Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting Started With Direct Mail Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, direct mail marketing is still a highly effective platform of advertising, especially when it is well strategized and executed properly. Recently I had the chance to speak with the professionals at Ritter's Communications and Printing in Miami and they gave me some pointers on how to best leverage direct mail for a law firm or other small business. Direct mail marketing allows businesses and organizations to communicate straight to current and potential customers, and provides the company with measurable responses.

Whether you’re a small business owner, or a larger company looking for a different platform in which to reach out to your customers, we’ve put together a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of direct mail and give you the information necessary to create a successful marketing campaign.

The first step in your journey is to set objectives and plan your approach. These steps will help you to determine whether direct mail is the best platform for your campaign. You also need to determine what you want the campaign to achieve. Do you want to create/raise brand awareness? Or do you want to market a specific sale/promotion?

Next, you will need to determine your target audience.  Answering a couple of questions will help you determine the correct audience to target with your campaign. These questions include: Who is your buyer? What is their age? What is their marital status? Where do they live? Where do they work? What is their level of education? You also want to answer questions about their buying habits. Do they shop online or in-store? When do they buy? How often do they buy?

If you plan to use an in-house database for contact prospects, make sure the list is more than names and addresses. You want to report each prospect's transactions, interactions and responses. Gathering information and researching specific patterns will help you to segment your target audience even more. Surveying these segments through phone interviews or online surveys will help you to learn about specific interests, tastes and experiences.

If you use a rented list or purchase a list from a broker, make sure that it is compliant with the Data Protection Act. Often, lists acquired from brokers are segmented quite a bit, speeding up the process of determining your target audiences.

Now, you need to set a budget. The cost of your direct mail campaign will vary, depending on a number of factors; the number of people that you intend to reach, whether you will use an in-house database of addresses or if you need to purchase a list from a broker, whether or not you will have an in-house team produce the creative, size, shape and quality of the piece, and how personalized it will be. You also need to consider postage costs, and other expenses such as labor, etc.

Next, you will need to produce your direct mail copy. Make sure that your copy includes a strong message and a call to action.  High quality direct mail is packed with relevant information that is strongly written and 100% accurate. Be sure to proofread for grammatical/spelling errors and typos. You also want to entice the customer with an irresistible deal or a call to action. NEVER forget this step! Clearly state to the customer: what they should do(call, register, order, visit, etc) why they should, how they can and by when.

After you’ve created your copy, you should test your campaign on approximately 10% of your overall intended distribution list. The result of responses will help you to determine if are targeting the correct audience.  Changes can be made to your campaign or target demographic to better customize your plan.

The final step in this beginning process is to execute your campaign and track your results. One of the biggest benefits of direct mail is that you can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Mailings that include an offer are especially easy to measure because response rates can be directly tracked through purchases or redemptions of an offer.

Other tips:
-Integrate your entire business strategy into your piece by reinforcing other print or media campaigns.
-Ensure brand cohesion by making sure all elements (logo, colors, etc) are the same each time it is printed and sent out.
-Find a steady frequency. Direct mail campaigns will not be successful if the audience only receives a piece from you once, or if they receive multiple mailings at an inconsistent rate.
-Follow up with your customers. Drive them to other platforms, such as websites, blogs or social media channels and keep them engaged.
-Address price concerns by offering an “opt-out” option.

It is up to your business to create exciting and engaging material, but these steps and tips offer you a strong framework for building and executing a successful direct mail marketing campaign.  Good luck!