Direct Mail Marketing – Small Business Advice

By Mike Hall | Small Business

Many small businesses see direct marketing as unattainable due to the prevalence of large companies using the channel. It shouldn’t however be ignored, if performed correctly, direct mail marketing can be highly effective for businesses of all sizes – especially if it is highly targeted and can be carried out economically.

The potential for direct mail is significant, a recent Direct Mail Information Service report highlights that over three quarters of direct mail is opened by the recipients whilst 63% read the contents. But with households receiving nearly thirteen pieces of direct mail every four weeks, it’s vital that your campaign cuts through the noise.

But how do you go about conducting a direct mail campaign in the most economical way possible?

Step 1: What are you trying to achieve?

This is the first question of any campaign be it direct or otherwise. You need to establish what you are trying to achieve from sending the mail out.  Even if your ultimate objective is to generate more sales, think about where your mail piece comes into the wider customer journey, are you introducing your brand, raising awareness or retaining customers? These are all more immediate objectives.

Step 2: Who are you speaking to?

Undoubtedly you will have a clear idea of who your target audience is and this will be helpful in shaping who your campaign needs to target. If you are looking to acquire new customers it’s likely that you will need to rent or buy a mailing list. The mailing list is right at the core of the campaign and it’s essential that you choose correctly. Mailing lists can be bought cheaply although this is rarely advisable, low quality data can cause a great deal of problems if it is out of date or does not adhere to data protection laws and on the whole, does not deliver great ROI. Conversely, investing up front in high quality data improves the potential for your campaign, particularly if your supplier can provide targeted data segmented along demographical, geographical and behavioural lines.

Step 3: What are you sending?

You need to work out what you are going to say to your target audience and create a message or promotion that is likely to trigger a response. Similarly you must also work out how you are going to produce that message, whether it comes in the form of a brochure, a letter or postcard. Each medium has its pros and cons but as a small business, looking at smaller, lighter mail pieces can be more economical, so think about letters or postcards. You do not even have to invest heavily in design and printing, for some campaigns, a smartly designed letter created using word processing software can be perfect, saving you money. Try to keep messaging short and sharp and if your data allows it, tailor the message to the audience as much as possible.

Step 4: How do you send it?

There are a number of ways you can enact your direct mail campaign, the choice of which is largely dependent on scale. Stamps can be used but really only for the smallest campaigns as in large numbers these become expensive and time consuming, you can also ask a direct mail agency to enact the campaign for you but for many small businesses the costs associated with this can be too high. If you are conducting the campaign in house and are planning on a relatively large send (100+) then franking machines do offer an economical solution. These can be used to add postage to the letter, apply additional marketing messages to envelopes and also show a more professional image – typically they are rented on a monthly basis.

Step 5: What does success look like?

Finally, you must also set how you plan to measure the campaign, understanding exactly what success looks like. Direct mail allows you to measure response rates, particularly if you are using a promotion or competition. Importantly, you need to understand the nature of the response, so set up ways to evaluate whether responses are mostly direct sales, enquiries into other products or footfall into a store. With success evaluated, you can used what you have learnt for future campaigns, either through assessing the effectiveness of particular messages, or using data analysis to ascertain which recipients are now warm leads and should be marketed to in the future.

These rather simplistic steps give you a top level approach to direct mail marketing and hopefully show that it is not an unattainable channel for small businesses. Remember to keep an eye on your budget and to measure every aspect of the campaign to maximise ROI and using insight to improve subsequent activities. Follow these principles and it should be possible to achieve your objectives.

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