Even in this age of rapidly evolving communication technologies, direct mail remains one of the most effective—and affordable—channels for bringing in new customers and encouraging repeat business. Unlike sending out e-mails or running ads in newspapers or other media outlets, using the postal service to market your business virtually guarantees that your advertising materials will wind up in the hands of potential customers. While mailings frequently go directly into the “circular file,” you can improve the chances that recipients will pay attention to your postcard, letter, or flyer by carefully selecting your target group and delivering your message as effectively as possible.
The question that kicks off any direct marketing campaign is a simple one: What audience am I trying to reach? Even if you have never sent out direct mailings before, chances are you have a list of customers and contact details that can serve as a starting point. Identify your target group by noting the characteristics of your current client base, as well as characteristics you see as desirable in potential customers. Drawing up a detailed description of likely customers can help you pinpoint the type of mailing list you should purchase.
Direct mail brokers generally offer a wide selection of lists based on certain demographics or geographic locations, but you can narrow your list even further by requesting that all contacts other than those that fit your specific criteria be excluded. For example, if you are targeting businesses, you may select contacts by zip code, type of business, annual revenue, credit rating, or industry group membership. If you are targeting consumers, you may want to include in your selection criteria variables such as household income, home value, age, gender, family status and size, number of credit cards, number and type of vehicles, and purchasing history.
While ordering a customized list is usually more expensive than purchasing a generic list, having fewer contacts also saves money on materials and postage. If you intend to follow up the mailing with sales calls or additional mailings, targeting a smaller group is easier to manage.
Don’t assume that more expensive forms of mailing will produce better results than a postcard; sometimes a catchy headline followed by succinct description of the products or services you are offering can have the desired impact. If you choose to send letters or brochures, you can improve the chances of capturing the recipient’s attention by adding touches that make your materials stand out, such as colorful stamps or envelopes of an unusual shape or size. If it is practical to do so, handwrite addresses and include personalized letters or notes.
A direct mail campaign is a process. Following up on a mailing with a second mailing or a phone call can improve your response rate dramatically. It can also be helpful to include in mailings coupons or other incentives to buy, such as a large discount or a free trial. In addition to boosting sales and attracting new customers, special offers can make it easier to gauge the success of your campaign.
Direct mail is a marketing strategy that can be employed by businesses of almost any size. A campaign can start out small and be expanded as resources permit. If hiring professionals to handle direct mail is not in your budget, there are a number of software packages that can assist you in compiling contact lists and creating, printing, and mailing out materials.
Before launching a large-scale campaign, send out smaller mailings that take different approaches. Measuring the response rates of each of these mailings and collecting customer feedback will help you determine what direct mail marketing methods work best for your business.