If you’re focusing all (or mostly all) of your marketing efforts online your’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by ADWEEK, by the year 2019 digital marketing will account for more than 75% of marketing budgets.
And while you should have a web presence and there are several benefits to marketing online – such as the ability to reach more people for less money – you’re losing sales if you’re not marketing with direct mail.
Why? Because 98% of consumers check their physical mailboxes everyday and 77% of these people sort through their mail immediately according to the US Postal Service.
What Is Direct Mail?
Simply put, direct mail is sending your message directly to people’s physical mail boxes. Some marketers now include email under the direct mail umbrella, but traditionally it means a physical
mail box and that is what I mean, too, when I say direct mail.
Thousands of products and services have been sold by direct mail. Books, records, dolls, watch repair, figurines, dishes, jewelry and engraving, food items, clothing, tools, and even ant farms have all been sold by direct mail.
Though it’s said direct mail dates back to Egypt around 1000 B.C., it got its start in the USA with a catalog by Tiffany & Co. in 1845. It wasn’t long before other businesses caught on to the idea.
Aaron Montgomery Ward developed a single page catalog in 1872. Twenty years later his catalog had grown to 540 pages and sold more than 20,000 items.
A short time later, in 1893, Richard Warren Sears started a catalog to sell watches. Like Aaron Montgomery Ward’s catalog, the Sears catalog grew to 500 pages and was sent to 300,000 homes.
Today direct mail consists not only of catalogs, but of sales letters, flyers and post cards, articles, CD’s, DVD’s, and other types of of media. And they are sent in a variety of ways – from envelopes and boxes to bank bags, pill bottles, mini-trash cans and treasure chests.
Direct mail allows you to get your prospect’s, customer’s or client’s attention in a variety of creative ways.
Direct mail has been around for years and although volumes have been in decline since 2005 due to digital marketing, many marketers and businesses are turning to it again to get their messages to their prospects.
Why Direct Mail Works
Direct mail works to bring you sales for the following reasons:
1) It’s no longer a crowded medium. With the rush for everyone to get online there’s less mail in the mail box. Sure, there’s always going to be a few ads like the weekly circulars that come out with grocery store ads, Val-Pak coupons, and the post card from the local car lot offering a deal. But there isn’t as much as there use to be.
This means your direct mail pieces will get attention simply because they’re only one of a few pieces of mail. They’ll get noticed.
2) Direct mail engages more of the senses. If you sell candy and you send free samples in the mail, people can taste them. If you sell perfume and send samples, people can smell them. They can’t do that from an email.
You could also send a DVD. Sure, they can click a link online and see the movie, but it doesn’t have the same perceived value as the DVD does.
Also, just holding your direct mail piece in their hands will make your business seem more tangible and real.
3) Direct mail allows you to be creative and personal. You can send cards for holidays and birthdays, enclose a coupon inside and send them in bright colored envelopes. You can add a hand written (or simulated hand written) signature, as well as hand writing the address and adding a real stamp. Each of these things make the mail piece more personal.
You can do things to get attention that would just never work in an email or on a website – such as sending your message on a napkin, or yellow “legal” pad paper, or with a coffee stain on it. Or you might clip a dollar bill to the top of your letter, or some colorful foreign money.
4) They can’t delete a physical piece of mail. With email, it’s often deleted without a thought before it’s opened – even if the subject line is good. Most people get so much email every day it overwhelms them. They get stressed and can’t handle it so they delete it.
Not so with your direct mail piece. They have to remove it from the mail box, where upon they’ll see it. Then, they will decide what to do with it – open it, save it for later, or throw it away. But whatever they do with it they can’t just “click” it away!
5) You have their undivided attention. You know how it is when you’re online. You’re easily distracted and/or you’re trying to do several things at once. You start out at one website and next thing you know you’re off on several little bunny trails until you finally come out of your stupor and ask yourself how you got to where you are and what you were originally setting out to do.
But that doesn’t happen with physical mail. When your prospect opens your mail, its the only thing they are looking at. There are no other ads crowding in or blinking at them, no mail notifiers going off in the background, no facebook pop-ups telling them their brother Bob just posted something.
They can simply open your mail and look at it in peace – exactly the way you want them to.
6) You can enclose “gifts.” Maybe it’s a book of stamps or a pen, or maybe it’s a booklet. When you enclose a free “gift,” it makes people feel like they should respond in kind.
Yes, you can attach a PDF to an email, but it’s not the same. Physical “gifts” have a higher perceived value than a PDF does, and physical items have the advantage of sticking around and being seen whereas a PDF can be filed away and forgotten.
7) People like getting “fun” mail. If you’re creative enough, people will actually enjoy your mail pieces. Think about when you go to the mailbox. What do you usually find? The same ol’ boring circulars, bills and maybe a piece of local ad mail or two.
If you can create an interesting package, people will be delighted to open it. People are naturally curious so if there’s a bit of mystery to your package or envelope, or it looks fun – like the bright colored envelopes I mentioned above – it will brighten their day and they’ll be glad to open it.
8) There’s a good chance your competitor’s aren’t using direct mail. This means you’ll be the only one offering your type of products and services to your target market through this medium. You can’t say that about any online medium. It’s all just one big over crowded marketplace.
