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Direct Mail Marketing

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Direct mail can be used in PR to speak directly to your target audience. Sloppy direct mail irritates, annoys and alienates your customers. Here are some ideas to make your mailings more interesting, relevant and productive. Most of the following tips can be applied to both traditional offline direct mail and e-mail marketing. However the special needs of e-mail, sometimes known as e-shots, is the subject of another checklist.

Ten Things You Should Do

  1. Objectives and strategy. Have clear objectives for each mail shot so you know the kind of outcome that you want. For example, do you want to educate, sell directly, obtain leads and enquiries, encourage a showroom visit or build traffic to a web site?
  2. Know your audience. It helps to have a mental picture of the reader – their age, sex, occupation, lifestyle, attitudes, buying habits and other significant characteristics. Make sure you use a permission based opt-in list if you are buying in your data.
  3. Get personal. People respond to people. Letters that address people by their occupational title, or as resident, occupier and so on, just tell the reader that you cannot be bothered to find out who they are. Therefore, it is not surprising that most of them will not be bothered who you are or what you have to say.
  4. Make the subject relevant. Just imagine yourself as the reader, sitting at the breakfast table or opening the morning post or in the office and ask yourself, ‘what is in this for me?’
  5. Keep it simple. Layout, copy style, tone of voice, graphics and other elements should be simple and easy to understand.
  6. The interest factor. Direct mail is a busy medium. To attract attention the package needs to be interesting – consider 3D mailings, overprinted envelopes, the use of cut-outs, pop-ups and so on, to add interest – but don’t be too fussy or clever.
  7. Copy plan. Writing good copy has just three elements. A clear and simply stated proposition. Highlighted benefits that are relevant to the reader. A call to action. This last element could include an incentive – ten percent extra free for orders booked by Jan 31, for example.
  8. Test the package. Try the overnight copy test to see just what rubbish you wrote yesterday – edit without mercy. Ask colleagues for criticism. Better still ask a complete stranger if it makes sense at all. Then test the mailer on a small sample of your data and assess the feedback. If budget and time permits split your test sample into groups and try slighty different versions of the mailer to each group.
  9. Make it easy to reply. Use pre-paid envelopes (try including a free pen as well), freephone numbers, faxback forms, web sites and social media pages with hot buttons for e-mail contact or other feedback methods.
  10. Be ready to handle the response. There is no point generating interest if you are not prepared to deal with enquiries or don’t have products ready to supply.

Five Things You Should Not Do

  1. Don’t be over optimistic. Direct mail is a busy communication channel. A response rate of five percent would be very good for most mailings. One percent is most likely. For future mailings it is vital to calculate your return on investment.
  2. Don’t mail people who don’t want to be mailed. Delete anyone from your list who asks to be removed and those who are listed with the Mailing Preference Service as not wanting your promotion. Have a precedure in place to ensure this is done.
  3. Don’t use old lists. All lists become out of date quickly, the older the list the more you will be wasting mailings and money on irrelevant targets and possibly generating ill feeling.
  4. Don’t blitz mail. If the response rate is poor, diluting the profile and increasing the numbers to generate the lead quantity you require will show sharply falling returns, increase your costs and again may generate ill feeling.
  5. Don’t tease. A graphics house once sent us a series of different coloured postcards over several weeks. Each card carried one word. The message only made sense when you had the full set. Each card went in the bin and we made a note not to use them.

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