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Direct-Mail Marketing 101

If you’re new to direct mailing, you might be thinking that the various aspects of a successful campaign are overwhelming. True, there are a lot of considerations when planning a profitable promotion, but it’s also true that there’s plenty of help available when it comes to developing and implementing a direct mailer. Companies such as PsPrint offer all of the services businesses need to develop, design and distribute profit-turning campaigns in one place. Whether you use all, some or none of these services, it’s a good idea to understand the elements of a well-rounded campaign.

Here’s your introduction to Direct Mailing 101.

The list

One of the basic tenets of marketing is that it doesn’t matter what your product is; what matters is who you’re selling it to. With that in mind, the first step in developing a successful direct-mail campaign is to define your mailing list. Knowing your target audience and understanding their needs, desires and expectations is one of the most important elements of your direct-mail campaign and will certainly play a large role in the campaign’s overall success (or lack thereof). Building a highly targeted business or consumer mailing list can prove tedious for small and medium businesses, which typically purchase a list from a qualified list broker. A good list broker will help you identify your target and generate a great list based on your customers’ demographics, including ZIP code, age, gender, income and other relevant factors.

The offer

Great direct mailers include can’t-miss offers that prospects will immediately want to jump on. The value of your offer has as much impact on your campaign success as your mailing list does, so be sure to make it something worthwhile that your customers will take advantage of. It could be a free gift, a coupon or a limited-time special. You can get creative with this and raffle tickets, host an event or even partner with another company in a money-saving and relevant cross-promotion.

To redeem the offer, prospects should have to respond in a measurable way. Again, this could be through coupons (exact count) or by measuring in-store traffic (less scientific, but a good general indicator for retail stores).

Copy and design

Once you understand your prospects and have decided on an offer, it’s time to design your promotional pieces. Direct mailers come in many formats, including brochures, postcards and sales letters and envelopes. The word “copy” refers to the text that prospects read, and “design” refers to the graphic design, photos, logos and layout of your promo pieces. All of these elements should work together to deliver a single message and enforce a “call to action,” which is the motivators that entice your prospects to take the next step in the purchasing process.

Print and mail

Once your design is complete, you need to have your direct mailers professionally printed. Your printer can help you decide what type of paper to use, if your mailer needs to be die cut or folded, and whether or not to add a gloss coating. Most printers have a mail house, or partner with mail houses, so you can send your promo pieces straight from the press to your prospects without incurring additional fees. The mail house will address your mailers (if the printer doesn’t do it), handle the postage requirements, and send your bulk mailings to all the recipients on your mailing list.

Follow up

Following up with your prospects is one of the most important things you can do, and a lot of sales are lost precisely because companies do not do this. Another mailer, a phone call, an e-mail or an in-person visit by one of your sales staff dramatically increases the chances that you’ll convert prospects into customers. In fact, many campaigns incorporate two or three planned mailings to the same list — the first is a teaser, the second reveals enticing information, and the third delivers the offer and call to action. Sending three mailers to the same 10,000 people will always yield better results than sending one mailer to 30,000 people.

Be sure to keep track of everything associated with your campaign, including costs, offer, design, copy, mailing list parameters and, of course, response. Weighing these things against one another will help you fine-tune a successful campaign for increased return on investment, or will help you redefine an unsuccessful campaign so that your next one is profitable. Many companies send out several versions of a direct mailer at the same time in small quantities to test campaigns before full launch; if you have the budget, doing so can tremendously increase the overall effectiveness of your campaigns.

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