Direct mail campaigns are popular because their effectiveness has been proven time and time again. Studies show that for every $167 spent on direct mail, marketers sell $2,095 in goods. In fact, 89 per cent of Canadians surveyed by Canada Post reported that they open an item that comes in the mail if it looks interesting or intriguing.
However, anyone who has run or been involved in a direct mail campaign knows that planning is essential. The success of your direct mail campaign relies on a number of important factors. These three steps are particularly critical:
1. Target Your List to Maximize Effectiveness
To whom you send your direct mail is arguably the most important factor of a successful campaign. If you target your campaign to the people who are most likely to want your products and services, you will increase your response rates. Be aware that bulk mail pricing begins at the 500-piece level.
Canada Post offers a Neighbourhood Mail™ service that focuses on unaddressed mail campaigns. These broad delivery campaigns allow you to geo target a specific neighbourhood or geographic area without having to know the name of the recipient. Instead, your piece of direct mail can be directed to the:
- Business owner
- Marketing manager
- Purchase manager
Unaddressed mail campaigns allow you to target a specific clientele without knowing who they are. This approach helps you find and connect with your target customers, without needing to invest in the tracking software that would give you their specific details. This method is relatively inexpensive (postage for a typical postcard is $0.17) but risks reaching those that may have no interest or need for your product or service. Be sure to weigh the cost/benefit balance carefully. For example, someone selling swimming pools and services will want to avoid apartment buildings and keep the message sufficiently broad to appeal to both those who may want a swimming and those that require swimming pool services.
Demographic and tracking software is designed to help you find the information you need to geo target your mailing lists. Software like Environics (Prizm5), List Source, Sugar and Clean List help you create, clean and maintain targeted contact lists of current and potential customers so that you can easily put together a direct mail list.
Don’t forget about your existing customers when planning your direct mail campaign. Take a look at your list of past and current customers and create a profile for them – then expand this personalized mail campaign to new prospects who match this profile. Postage for a typical, addressed post card begins at $0.47 but this method has a very high likelihood of reaching those that have an interest or need for your offer. Using the swimming pool example above, you can be very specific with your addressed mail message because you know that recipients are virtually all interested in pools and/or pools services.
Demographics which you can track to create a complete profile for current customers and new prospects include:
- Family size (for B2C companies)
- Industries or company size (for B2B companies)
- Shopping and purchasing behaviour (for current customers)
- Values and attitudes (you can sometimes determine this from age, gender or income)
An accurate mailing list or database is an important part of a successful direct mailing campaign. “The correct mailing list will contain your most valuable prospects. The more careful you are in analyzing and selecting direct mailing lists, the better your chances for success,” analytics expert Experian suggests.
Not only will an accurate list help you decide who to mail to, it will provide you with a base to track customer responses, helping you further refine your mailing list for future campaigns. Segmenting your list can also help you target more effectively. Consider separating your lists into:
- Speciality lists that identify your target audience. For example, if your company sells and cleans pools then you can segment your list into those who have pools and those who don’t.
- Custom mailing lists that select specific customer criteria. For example, you may want to send a special offer to past customers who have bought from you within the past three months.
- Cloned lists identify new prospects with similar profiles to your top customers. For example, if your current customers are men in their 50s who earn over $100, 000 a year and own at least one luxury car then you should find men with a similar demographic profile and target your products or services to them. This type of targeting is possible with the help of demographic software tools like Environics (Prizm5).
Segmented lists will also make it easier for you to send mail that is personalized. “Personalized direct mail generates better response rates, which is why so many marketers are personalizing their campaigns,” writes Steve Friar, a marketer with OnFullfillment.
Personalizing your direct mail piece requires you to work closely with your printer and graphic designer. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page about what part of the copy will be personalized, and how you will automate this process. Consider how you will use creative design features to make this personalization stand out (font, colour or graphics).
