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Tried and True: Direct Mail Marketing Still Holds Value in an Electronic World

August 11, 2011

By David Fant, owner of Market Mapping plus. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Campaign

Today everyone seems to be leaning toward Social Media, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach out to clients with marketing messages. While there is great value in these web-based strategies for communicating, direct mail still holds appeal when coupled with an electronic twist – and of course executed well.

When considering a direct mail/e-mail campaign, or really any marketing campaign, it’s important to remember the goal: generate sales. Direct mail and e-mail share a number of characteristics that are important to understand when developing a marketing strategy. Here are a few:

1. Both direct mail and e-mail are personal programs. Anything that is not specifically addressed to the recipient is deemed “junk mail” or “Spam” and instantly discarded.

2. Targeting is EVERYTHING. Why advertise to people across town, if there are four other companies between you and your prospective customer. Focus on where your customers are coming from and maximize your frequency of contacting them by mailing fewer pieces. For example, 2,500 pieces mailed once will generate less response/sales than 500 pieces mailed five times to a targeted list.

3. Don’t try to sell the farm. Pick one or two items to feature and get customers into your store or to consider your business, to your website or to call to discuss options you have available for them to buy.

4. Remember: focus on selling the benefits of buying your products/services over the features. What’s in it for the recipient? A computer with a 500 GB hard drive is a feature of the machine. The ability to store 5000 songs or 2300 pictures is a benefit of the machine.

5. Look for direct mail to acquire new customers and e-mail to retain those customers. The Direct Marketing Association recently conducted a study that discovered people still prefer a direct mail offer in their mailbox over an e-mail solicitation for companies new to them. Most people are leery of e-mails and links in e-mails, making direct mail a strong choice to get people to actually look at your message and create some familiarity with your brand. Direct mail is ideal for capturing new customers. E-mail is preferred for customer loyalty and ongoing promotion.

6. TRACK PERFORMANCE! It doesn’t matter if you are using direct mail or e-mail. It’s extremely important to track how your campaign is performing. Key coding who you are mailing to (age, income, family status, interests) is simple and allows you to track when people respond. Remember, each mailing gives you more information about who is responding and who is not responding. From this data, you can fine tune future mailings and become more accurate and cost effective.

7. Be cautious when buying an e-mail mailing list. The rate of outdated e-mail addresses is high, so verifying and spot checking accuracy is important. Also ensuring the vendor will refund you for bad addresses is critical.

8. Partner with a quality list broker to develop your direct mail or e-mail list. A good list broker will help you with all of the above issues and will have resources that you may not now know about to help make your campaign a success.

The key to any campaign is to design the most powerful offer you can. Find the best, most targeted list available for your business and design a piece that competes with the other mail in a prospects mailbox. Remember, what it looks like is less important than what you’re offering and who you are offering it to.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would interest you? What would YOU like to see/have?

David Fant is the owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee.

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