Personalized marketing helps you stand out among your competition, no question. Recently, Kalix had the opportunity to practice what we preach with two customized marketing campaigns. Both included a giveaway, a marketing strategy often used by the for-profit world.

Was I surprised by the results? No and yes.

We knew that using a personalized approach to cut through the digital din is a smart strategy Even so, the response we received went well beyond what we expected.

Customized Mailing Case Study #1: Kalix Coasters

This past March, Kalix exhibited at the National Association of Independent School (NAIS) Annual Conference, held in our hometown of Baltimore. We also co-presented a workshop at the 2017 conference on the value of a multi-year Facebook campaign with our long-term client, Notre Dame Preparatory School.

Email me to request a Power Point of our NAIS presentation.

Kalix has been both a multi-year Corporate Supporter of NAIS and an exhibitor before, but for the 2017 conference, we wanted to draw more schools to our Kalix booth and start conversations. But how to do this and make a splash among the hundreds of vendors at NAIS?

Our design team settled on a giveaway: custom bamboo coasters with the Kalix logo. Thanks to Crown Trophy, we produced 50 sets of four wooden coasters. For our mailing list, we selected K-12 heads of school from all East-Coast-based schools. Two weeks prior to the conference, we mailed the coasters with a Kalix-branded insert inviting them to stop by our booth or join us for our workshop.

The results?

  • Three administrators stopped by the Kalix booth, saying “we were told to come see and learn more.”
  • Two Heads of School we invited attended the workshop and gave us business cards.
  • We followed up with each connection and continue to include them in Kalix marketing efforts.

Why coasters? Because every Head of School has a conference table in his or her office, and we wanted something that would last and not be tossed in the trashcan.

With any giveaway marketing strategy, you want to offer something that people want/use, but the larger goal is to initiate a conversation about you and what your school offers. Being able to talk about how the giveaway connects back to you is critical. For Kalix, coasters were symbolic of starting a conversation, of listening and sharing, of thinking and strategizing.

Why giveaways are still effective marketing tools.

It’s simple. Everyone loves free stuff. By timing our giveaway with the NAIS Conference, we 1) leveraged new contacts and connections; 2) introduced Kalix to schools unfamiliar with us; 3) generated conversation and interest; and 4) increased attendance at our NAIS workshop and foot traffic to our booth.

Whatever custom marketing strategy you choose, identify your goals before you start putting your logo on swag. Know why you’re doing it and what you hope to accomplish.

Customized Mailing Case Study #2: Kalix’s Birthday Card

On May 23, 2017, Kalix Marketing turned five. We wanted to celebrate this important milestone with our client schools, Heads of School, marketing and admission administrators, advisors and friends who made this possible. Our goal was to thank this wonderful group for its advice, confidence, trust and business.

The group is scattered across the country, so an event made no sense and was cost-prohibitive. And while we launched Archipelago, the Kalix e-newsletter, in June, LINK an email seemed impersonal, given all that these friends have done for us.

Again, our creative team brainstormed, and we decided on a traditional birthday card with a $5 Starbucks gift card inside. The design, complete with a coffee ring, complemented the giveaway and underscored our messaging.

And who doesn’t love to get a little something in a card? Kalix’s Creative Director/Copywriting Susan Ciaverelli explains, “Whether we’re creating an ad campaign or a birthday card, the first step is to understand what the target audience cares about. In this case, we needed to convey multiple messages—our fifth birthday, the name change (from Kalix Communications to Kalix Marketing), our new office, a new website, and of course, the Starbucks gift card! In the end, we led with the five-year milestone.”

In today’s world of email, text and Facebook messaging, an “old-school” card with a hand-written note may seem quaint. But our results bear out that the personal approach remains a powerful one.

The specifics:

  • We sent out 94 cards to a pre-selected list of individuals. Envelopes were labeled and everything was mailed first class to arrive during our birthday week.
  • As Kailx’s founder and president, I hand wrote notes on every card, thanking the person. It was time-consuming, yes, but also a wonderful reflection of the past five years and how we’ve grown. My wrist was sore, but it was one of the more affirming things I’ve done.
  • We purchased the Starbucks card from, a non-profit founded by Vasi Argeroplos, Garrison Forest School ’17, Vanderbilt ‘21. Her nonprofit provides toys, games and other items to children in foster care and orphanages in the U.S. and abroad. Part of her fundraising strategy is to sell gift cards. I paid full face value (and would have done the same at Starbucks). Okay to Play was able to purchase them for half-price and use the $2.50 earned on each card to help children in need. Win-win for both of us and Kalix was able to give back to the community. Check out Vasi’s story.

And the results? Our goal was to thank people and celebrate our birthday, but what happened after we mailed the cards continues to amaze me – and points to the power of personalization. Of the 94 cards we mailed, 44 people – 47% of the recipients – took the time to thank me for thanking them! The card also initiated a meeting with a prospective school asking for consulting pricing. Pretty cool.

These two exercises in customized and giveaway marketing have stuck with us. The coasters and birthday cards were great word-of-mouth marketing, which remains the most effective marketing effort. Like you, we market across platforms and in print and word-of-mouth. But re-learning these recent lessons has underscored for us how critical it is to continue to reach out to our friends, clients and prospective clients in a personal way.

How may we help you make that personal touch? Let us know.

Jonathan Oleisky is founder and president of Kalix Marketing.