2. Create Compelling Messages & Creative Visuals
Your direct mail campaign should have a purpose that goes beyond seeing a return for the investment that you’ve put into the campaign itself. With a specific purpose in mind drafting a compelling message and creative art for your direct mail campaign will be much easier.
Some strong reasons to initiate a direct mail campaign include:
- Making an announcement (e.g., A new location or under new management)
- Promoting a product or service (e.g., promoting seasonal services)
- Promoting an upcoming event (e.g., a sale, discount or informational seminar)
Defining your purpose is just the first step to a strong message and compelling visual content. You’ll also want to ensure you:
- Keep the message simple and direct – avoid including too much information and keep your design simple and clutter-free. Use as much white space as possible.
- Answer four basic questions – your message should clearly state the purpose of your campaign, the pain points you can resolve for the recipient, the main selling points (your unique value proposition) and your hook (what makes your offer so compelling).
- Consider the size of your piece of mail – this will dictate the length of your message and your design. You can only fit so much onto a postcard, so keep this in mind when choosing the dimension of your mailer. Get creative with the type of mail you send. The Direct Marketing Association of Canada suggests using a non-postcard format like a catalogue, CD/USB, calendar or pop-up piece. Be creative and make the connection to your company.
- Use consistent branding – it’s critical that people know who is sending them mail. Ensure your graphic artist consistently brands each piece of mail you send out, including using logo, images, colours and fonts consistently.
- Include a call to action (CTA) – what are you asking the recipient to do? Whether you’re giving them a coupon to redeem in store or online, or are asking them to call you, make the CTA clear, concise and simple.
- Push the envelope to increase open rates – it may cost a little more, but adding a product sample or other bulky material to your mailer will increase the likelihood that people open it. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry consider sending a unique car decal. Whatever you send, make sure it’s colourful and uses graphics creatively. These types of creative mail pieces will help ensure the success of your campaign.
- Include your contact information – you need to include a return address, your company name and logo, phone number, email address and social media handles so that customers can get in touch with you.
- Edit for spelling and grammar errors – it’s a good idea to have different people check the message so that you can ensure it is error-free.
- Make a checklist – the Direct Marketing Association of Canada offers a free direct mail checklist that you can use to ensure you haven’t missed any critical elements to your direct mailer.
3. Consider Frequency
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non successful ones is perseverance,” — Steve Jobs.
Perseverance is critical to your direct mail campaign. According to Target Market Magazine, marketers who are successful with direct mailers know that “they can’t mail just once and pray for great results. They have to create multiple mailings that make money over time.” Experts believe it takes seven hits before the typical consumer responds to a direct marketing offer. On the other hand, you don’t want to annoy your intended recipients. The key is to strike a healthy balance between sending out too many, and too few pieces of direct mail.
So, what’s the right number for your business? It’s not possible or useful to give a magic number of times that you should send out a piece of direct mail. Consider the following factors and use your best judgement:
- Test – consider splitting your mailing list into two groups and send the same pieces of mail to each group at different intervals, measuring your results.
- Expectations – how often do potential and current clients expect mail from you? For example, if you run a seasonal business (think landscaping or snow removal) then they may expect to receive a seasonal coupon. You want to meet these expectations without wearing out your welcome.
- Purpose – how frequently can you send out a purposeful piece of direct mail? Determining the right frequency for your direct mail campaigns could come down to a simple factor: allowing the number of valuable promotions, events or announcements to dictate the frequency of your mailings.
- Buying Cycle – the recipient’s journey in your buying cycle may dictate the frequency with which you contact them. For example, you may send each customer a re-booking discount a month after they’ve used your services. This type of a direct mailing campaign is very targeted and personal, which makes it extremely effective.
Each industry and business is unique and so the frequency, message and target audience for your direct mail campaign should be carefully tailored to your company’s unique situation. Use your best judgement and track your results to help you make improvements moving forward. Businesses who combine persistence with these best practices are well positioned to experience success.