The Lumpy

In this overly connected world, the way to start a real conversation is to slow things down, tell a story, and create a lasting brand impression.

If you hang around the Trekk offices long enough, you’re bound to hear us throwing around a curious word as we craft our clients’ strategies: lumpy.

lumpy | ˈləmpē |
1 a dimensional mail piece designed to reach a decision maker within a target organization in order to open a door and start a conversation: We’re really trying to earn this prospect’s attention, so we’re sending them a lumpy.

When we first suggest to clients that they might want to consider a lumpy, we usually get quizzical, intrigued looks. Today, I’m here to tell you about the history of the lumpy, why we’ve been using them for so long, and why they’re more relevant today than ever before.

The origin of the Lumpy
We came up with the idea for our first lumpy campaign in the ’90s. At the time, our clients’ top prospects were all drowning in a deluge of direct mail. We needed a way to elevate our direct mail campaigns, a way to stand out amid all that print clutter.

What we conceptualized was a big, creative initial deliverable—something that would make the recipient sit up and take notice—followed by a multi-touchpoint campaign that built upon that first mail piece. And to really stand out, the first piece would need to be a physical object, something the recipient could unwrap with the excitement of a special delivery or a gift.

How Lumpies work
While lumpies are great at grabbing attention, the main objective of most lumpy campaigns is to drive action by getting the prospect to take a meeting, without coming off as overly salesy in the first communication. For this reason, many lumpy campaigns that we design feature some sort of missing element, with the idea that taking a meeting will complete the picture. For example, we’ve sent:

  • A puzzle missing a critical piece
  • A Scrabble game with strategically chosen missing letters
  • A DVD collection missing an important title

What’s key is to choose an item that tells your brand’s story. This is your chance to say something unique about your brand in a way that wows.

A particular memorable lumpy that Trekk designed was for a nationwide flooring co-op. This was at a time when Lowe’s and Home Depot had been steadily gaining marketshare in flooring. We sent Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots to 100 key prospects who owned independent flooring stores. The message: “We can help you knock out the big box stores.”

The lumpy included a date and time to expect a call from our client, and when they followed up via phone, they found the majority of the prospects were so surprised and delighted that they were happy to take the call just to find out more.

The Lumpy Campaign
It’s not enough to design a thought-provoking initial deliverable; an effective lumpy is simply the first touchpoint in a strategic, cohesive campaign. We send our lumpies via UPS or FedEx so that we know exactly when they arrive and can follow up with the next touchpoint seamlessly.

One thing I stress to marketers who are embarking on lumpy campaigns is that sales should be involved from the get-go. Whether your campaign includes three touchpoints or 20, at some point, your creative messaging will ideally result in a sales conversation, and your sales team needs to be able to tell the same story and deliver a seamless customer experience. We often develop sales scripts as part of our lumpy campaigns to ensure that sales and marketing are aligned.

Another question to consider is whether you want to design a tiered roadmap for your campaign. For example, if you’re sending a premium item to the top decision maker at a company, it’s not a bad idea to send additional collateral to a second tier of influencers within that organization to create some additional buzz.

Why the Lumpy is still relevant today
If anything, the lumpy is more relevant—and effective—than ever before. We may not be seeing the rates of direct mail that we used to (although there’s still quite a bit of it hitting our desks), but we are inundated with digital communication—emails, push notifications, social media mentions, and all the other reasons our phones like to ping at us.

And so much of it is spam that decision makers have been forced to adapt, in many cases ignoring messages from outside their own organizations or networks. List buying (aka spamming) is dead and gone. And if you think you’re getting past the gatekeeper with a cold call, forget about it.

In this overly connected world, the way to start a real conversation is to slow things down, tell a story, and create a lasting brand impression. For this, the lumpy is the perfect tool.

How to execute your own Lumpy campaign
If I’ve piqued your interest and you’re ready to try your own lumpy campaign, this is the method we follow every time.

  1. Pinpoint your top 10-50 ideal clients. Because lumpies are aimed at key decision makers, they are designed to be deployed in small batches—we’re talking a true shortlist of top prospects. Make it worth your investment by choosing individuals who have authority within their organizations and the potential to become high-value customers.
  2. Craft your story. Do you want to tell these prospects how innovative you are, how much expertise you have in your industry, how perfect your product portfolio is for their needs, or something else? Know what you want to say before you decide what to send.
  3. Find a lumpy that tells that story. Now’s the time to get creative. Choose a physical object that represents your story and create your messaging around it.
  4. Design your campaign roadmap. Some prospects may take a meeting based on the lumpy alone. For those who aren’t yet ready to talk, map out your follow-up touchpoints, which may be done via direct mail, email, phone calls, landing pages, or a combination.
  5. Test a few lumpies at a time. Lumpy campaigns are meant to be nimble. Send your first three to five and see what kind of response you get. Figure out what’s working, what’s not, and adapt as you go.

Trekk has been dreaming up creative lumpy campaigns since the ’90s. If you want to talk through your lumpy ideas, send me a message on social or contact us at