there has been a swing in spending from the CIO office to the CMO office. Gartner has continued to predict that marketing departments will spend more than their IT counterparts, and recent studies reveal that almost half of B2B marketers will enjoy larger marketing budgets in the coming years.

So, while more and more brands believe they need to ramp up their marketing investment, determining how they allocate their funds, accounting for results, and figuring out how to keep their budgets robust all provide a challenge. In essence, having the money to invest is wonderful, but getting started is nearly impossible these days.

Eddie Yoon, the author of “Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth” & Founder of EddieWouldGrow, believes success with any campaign begins with the people that know you. According to Yoon, “Most important is ‘who’. The DMA says that the response rate for direct mail is ~5.1% for a house list where you already have a relationship vs. ~2.9% for prospects you don’t know. Any lever that gives you a ~2x lift is the one to focus on.”

Numbers certainly matter. As in, “How many of these things are we going to print?” However, given the importance of “who,” it’s uncanny how often marketers blast out countless pieces of material without any real relationship. Yoon states,”Marketers need to be precise by sending it to their superconsumers – who are the most passionate and profitable people in the category. Not brand superconsumers – but the category superconsumers.”

Marketers have to consider the idea that the world seems more focused on results rather than relationships these days. As Krisan puts it, “We are in a high-touch business that is all about relationships and our franchisees understand that very well. The acquisition of one new child can result in three or four children within that family, neighborhood or school classroom coming to their local Goldfish Swim School. We have to be accountable for those relationships in all of our marketing channels. Our marketing, print or otherwise, is designed to build relationships with parents.”

So, if a marketer can figure out the “who,” then what determines success and what are the critical considerations for any campaign?

Determining Success

According to Elton Mayfield, Co-founder, ER Marketing, one of the most recognized and awarded B2B agencies in Kansas City, “I think this is critical to determine success up front. Sometimes it’s as simple as a response rate, a click rate or the number of phone calls. The key is to determine the success metric up front so everyone knows how to define it. Deciding what success looks like after the campaign is never a good idea.”

It can sound a bit remedial to talk about setting objectives, but the considerations for a brand owner or campaign manager are numerous. In addition, they typically have the added bonus of internal politics and bottlenecks. Consider the financial personnel wanting a specific return on investment (ROI) or the legal department wanting to read and reread every piece of communication in order to protect the brand. The challenges faced just to initiate a campaign are enormous.

The overall objective of a campaign determines the channels and medium of the campaign. For example, Krisan explains “The print tactics used will vary depending on what the franchisee is looking to achieve; whether it is driving new memberships, contributing to the member experience, announcing a new location, or hosting a community event.”

The combination of defining your “who” and establishing the proper goals allows marketers to start to use tools such as print in the most targeted of manner. As Yoon professes, “The best use of direct mail is to understand the story of your superconsumers, find consumers and markets who are close to becoming super, and then use direct mail to double down and accelerate their evolution.”

So what about print? When a brand owner decides that the message translates well within the haptic nature of print, the considerations are either different or potentially more difficult. According to Mayfield, “’Dear Valued Customer’ isn’t very valuable.” In other words, the data has to be clean. In addition, he believes that you must find a way to track the activity or tie it back to some sort of measurement.


Scalability may be a variable that matters. Goldfish Swim School, for instance, is a rapidly-growing franchise and any campaign they embark on needs to be accessed and used by multiple locations with ease for both the franchise office and franchisee end-user. Krisan says to ask yourself, “Will the proposed piece meet and exceed their needs, and what options must we include for imagery, messaging and offers?”

How long materials last and their sustainability is a consideration. Does a piece of signage need to be used over and over again or is the piece something that could be referenced repeatedly? Aligning the campaign with a company’s environmental concerns might play a role early in the structure of a campaign.

Overall, simultaneously providing value to the marketplace and the core mission of the brand is taken into account when designing a campaign. The budget may rest in marketing’s corner, but the campaign manager needs to assess if it is cost-effective for all stakeholders.

Relying on partners like print service providers allows brand owners the chance to collaborate on things like substrates for signage or collateral marketing pieces. “We have an amazing partner in Suttle-Straus, our print/marketing software platform provider. On top of that collaboration, we also look to them to provide the most cost-effective way to produce materials depending on quantity, personalization, size, deadlines and variable content,” says Krisan.

Print’s Role

ER Marketing is a B2B agency that coordinates a lot of trade shows for clients and consistently sends direct mail to attendees prior to a show. Mayfield says, “We always have a higher activation than a similar email sent to the same audience.” He believes that print is starting to play a major role and needs to be considered at the forefront of more campaigns. “Emails get missed at a higher rate than print does. We’ve found across all audiences that the physical inbox has less clutter and every piece is viewed versus our digital inbox that is constantly overflowing.”

Print offers a chance at a deeper connection with their audience. It may be tougher to measure, but touching something creates emotion. According to Krisan, “Kids are curious – they explore their world through touch, play-based learning, visual, and tactile experiences. Research shows that is how kids learn best and why we use our holistic philosophy, The Science of SwimPlay®, in everything we do. We will continue to use print to engage children in our content, curriculum and characters with books, games, wide format creations, and more. We plan to continue to develop our relationship with parents through direct mail, social media, co-branded marketing, and collateral materials that meet our high-quality brand standards and deliver our message of water safety.”


Marketers need to start investing in results. Successful marketing is well-planned marketing, and successful marketing delivers demonstrable ROI. To swim with the sharks, marketers need to make sure their objectives are clear and that they have factored in the internal and external factors that can help or hinder success. Otherwise, they will be sleeping with the fishes.