Marketing Materials: Direct Mail
- You have written a sales letter (or several) using the step-by-step process outlined in the last E-Class and are tracking the response rate in comparison to previous sales letters.
Why choose direct mail for your business?
As you probably know, direct mail is a basic marketing strategy that involves mailing a brochure, letter, package or postcard to a list of prospective customers. I find that it’s a common strategy for business owners, but successful direct mail campaigns are a lot less common.
When a direct mail campaign is done right, it has the power to generate an incredible number of qualified leads for your business, as well as boost your average annual transactions. Ineffective direct mail will waste money, and send a lot of paper to the recycling bins.
The beauty of direct mail is that you target a really specific group of people, which means it’s a versatile way to achieve a wide range of objectives. You can use it for lead generation and client retention, special offers and new promotions. For example, you can easily send a quick “miss you!” postcard or special offer crafted specifically to bring old customers back.
Ready to get started?
In this E-Class we will cover:
- What is a direct mail campaign?
- How to create a direct mail campaign that gets results
- How to create a highly targeted list
- How to design a direct mail piece that gets noticed
- How to test and measure your direct mail campaign
When done well, direct mail is a quick and effective way to reach a large group of highly targeted prospective customers.
But how do you make sure that your direct mail campaign is done “well”?
Well, in simple terms, effective direct mail campaigns are ones that target a very specific group of people with interesting, attractive pieces. The right people notice the company’s message: the people who are most likely to buy their offer.
To do this, you need to spend time carefully crafting and segmenting your target list to match your objectives, as well as strategically choosing the format to deliver your message. A postcard in the shape of a rubber duck will attract a lot more attention than basic brown envelope.
Regardless of the quality of your marketing materials, remember that customer need to see messages and images over and over again before they really notice them. Direct mail can also act as a complement your other marketing outreach initiatives, like advertising. It doesn’t have to stand-alone.
Repetition is a powerful way to boost response rates; the more your target audience sees your brand and your offering, the more they will remember it and become interested.
Use our step-by-step guide to create an effective direct mail campaign that gets results.
- Decide on your objective, then spend time creating a targeted list of ideal customers.
> Why are you sending this direct mailing? You need to start by establishing your objective. The purpose for sending a direct mail campaign will dictate who you send it to, what it looks like, and what the message is. Your objective can be twofold – you could want to increase leads and drive sales at the same time, or you could aim to increase qualified leads and drive sales by bringing back old customers.
Some common general objectives are:
- Generate qualified leads
- Bring old customers back
- Drive sales with a new offer
- Move product with a new offer
- Announce new products or services
Once you’ve decided what your objective is, get specific and choose a timeframe. If you want to generate leads, how many do you want and by when? If you want to drive sales, what is the return on investment you want from your campaign and by when? For example, an objective would be to generate 250 new sales leads over a 6-week period or 150 visits to the store to redeem a coupon or buy an offer.
> Who are you targeting? Once you have established your objective, you will need to decide who exactly you are targeting to achieve that objective. Presumably, this is your target market, or ideal customers, as you identified in early E-Classes.
> Can you segment your target market into groups and get more specific with your message? Depending on your objective, you may need to segment your target market into smaller groups. You could do this by demographics – perhaps you’re trying to increase the number of women or teenagers who buy from you – or by purchase behaviors – as in when you are aiming to bring back old clients. You can send different direct mail pieces to multiple groups at the same time to increase your response rates.
> Where are you getting the list? You need to find a list or database of people who closely match the group of people you are targeting, and there are a number of options for this. You can use your database of existing and past customers, a database of all your current sales leads, or an outsourced list.
Outsourced lists can be acquired in several ways:
Market Research Companies. You can purchase private lists from market research groups that include demographics and consumer behaviors. Sometimes these lists will be compiled for you, other times they will be all inclusive lists that you will have to segment yourself.
Statistics Agencies or Government Offices. You may be able to gain access to contact databases through your municipal government or statistics agencies.
Post-Office Drop Areas. The post office will deliver direct mail to areas of your community by postal code, housing type and some demographic segments. This is a wise choice if you are sending your mailing to a broad scope of people, since you won’t have to individually address each mailing.
