On average small businesses spend between two percent and five percent of their gross sales on marketing. Unfortunately, much of those funds are wasted in poorly planned and directed advertising efforts. Direct mail is one of the best ways to speak to your audience one-to-one. If done correctly, it allows you to target only potential customers…those consumers you are fairly sure want what you have to sell. As a direct marketer, you choose who you want to reach without your competition having knowledge of your message. There are three major components of any direct mail piece: format, message, and list.
Direct mail pieces can be formatted in a number of ways: letters, color brochures, free samples, and my favorite choice, postcards. Why postcards? They come in a variety of sizes, are easy to read and there’s no envelope to open. Your message is in plain view, and best of all, they are relatively cheap compared to other forms of direct mail. There are many online retailers of direct mail postcards. One I recently used successfully was www.USAmailnow.com. You actually design your own postcard online. There are several sizes and design templates to choose from, and you can easily upload your own art work, logo, or picture of your product to use on the face of the postcard. You can even use one of their professionally done images, but in my opinion, using something more specific to your company is better. Simply upload your mailing list in Excel format, and you’re done! USAmailnow prints, addresses, and mails your postcards. The cost of producing, printing, and mailing 1000 large postcards, first class, is approximately $650. For such a relatively low price, I was pretty skeptical of the quality of the cards. However, I was pleased to find that these postcards were full-color, 8 ½ x 5 ½, heavy card stock. I was impressed.
Direct mail postcards can be designed to achieve a variety of marketing objectives, such as promoting special events and offers to your existing customers such as sales or special discounts. Communicating special deals directly with your customers may make them feel they are receiving something that the general public is not. That’s called “perceived value.” Post cards can also be used as a follow-up method to maintain your customer base or introduce a new product. Research has proven that keeping your company name in front of existing customers will significantly increase the chances they will return. The use of certain key words in your message such as “free” will also increase your response rate.
Another key variable that affects your response rate is the quality of the mailing list you’ve compiled. A well developed, meaningful mailing list means the difference between junk mail and direct mail. You may be asking, “Where do I get my “list?” Hopefully, you’ve been compiling a database of your existing customers. If not, there are list brokers that sell mailing lists. The costs of these lists can range from six cents a name to thousands of dollars. Lists based on general demographic data such as age, household income, and geographic location are readily available and inexpensive. In fact, you can purchase this type list from www.USAmailnow.com, as well. More specialized lists consisting of people’s buying habits, lifestyles, and recent purchases are available but more expensive.
According to a response rate survey done by the Institute of Direct Marketers, the average response rate for consumer-based mailings is 6.8 percent; and those that do respond do so based on the need for the product, seasonality, or the perceived value of the offer. By tracking and analyzing your responses, you should quickly be able to tell if your direct mail piece is paying for itself and if it’s a worthwhile effort. Thanks to technology and the Internet, creating and using direct mail is easier than ever. Good luck!
(Source: Lori Durden, Consultant, UGA SBDC at Georgia Southern University)