3 Rules for Effective Direct Mail

Yesterday, we talked about the strength and weakness of direct mail. So is direct mail worthwhile? It can be if you follow a few rules. And these rules apply whether your direct mail campaign is traditional mail or email.

Get a great mailing list.

Your direct mail campaign is only as strong as your mailing list. You should have a client list. Start with that. Your past and current clients have already done business with you, so you are a known entity to them. If you do good work, they are already predisposed to do business with you again.

What about buying a list? Although the cost of a list can be fairly reasonable, I usually don’t recommend it unless you are specifically trying to generate new leads or prospects and only if you have a sufficient budget to reach them multiple times. Remember, the Three Pillars of Advertising still apply here.

Create a great message.

This is the hard part, but it is essential. A lot of businesses, led by direct mail gurus, immediately go with hyperbole. Don’t do that. If you are passionate about your product, let it show, but let the client decide if it is truly the best there is.

The next thing the direct mail gurus tell you is that you must have a great offer like a special rate or a discount of some sort. There’s nothing wrong with that, but discounts and special rates are not a substitute for a message that resonates with people.

So what should you say? Tell them what you offer, how that makes you different from everybody else, and how they will benefit from doing business with you.

If right now you’re thinking that you’re an accountant or a heating and air-conditioning company and you’re just like everybody else in your field, don’t spend your money on advertising. Instead invest some money on developing a message that will define you in your customer’s mind and propel sales. Don’t be afraid to get help, if not from me then someone else. Your marketing message is the most important element of your marketing and advertising.

Think of any purchase you’ve made recently. Now why did you make the choice to purchase that particular item over other items you could have bought? Why did you choose Verizon over AT&T (or vice versa)? Why did you choose Levi Dockers over Haggar? Or Johnston & Murphy over some other shoe? There is a reason you chose one thing over another. It might not be rational, but it is a reason nonetheless. You need to give your customers a reason to do business with you. Once you have that reason, you can create your mailer.

Respect Your Customer

You’d think this would be a no-brainer. Who wants to do business with someone who doesn’t treat you with respect? But you see this all the time in marketing.

You respect someone by earning their attention. Whatever you send this prospective client, make sure its useful to them and not just some card that promotes your business. And by useful, I don’t mean a screwdriver with your company name on it (unless you sell screwdrivers, of course). I mean give them some information that is useful in their line of business. Look at things from their perspective, stand in their shoes for a moment, and think “If I were them, what would be really helpful.” Now deliver that in your mailing. Don’t be gimmicky or manipulative (find out by calling me today!), be friendly and matter of fact.

Occasionally, I see a business that I’d like to do work for and I’ll call them up. Instead of a clever sales pitch, I tell them up front that I’m calling to solicit their business even though they don’t know me. You’d be surprised at how often I get an audience with the person. In showing them respect by being up front about the purpose of my call, I earn the privilege of presenting my services to them. You can do the same with your direct mail or email campaign. Showing respect to the person you’re communicating with goes a long way.

You can do it

If direct mail is right for your business, go about it the right way. Put together a solid mailing list, create a great message, and treat your prospective customer with respect. These are simple things, but few businesses do all three. If you do them, you’ll stand out and be noticed.


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