> Is your list accurate and up to date? If you choose to use the post-office drop, you won’t need to verify the accuracy of the list. However, if you are using your own database or purchasing one from a market research company, this is an important part of creating your direct mail list and it will save you money. You may need to call old contacts to confirm address information, or ask the company when the list was last verified. You will also need to make sure that everyone on the list should be on the list, and match the criteria of your target audience.
Tip: Consider printing a return address for undelivered mail. This will help you track which addresses are no longer current and update errors and contact information.
- Decide what you want your audience to do, then craft your message and your offer.
> Based on your objective, what action do you want the audience to take? If you’re sending for lead generation, do you want your customers to call, write, visit the website, or come into your business? If you’re sending to reconnect with old customers, tell them to come into the store for their offer. Be clear on your call to action.
> What is your marketing message? Include the marketing message you created earlier in these E-Classes on your direct mail piece. Write a few words on what makes your business special, and let the rest of the copy speak to the results that your product or service delivers.
> What is your offer? Create a new offer for each direct mail campaign you run so that there is always something new for your customer to pay attention to. Tailor your offer to your list. If you’re trying to attract new business, go with a big bold offer that they won’t be able to refuse. If you’re sending to existing customers, offer something of value and give them a deadline.
> What is your headline? Spend quite a bit of time crafting your headline. It needs to truly grab the reader’s attention, so don’t be afraid of drafting something big and bold and almost unbelievable.
> What solutions or benefits are you featuring? How are you communicating the answer to “what’s in it for me” to the customer or prospect? Paint a picture of the results the product or service will deliver, and use storytelling to trigger emotions.
> What is the style or tone of the copy? Write in a conversational tone that is easy to read. Be short and succinct, and tell them exactly what you want them to do. Structure the copy so the most important information is at the top (your headline).
- Create an engaging direct mail piece that gets attention, sparks interest and inspires action.
When you have drafted your message and copy, decide what format to use. Your goal is to get the piece noticed and read, so choose the format carefully. You also want to make sure that it stands out from other mail your prospect may be receiving.
There are a wide variety of formats you can choose for a direct mail campaign:
- Personal letter
- Packaged gifts
Regardless of the format you choose, make sure the piece is professionally designed and produced, and that your logo, contact information and call to action are easy to locate.
> How does your target audience like to receive information? Use your knowledge of your target audience to choose a format. If they’re busy, they’re not going to want to ready lengthy brochures. If they’re seniors, make sure the typeface is easy to read.
> How are you going to make it interesting? Unconventional pieces will get more attention. Think of creative ways to make your piece a little less ordinary; vary the shape, size and mechanics (the way it opens or folds). Choose images that tell a story and support your message, and use color where you can.
> What is the cost of each of your options? Glossy brochures are going to be more expensive to produce than simple letters. Irregularly shaped or die-cut postcards will be more expensive than standard sized ones. Remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive to work, so stick to your budget.
> Will you use an envelope? Avoid using brown envelopes, since they look too much like bills, and be aware of additional postage costs for irregularly shaped envelopes. Real stamps (as opposed to metered postage) will increase the opening rate.
> How can you personalize it? If you’re sending a letter, use the mail merge feature to ensure each is personally addressed to the recipient. People will read something that has their name on it. If you are using a customer database, segment the list into existing, past, and premium customers and tailor your message accordingly.
- Strategically choose a time to deliver the campaign.
An offer that is justified by a reason or season will earn a stronger response rate because it will make more sense and be of relevance to the target audience.
If you operate a seasonal business, you know that there are both good times and bad times to try generating leads. Use this knowledge to your advantage, and invest in direct mail when you are most likely to see a high response rate. Products and services related to hot weather and recreation generally sell better in the spring and summer months. Personal rewards or gifts sell better when they are linked to special occasions.
There are also cyclical times of the month and of the year where prospects are more likely to make purchase decisions.
Based on your knowledge of the market you are targeting, decide on a purchase window that will work best for them. When do they have the most income in the month? How do they get paid? When do they spend the most money? Generally, January – after the holiday season – and June – end of the school year – can be challenging months to get people to spend money.
Here are some time windows you will want to consider:
- December Holidays (October to December)
- Other statutory holidays (Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.)
