Direct mail marketing continues to be an effective way to influence consumer and business buying decisions. Given the digital information overload, a direct mail campaign provides balance and should be part of every marketing program. In order for a direct mail campaign to succeed, certain fundamentals need to be in place.
- Mailing list quality drives success in direct mail. Mailing information changes frequently; an out-of-date list results in a high percentage of undelivered mailings, and hence a low response rate. The best lists include known customers and prospects.
- A good campaign strategy is also a necessity. Mailing without a clear purpose — or mailing with too many purposes — confuses recipients and crushes response rates.
- The ability to measure success is the third pillar of an effective mailing. An example of accurate tracking: using a unique phone number for the mailing so that responses cannot be confused with phone inquiries from other sources.
Direct Mail Marketing Options
- An obvious advantage of postcards is low cost. However, a well-designed postcard with a strong offer is likely to be read (there is no envelope to open) and has high impact.
- Self-mailers. A self-mailer is a sheet of paper folded and secured to eliminate an envelope. Self-mailers are useful when your message is too detailed for a postcard.
- Short-form letters. Brief letters, when personalized — more on personalization in a minute — are effective in building an emotional connection and when it is necessary to provide more information and/or value than a postcard or self-mailer can convey.
- Long-form letters. Multi-page letters, often used for political and charitable fundraising campaigns, are effective for B2B and B2C as well. Long copy is persuasive for products or services that are new to the market or complex in nature.
- Updating current customers and prospects on company and industry news provides extra “touches,” builds your credibility and helps extend customer retention.
- Catalog mailing is an expensive option; something you are likely to work up to as your simpler direct mail campaigns gain traction. Catalogs are a proven winner, but require a whole business infrastructure in addition to a considerable mailing budget.
Regardless of which option(s) you select, personalizing your mailing will give response rates a considerable boost. Variable data printing technologies enable direct mailers to not only insert the recipient’s name in the address and greeting, but also to match text and imagery to the recipient’s purchasing history and/or demographic information.
In B2B and B2C, each recipient wants to feel as though he/she were your only customer. Generic direct mail pieces addressed to RESIDENT or BUYER are usually discarded immediately. Unless you have an offer so amazing that cannot possibly be refused, make personalization a key component of your mailing design.
Mailing objectives can be separated into a few broad categories:
- Sales generation. The goal here is to obtain an order, schedule an appointment or reservation, or induce some other action that directly creates revenue.
- Lead generation. In B2B, a typical lead generation mailing asks for an appointment; in B2C, the purpose may be to get someone into a brick-and-mortar store or visit an online store.
- Customer retention. In addition to presenting special offers (all customers like getting a deal), mailings geared toward customer retention are often newsletters, updates on loyalty program status, and announcements of exclusive, customer-only buying opportunities or special services.
- Brand awareness. Brand awareness campaigns are especially helpful for products and services that are purchased infrequently, such as copy machines (B2B) or furnaces (B2C). Keeping your name out there leads buyers to think of you when the time comes for a purchase.
As just mentioned, repetition is another important factor in successful direct mail marketing. Be mindful to avoid too much repetition. Mailing once a month is a good rule of thumb; more frequent mailings tend to annoy recipients, which will have the effect of producing even lower response rates as time goes on.
Hang in there! If your first two or three mailings fail to garner a strong response, it’s far too early to get discouraged. Recipients may greet your initial mailings with skepticism, but after receiving several, they may begin to see you are a credible business with a serious business plan.