Direct mail is one of the best marketing tools when you want to connect with a potential customer on a personal level. A well developed campaign can generate new sales for pennies on the dollar, source leads for your sales people, create brand awareness, and make your marketing budget work harder and go farther. On the other hand a poorly developed direct mail campaign will leave your phones silent and give your sales people the opportunity to catch up on their reading. So how do you create a well developed direct mail campaign? Is there one factor that dictates if your mailer is read? Can one decision reduce your response rate? What makes one direct mail campaign work while another fails?
You can have the best data list but if you don’t offer the potential customers something they want they won’t respond. New and innovative creative without a call to action will leave your registers empty. The point is this: the key to direct mail success does not involve one single component it involves everything working together. What are the components? How do you maximize the effectiveness of each component? Well…
The three most important components are often considered to be the data list, the creative, and the offer.
1. Data List
Arguably the single most important part of any direct mail campaign, your data list dictates who gets your direct mail advertising, and who doesn’t. Before you go out and buy 10,000 addresses you need to know who you are marketing to. Define your audience and the audience and sub-segments. You know your business best, and you know who is going to buy what you have to sell. Decide where the best opportunities are and target your direct mail campaign. By working with a good list broker, and knowing the type of person who is likely to purchase your product you can send your direct mail piece to the people who are likely to buy your product, and only those people.
There is no reason to send an ad offering “half price pool cleanings” to everyone in an apartment complex. By getting specialized data from a list broker you can dictate specific factors that will make your mailing more likely to succeed. You could start by making sure everyone on your data list has a pool then narrow your list down further by making sure the prospects already use a pool service. Targeting specific demographics, versus mailing to the general population, increase the chances that your mail targets have an interest your product or service and will want what you are offering.
First impressions are everything. From the time a prospect sees your direct mail piece you have 3 seconds to get their attention. If your mailer doesn’t captivate the reader your ad will end up in the trash. If the mailer looks cheap the company sending the mailer will be considered cheap, and the mail piece will be considered junk mail. A professional designer with a good understanding of the direct mail campaign’s goals can create a mailer that will connect with customers emotionally, personally, and logically. The most effective direct mail campaigns connect with the reader on an emotional level before the reader can process any logical approach to marketing. Non-profit mailers tend to pull heart strings, car companies use relaxation and luxury to connect to the prospect. In either case the connection is emotional from the second the customer sees the direct mail piece, but to really separate good direct mail from great direct you should reinforce the emotional connection of the mailer with individual personalization.
Variable data printing allows some truly impressive personalized direct mail. A car company’s service reminder campaign serves as a superb example. When a customer takes their car in for servicing the car company notes the customer’s millage, the services purchased, what time the customer’s service appointment was, and the mileage the car. Based on a number of factors such as mileage or the date of the previous appointment the dealership will mail a service reminder to the customer that says something like “Mr. Jones, it has been three months since you were at the Main Street Dealership to have the oil changed on your Jetta. We have set aside 8am on Wednesday May 4th 2011 for you. Please call us to confirm this appointment, or to schedule a time that works better for you.” In addition to the very detailed personalization, the reminder postcard will have a picture of the newest Jetta in case the customer is interested in purchasing a newer model. Personalization really separates good direct mail, from ok direct mail. Most of the time people won’t have that kind of data on new prospects, but it’s important to think about what information you do have. Investing in a good data list you can get some very good information to use for personalization and emotional connection.
3. The Offer
People are offered discounts and freebies all day long every day. It’s come to the point that many people are desensitized to the generic discount offers. The offer you present in your direct mail campaign needs to be something that will appeal to the niche segment. Think about a restaurant that’s mailing to an opt-in list gathered at a charity event. By offering to donate $2 to the charity for every entrée purchased when they bring in the mail piece the restaurant does 2 things. First they appeal to the charitable nature of the people on the list, and second they provide something of value to the prospect, food. Another option could be offering a free chocolate dessert to a list of people who left their contact information at a local chocolatier. In either case there is a specialized offer based on specialized information about the potential customer. The more customized the offer the better your response rate will be, as long as you targeted the offer to the right people. Never assume that a general offer will work as well as a targeted offer. No matter what offer you decide to use you need to get to the point quickly. Potential customers want to know “what’s in it for them” and they want to know sooner rather than later.
The data list, creative, and offer are often seen as the most important parts of a direct mail campaign, but there are 5 more components to good direct mail campaigns that need to be addressed.
4. Call to Action
A call to action is not an offer. It might include an offer, but the call to action tells the potential customer exactly what to do next. Call now to get your free Yo-yo, Log in to get more information, Send us the enclosed postcard to get your free book. Sometimes it seems like an obvious next step but never leave anything to chance. Telling them exactly how to take advantage of the offer will increase your response rate.
5. Contact Method
When the customer follows the call to action it’s vital that you let the customer choose the kind of interaction they find the most comfortable. For some it will be a phone call, others will want to use a web site. Give the customer as many options as you can, email, web, phone, fax, QR codes, snail mail. If the customer doesn’t like their contact options they will simple choose not to contact you. You only need to list contact information once. Not once per side, just once. If a person wants to contact you they are more than willing to flip over a direct mail piece to look for your phone number.
A direct mail piece offering a 20% discount on landscaping plants to a someone who just spent $500 dollars buying new shrubs is not going to work very well, but if you mailer arrived a day sooner that may be different. It’s important to try to predict when people will be receptive to your offers. It’s impossible for a plumber to know that a prospect is going to have a pipe burst in a week, but that plumber knows that February is the coldest month of the year so sending out a direct mail campaign in January would be a good idea. You can’t predict specific events but you can focus on constants like changes in seasons, or regular maintenance as noted in the car company example above. Be sure to you what information you have to the best of your ability.
Direct mail is not a one and done approach to marketing. When you make the decision to buy a TV you’re already familiar with 2-3 stores that sell electronics, and your familiar with them because you have seen their advertising. Direct mail gets its best results when a prospect gets multiple mailers over a period of time thus building a customer’s familiarity with your company. They start to learn about you and your services so when it turns out they need your services they are you are the first company they think of.
To truly understand what works and what doesn’t work you need to test. Don’t just test when things don’t work, test when they do work. Test multiple offers. Test multiple creative approaches. Testing a successful campaign can give you insight into why it works so you can make it better. Testing a campaign that doesn’t work can salvage your marketing investment. You may think you know why your direct mail campaign is working, but will never know for sure until you test it.
Mailing a great offer to the wrong people or sending amateur creative to customers will cause your sales to suffer. Plan your mailer, think about your audience. What will motivate them to contact you? How do you connect with them on an emotional level? What is the best time to for them to receive your mailer? Don’t plan for just one mailing. If your budget only allows you to mail to 10,000 pieces try mailing to 2,500 people 4 times. If your campaign is good you will get a better return on investment. Direct mail is only as good as the components that create the campaign, but when all the components work together you get a powerful personalized ad that speaks directly to the needs of your customer.
Tri-Win on Facebook and Twitter
Have you had a direct mail campaign that performed well above what you expected? Or a direct mail campaign that failed horribly? What do you think you did right or wrong? Comment and let us know!