Direct mail is still a viable and critical component in marketing. Direct mail needs to be viewed in a multi-channel environment – tied into your website, landing pages, social media and email marketing, but keep in mind that if you violate the basics you will not get the best possible return.
Know your audience. You can have the most innovatively designed piece imaginable, but it is a waste of money if you send it to the wrong people. Just as in email marketing, you must provide valuable, relevant and timely information in order for someone to act on your offer. So lose the one-size-fits-all mentality; segmentation is the goal. Decide what your ideal customer profiles look like and then go find prospects that look like them. Understand your target’s problems and tailor your message to address the problems with your solutions.
For direct mail, copy is King. For search engines, content is King. What’s the difference? A webpage has a near limitless amount of space to convey the message. A direct mail piece usually has a limited amount of space to capture the reader’s attention, engage them to learn more and lead them to take an action.
Vary your message to your audience. Not all your prospects have the same issues and concerns. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors, roofers and general contractors all may be in the construction industry, but they do not share the same problems. If you have solutions for this broad market, you will need to communicate to each differently. A generic message may get a response across the broad spectrum, but you will not reach as many as you could have if you tailored your messages to each market separately.
Timing. Each recipient may be at a different stage of the buying cycle when your message lands in front of them. A small percentage may need your products/services immediately and will respond. Others may be located on the spectrum of no interest to actively researching. Your piece must provide a way for these buyers to educate themselves about your products/services in a non-threatening manner. Other factors to keep in mind are seasonality and buying cycles. I am more likely to buy a Gas Grill in the spring and summer than in the cold, dark winter months. If I live in the northern part of the country, offers to buy in the winter will likely fall on blind eyes.
Offer. Buy now, steep discount, or additional bonus items are not always the best offers. Whenever possible, it is best to test offers with small samples to see which offers provide the best return. If you are selling a longer buying cycle product or service, offers of more information, how to buy and comparison charts may be the most effective offers. To get someone to respond, the risk must be lower than the reward.
Having a good product or even providing excellent service is not enough today. If your prospect is buying what you sell from someone already, then providing a “me too!” offer will not likely be enough to have them switch. You must know what your competition is providing and then you need to offer more value on the same or similar products and services. Notice I said more value, not lower price. Providing the same products at a lower price can provide more value, but it is difficult to match or provide more when your strategy is to sell for less.
Letters, self-mailers and postcards, oh my! Postcards and self-mailers tend to work better with existing customers who already know you and your services. The old adage is a letter sells, a brochure tells in direct mail. You can say much more in a letter than you can in the space available on a post card or flyer. If your products or services require some education in order to provide a clear reason to consider you, then you should consider the direct mail personalized letter format as your initial introduction or at least as your first serious sales contact.
Sometimes a nice warm, informative and relevant personal letter is the most effective communication in an otherwise overloaded digital world. Kind of nice just to take our eyes off the computer for a moment, sit back and consider a well written introduction. It can be just the differentiator you need to open the door.