9) Direct Mail sets you apart and gives you prestige. Any Tom, Dick or Mary can send an email but it takes a real savvy business to put together a good direct mail campaign with just the right message. This both sets you apart from the pack and gives your company a bit of prestige because only real businesses send real mail.
10) Direct Mail is effective. Everyone has a mailbox and gets mail. Everyone goes to their mailbox and gets their mail, brings it in the house and sorts through it.
Credit card companies seem to use direct mail exclusively. Why? Because they can send unsolicited mail, but they can’t send unsolicited email. The same holds true for any business. And the fact that these companies continue to send out their direct mail pieces tells you it’s working. If it didn’t they would stop.
Also, you have the ability to target direct mail to precisely the type of prospect you want to – whether you’re doing a local campaign or a national one. This means the people you send to will be interested in your message and your offer because they are the right ones to receive it. You’re not selling ice to Eskimos.
How To Create Your Own Direct Mail Campaign
The first step in creating any campaign is to consider who will want to buy your product or service. If your selling high end camera equipment for photographers, for example, you want to make sure that your mail reaches those photographers most likely to buy your equipment – not novice photographers or those just starting out.
You also need to consider what you want to achieve with your campaign. Do you want sales directly from the campaign or are you looking for leads?
Also, consider the costs of your intended campaign carefully as well as the ROI (return on invenstment) or profit you will make. You’ll need to consider the cost of the list (mentioned below), materials you’ll include in your mailing, postage, and return postage if you’re paying for it.
If you’re on a tight budget you don’t need to mail thousands of pieces at a time. You can start with a small number such as 50 or 100 first, and test out your campaign. If all goes well, you can mail another 50 or 100, and then another.
Once you know who your target market is you’ll need a list. If you have an in-house list of customers you can use that one. But, if you need a new list because you’re trying to gain new customers, you’ll need to get a list from a list broker. You’ll want to do some research to find a good one that’s reputable and updates their lists regularly.
Next, you need to develop your mailing piece. Is it a sales letter? A postcard? A DVD? Whatever it is it needs to be impactful and move people to action. This isn’t the time to be soft.
You need to know how to sell in print. You want to shout it loud and proud. If you need help with this hire a professional copywriter. It makes no sense to spend the money on the mailing only to have it fail because the copy didn’t pull in the orders or get the leads.
You’ll also need to decide on the actual materials for your mailing. Are you mailing a letter? If so, what kind of paper will you use? What will the envelope look like? Which font will work best? Will it be on your letterhead?
Or will you be mailing a postcard? A self mailer? Something else?
You’ll need to be clear on the entire package you intend to mail including the outside packaging (envelope, box, carton, etc.) and the response mechanism (reply card, coupon, website address, phone number).
You’ll need a way to measure your results. This is easy to do if you’re using one list and one letter and only mailing one time ever. But, chances are you’ll mail on a regular basis and you need a way to keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
You’ll want to know which time of year works best for your mailings, which offers pull in the most response, which list worked best with which offer, which envelope got opened most, whether the letter pulled better or the postcard did, and so on.
You can easily do this by putting an offer code on your response card or coupon. Or, if you’re having prospects call you, you can ask them for the offer code. Or, if you’re taking orders online from a mailing, you can give them a website address that’s only relevant for that particular mailing, which will take them to a special landing page such as www.yourwebsite.com/specialoffer. You could also request the offer code on the online order form.
The code can be anything that’s relevant for you. It might be the date of the mailing, such as 080114 (August 1, 2014), or it might be the offer, such as “5 books for the price of 1.” It just needs to be clear to you so that you know the mailing worked.
You’ll want to run a test before you mail to your entire list. Choose a small amount of names – 10% of your list is a good test – and send your mailing. If you get a good response you can mail to the rest of the list. If you don’t, you’ll need to make some changes and try again.
It could be that your envelopes never got opened, or that your letter didn’t draw attention from the start. It might be that your offer wasn’t enticing or your call to action wasn’t strong enough. Or, it could be that your mailing was fine but the list was bad. Testing first can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
An average response rate is between 2% and 4%. If you get a 5% to 6% response you’ve done well. And if you get 7% or more you’ve done very well.
If all goes well with your test, you can run your campaign. Make sure you’ve got a way to respond to prospects or fill orders promptly. If you’re a solopreneur don’t try to do it all yourself. It can be overwhelming and reflect badly on your business.
If you need the services of a fullfillment warehouse they are easily found online. You should have all of your product and fullfillment details worked out before you mail.
If you’re mailing to advertise a local service, make sure someone is always at the phone if you’re asking people to call.
Once it’s over take a look at the results you got and try to determine how you can get even better results the next time.
One thing direct mailers do is something called A/B testing. This is when they will change one thing in their mailing to see if it does better than the original. For example, they’ll mail two letters which are identical in every way, except they have different headlines.
They will mail these letters to the same number of people – letter A goes to 1000 people and letter B goes to 1000 people. If letter A does better, they’ll mail that one to the rest of the list. The same goes for letter B.
A good direct mail campaign takes some serious planning and work but it’s well worth the effort. It can bring you business you otherwise would never have gotten because it puts you right in front of your prospects.
And it can bring you new business and more sales any time you want simply by sending out a letter.
Direct mail has proven itself for decades. Give it a try and see how it works for you!
To your success,