- Paydays (Fridays, or 15th and 30th of the month)
- Seasons (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall)
- Financial cycles (year-end, tax time, bill payments)
- Sport seasons
- Special occasions (graduation, back to school, engagements, weddings)
- Follow the appropriate protocol when sending the mailing.
Once your piece has been produced, you will need to get it into the mail somehow. Depending on the size of the mailing, it may or may not be feasible to do this in-house.
If you are sending through the post office, there will be a strict set of guidelines for preparing and delivering your pieces. You may also get bulk rates and pay less postage if you commit to mailing a certain number of pieces each year.
Generally, you will be required to bundle in groups of 50 or 100, and separate the pieces into boxes by postal code or target group. There’s also paperwork to fill out so the post office knows where to send the letters. Don’t worry – all of this information can be found online. Just be diligent about this part of the process; you don’t want any mistakes in your mailing.
There are also companies in nearly every city that provide a direct mail preparation and execution service. They will fold, group, package and deliver your mailing to the post office, or send it off themselves.
If you are using your own list or a purchased list – as opposed to the post office’s list – you’ll have to address each individual piece, and stamp them yourself. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete this, or bring in junior staff to help out.
- Follow up with a phone call or second letter.
Unless your business has a high level of awareness within your target market, it will likely take more than a single direct mailing to motivate a prospect to act. This is simply the result of the volume of information that people receive on a regular basis, and their ability to pay attention to all of it.
Of course, this will vary based on the industry and the content of your direct mailing. The more attention grabbing or useful your piece, the more likely it will get noticed. Either way a good follow up strategy will boost your response rate and ultimately your return on investment.
Follow up with a phone call.
Put your cold call script to use, and follow up your direct mail with a phone call. Include everyone in your phone calls, including those who have taken action, but not yet made a purchase.
Often, just one form of communication is not enough to motivate your audience to act. Your campaign will earn a higher response rate when it is part of a series of communications that remind your recipients of your company and your offer.
Focus on engaging the prospect and describing the solution or benefits your offer will provide. Don’t get hung up on making the prospect recall the direct mail piece, as this will take up unnecessary time during the call.
You can also use your follow up calls to confirm contact information, build your knowledge of your target audience and get feedback on your offering. Enhance the data in your database by making notes about each call, and then reviewing your notes when you are finished. You may find that your list is too broad, or that your offer isn’t enticing enough.
Follow up with a second mailing.
If your mailing list is too long to warrant individual phone calls, consider following up with a second letter or mailing. If the time frame on your initial offer is long enough, make that offer again with a focus on urgency. If the offer window has passed, create a new one and send it to the same list.
Repetition is key in any marketing strategy; you need to remind your prospects that your business is out there and can provide them something of high value.
- Test, measure and analyze the success of your campaign.
A successful direct mail campaign – or any marketing campaign – is one that brings in more revenue than it cost. You have broke even, paid your costs, and made a profit. You will need to track and measure every direct mail campaign you send to make sure that it made you money.
(You can use our break-even analysis worksheet to calculate your costs, and even establish how many responses and sales you need to make to recover your investment.)
Every time you send a mailing, keep track of the following measures:
- Quantity of pieces sent
- Cost of campaign (production, postage)
- Number of responses to the campaign
- Number of sales (directly resulting from the campaign)
- Total value of sales (directly resulting from the campaign)
An effective way of tracking responses is to incorporate a tracking measure into the call to action. That way, each time a prospect takes action, you will know it was a result of that particular direct mail campaign. For example, set up a separate phone number for prospects to call, or a microsite on your webpage. Or, split your list and make two separate offers and evaluate which drives more business to your company.
As always, make sure your staff is trained to work with your tracking system to ensure you get an accurate picture of your results.
The key to a direct mail campaign that gets responses is a highly targeted list and a compelling call to action.
Get specific with your direct mail, and give your reader a reason to take action immediately. When you focus on the call to action instead of the sale, you’ll see a higher response rate.
Then, when your qualified prospect contacts you, your team can then engage them in the sales process and convert them to a customer. Give it a try and let me know what your results look like.
I also wanted to ask you if you have a website for your business? A website is the foundation for your online presence, so it’s important that every business has one. I’m going to walk you through a step-by-step process for creating a website in the next E-Class, and for making sure it’s as effective and subsequently profitable as it could be.