As one of the longest standing forms of communication in the United States the post office and mail are American staples. Responsible for a barrage of exchanged information over time the mail throughout history has been a common and important part of everyday life. Bearing good news, bad news and everything in between envelopes, postcards, direct mailers, letters and packages reveal and unfold a relentless amount of descriptions, explanations and salutations on a daily basis. A certain ingrained characteristic of mail that is hard to overlook is that people need it, which means they check it. Used for paying bills, receiving goods bought online or by phone, interacting with friends and family, advertising and shopping, mail has a plethora of angles to its nature and may mean a little something different to everyone. Some love to check the mail while others hate to. Many simply enjoy the trip to the post office or mailbox while others wait anxiously for each new surprise delivered by the post man. As much as we all interact with the mail, even after a hundred plus years of development, it is still not utilized as much as it should be by hungry, eager and seasoned businesses. What many companies, organizations and individuals do not realize is that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has created a direct mail program dedicated to building businesses and promoting products and services. Direct mail is geared towards providing value, generating leads and making new connections. From reaching and growing new customer profiles, budgeting, designing revenue encouraging mailers, developing mailing address and contact lists, streamlining and automating the process with software and campaign consulting direct mail can feel like a complicated maze but once we learn the basics the direct mail puzzle becomes easier and much more relevant to success. Here in this direct mail primer and introduction to the craft we will review the core principles and practices that can help make any direct mail project powerful and potentially profitable.
The benefits and rewards associated with a direct mail system can be enormous when implemented correctly. The first step in any direct mail initiative begins with understanding and indulging in its benefits. It is key to realize that direct mail is targeted and location flexible. Based on physical addresses direct mail is an ideal way to narrow marketing focuses to specific geographic regions and types of customers. Direct mail is also personal and prominent. It speaks to consumers on an intimate level in a private setting. Direct mail is robust and pliable. It can come in the form of free coupons, free samples, post card blasts, letters, brochures, catalogs, fliers and boxes all of which can be affordable and manageable. Direct mail is tangible and palpable. Putting direct mail in motion places real ideas in real peoples hands. Your audience is involved and incorporated into your message. Direct mail is traceable and measurable. Through the use of coupons, codes, reference associations and other simple marketing tracking methods direct mails business impact is easily accounted for. Finally direct mail is cost-effective and realistic. A reasonable budget and basic computer and business skills are all that is needed to initially start a simplistic direct mail business plan. Once we internalize many of these vital concepts about direct mail we will then be ready to plan our implementation strategies and ask ourselves some very important questions about our direct mail ventures.
Planning Your Direct Mail Approach:
1 – Determine your promotion style and niche:
-What do I want my customers to gain from my direct mailer?
-Why should people respond to my requests?
-How will my direct mailer appeal to customers and how do I out shine the competition?
-How do I create excitement, stir emotions and draw to action?
-How will my customers interact with my mailer?
-How will I track the success the of my direct mail?
-What tools will I use to connect (prepaid response card, in-store coupon, survey, phone number contact, email address Web site form, online giveaway, social media performance statistics etc.)?
2 – Determine your cost and create a balance sheet:
-How much will it be to acquire an address contact database?
-How expensive is it to contract out a sales writer and graphic designer (even programmer and project manager if needed)?
-How much will be spent on printing and distribution?
-Miscellaneous costs (i.e. discounts and coupons offered, freebies, dead leads, accounting and other associative business and time accentuated resources).
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3 – Target your search:
-Study your old customers to help evaluate potential new ones.
-Pay close attention to customer characteristics and habits and target those tendencies and affiliations.
-Customize and personalize your message and go after your best prospects.
Once you have a solid foundation of direct mail knowledge, a direct mail business game plan and have created all of your direct mail marketing materials it will be time to start to compile your contact lists and mailing statistics. Some recommendations for address list building include keeping a guest and visitor log in or sign in book at your business, holding a giveaway or contest to collect customer contact data, organize a frequent buyer system, have customer feedback mechanisms in place, address directory compilation and talking to and joining your local better business bureau, chamber of commerce and other professional and educational networking associations. You may also consider buying a mailing list from a professional address data collection and research service. This may allow for more specialized customer hunting, more robust contact access and more sophisticated preference profiling. To keep on track and maximize expected value one must always manage customer data appropriately, track consumer purchases, evaluate previous mailings triumphant and failure, tailor marketing nodes, set industry standards and revolutionize previous direct mail offers. Some of the more prosperous direct mail data managing tips involve the double checking of all names and information, zip code number and street address verification and matching, always use the correct zip code plus the additional 4 number location code now associated with United States postal addresses and extinguish any list overlap making sure data does not cross. Now that we should have a pretty solid background on what is needed to get a jump start on a direct mail crusade lets review a few tips and tricks that might help our cause even more.
The effectiveness of any direct mail onslaught will largely be based around how well your mailer is designed. Make sure your business advertisement is in a format that is cost effective and manageable for you. In the direct mail sales copy and copy writing, conversational and friendly tones with an emphasis placed on the customer through more use of “you” then “I” and “we” usually works best. Always highlight your offer in some manner, make sure it provides value to your target audience and try through various techniques to evoke relation and emotion. Use proper grammar, sentence structure and spelling while avoiding slang and complex industry specific vocabulary. Clear and concise thoughts with explicit terms and conditions of the offer will also greatly help to customer reaction, traction and satisfaction. A final key is to make sure you call your customers to action by letting them know how to respond to your offer and ad. Make sure they know where your product or service is available and how to acquire it. They must know exactly what you are offering or selling and when the deal or discount expire. Relate and reach out to your potential clients and try to make them understand why they need your business. It is also useful to remember that if you are only doing small infrequent direct mail test runs first class or standard mail are easy affordable options. If your direct mail efforts are often and massive then you may want to consider getting a permit for bulk mailing. All of the permit and bulk mailing applications and information can be found here:
Once you have all the final details in place all that is left to do is send it out and wait for hopefully glowing results.Direct mail does not need to be difficult. An essential part to the process is not becoming frustrated if initially you are not seeing the sales or response you expected. Direct mail initiatives are always about learning, growing, fine tuning and getting better and stronger. Direct mail is a lengthy on-going marketing maneuver where benefits and leads can evolve months and even years after the mailer is sent. Do your research and identify what works and what does not. Make sure to talk and network with those that have dealt with direct mail operatives in the past. Even your local United States post office should have a Mailing Requirements or Bulk/Business Mail Entry department and expert which is an excellent direct mail resource. There are a number of direct mail industry savvy consultation avenues on the internet that may be helpful as well. Take your time and consider all of your options. Start small and expand as your direct mail skill sets and knowledge improve. Constantly strive to become better and be opening to learning. If you follow all of the above you should be well on your way to a flourishing direct mail marketing agenda and executable plan. Direct mail is not just some mysterious and far fetched way to build new business but is rather an accessible, flexible and affordable way for business to increase sales, enhance branding and peak community interest.