A Guide to Direct Mail Marketing

With the rise of email and other forms of digital communication you may have thought that direct mail marketing campaigns were on the way out. But recent surveys have shown that prospective customers are still most happy receiving contact from businesses through the post than by any other method. In order to generate sales leads and build your brand, now could be the perfect time to consider a direct marketing campaign.

Direct Mail Marketing: The Basics

Direct mail marketing campaigns involve sending information about your company, products or services to a list of consumers or businesses. The list could be one that you’ve compiled yourself, made up of existing customers or people who’ve previously made enquiries, or it could be a list that you’ve purchased or rented specifically for the purpose.

The reasons for implementing direct mail marketing campaigns generally fall into two categories:

  • Generate sales: Sending potential customers promotional material highlighting the features and benefits of your products and services can help generate sales enquiries from new and previous customers.
  • Brand building: Informing your customer base about changes to your company, special offers or new product ranges can help you retain customers, earn recommendations and reinforce brand awareness.

Direct Mail Marketing: The Benefits

In a recent survey carried out by Acxiom, 57% of respondents said that they were okay with receiving post from companies who they’d never done business with before. Compare this with only 8% who said that text message marketing was appropriate and you can see why direct mail is still the most popular choice for marketers looking to retain and engage existing customers and pick up new ones.

People tend to prefer direct mail campaigns because:

  • It’s personal: Using the customer’s name in communications shows that you recognise their individuality and don’t just think of them as a piece of data.
  • It’s targeted: With a carefully compiled list, customers will only receive information that is relevant to them.
  • It’s physical: People still like getting post. A letter is much more likely to be opened than a text or email from an unknown sender.

Direct Mail Marketing: Is it junk?

We’ve all returned from a holiday to find a stack of mail on the doormat, most of which goes directly in the bin. But an appropriate and well executed direct mail campaign will avoid the fate of being instantly categorised by the recipient as junk. The key to this is selecting your target audience carefully, ensuring that you have something relevant and interesting to say to them and that your message is presented clearly in an engaging manner.

The more that a customer feels your communication is directed at them personally rather than being a mass send out, the more likely they are to engage with it and the less likely they are to consider it junk mail.

The most critical factor in making your campaign as personal and targeted as possible is the list of recipients to whom you send your mail.

Your Mailing List

The most receptive customers will be those who currently do business with you or who have done business with you in the past. This makes direct marketing a great tool for making the most of your current customer base, improving brand loyalty and recapturing past customers.

This also means that your database of existing and previous customers and prospects is a highly valuable resource and should be treated as such: keep the list current and accurate by removing people who ‘opt-out’ and where mail has been marked ‘return to sender’.

Choosing a Mailing List Provider

If you want to use a direct mail campaign to generate new customers you’ll need to obtain a list from a data supplier. Whether you’re looking to contact consumers or business customers it is of vital importance that you obtain a high-quality, up to date and targeted list of contacts to maximise the success of your campaign and your return on investment.

The first thing you’ll need to do is work out clearly who your target audience is and what their key characteristics are. Only then will you be able to compare the data on offer from different providers.

Data can usually be broken down using the following criteria:

Business Data:

  • Job Title
  • Type of business
  • Industry type
  • Geographical location
  • Number of employees
  • Number of years established
  • Turnover or other financial data

Consumer Data:

  • Age
  • Geographical location
  • Employment status
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Income
  • Previous purchasing behaviour

Using these criteria it should be possible to build up a clear picture of who you’re targeting with your campaign.

Other, more specialised data may also be available on demand. For example, for a consumer campaign it may be possible to acquire data from consumers who own a particular type of car or for a business campaign, members of a particular trade body.

Once you know how accurately a data supplier can match your target audience and how many contacts they can supply, you need to gain assurances about the quality of the data on offer. Check that the data is:

  • Opt-in: You only want contact details for people who have given their permission to be contacted. Make sure the data has been gathered in accordance with Direct Marketing Association guidelines and that contacts who have subsequently ‘opted-out’ have been removed.
  • Regularly verified: The data should be checked regularly for people who have moved or changed job role or status. Inaccurate data will not only be useless to you but also generate a negative view of your business when your mail is delivered to inappropriate contacts.

As we’ve already discovered, people who have opted-in to receive information from companies are happy to receive mail as long as it is appropriate and relevant. The more targeted and accurate your list, the better the response rate you can expect.

This also means that your database of existing and previous customers and prospects is a highly valuable resource and should be treated as such: keep the list current and accurate by removing people who ‘opt-out’ and where mail has been marked ‘return to sender’.

Hints and Tips for a Successful Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

Once you’ve found a suitable list to use in your campaign then you’re ready to start contacting customers. Careful attention should be paid to how you’re making contact with your current and prospective customers to increase the chances of sales:

  • Letters trump postcards: Despite being more effort to open and read, letters consistently get a better response than postcards. Similarly, plain envelopes have more chance of being opened than those with writing on. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can also enhance your ROI.
  • Personalise: Make your communication as personal as possible. Always use the customer’s name rather than ‘valued customer’ or their job title. People want to feel valued and will be much more responsive if they are.
  • Make sure your copy sparkles: If you’re not confident about writing the letter yourselves hire a professional to do it for you. Clear, concise sales copy can add an extra level of sophistication to your campaign, boosting the number of responses.
  • Include a clear call to action: If you’re asking your customers to call you, make the phone number is prominent. If you need them to mail back an order form, include a postage paid envelope. If they need to go online, make the web address clear and easy to remember. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to respond – any hindrance or complication will drastically reduce your response rate.
  • Track your responses: Use a promotional code in each mailing which responding customers can quote. This will help you record the number of responses and compare different campaigns against each other.
  • Time it right: Think about the best time of the year or best day of the week for your mail to arrive. This will depend heavily on your target audience – for example mail that arrives on Saturday will have a different effect for consumers than for businesses.
  • Don’t be needy: If you’re running a regular campaign, don’t send out letters too frequently. This can be a real turn off for your customers who’ll soon start to suffer from direct mail fatigue.

To summarise, direct mail campaigns are an excellent way of generating new sales leads and reinforcing your relationships with existing and previous customers, but if you take one piece of information away from this guide it should be this: the accuracy and quality of the data you use is paramount. Good quality, regularly verified, opt-in data is essential for the success of any campaign and should be top of the direct marketer’s shopping list.

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