The Four Essentials of Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail is almost a lost art in the marketing realm. If anyone speaks of the Medium-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, it’s usually met with waves of antipathy and apprehension – ‘Big businesses aren’t using that anymore’, ‘Isn’t email more popular?’, ‘I never buy things through mail’, and so on.

There’s no denying it: technology has changed the way we approach direct marketing. And while the perception of direct mail marketing has shifted, it’s effectiveness is as potent as ever. In fact, one can argue direct mail has improved alongside technology. Getting leads to your website, customers to shop online, and collecting prospect information can all be accomplished – successfully, and economically – through direct mailers.

That is, if you’re utilizing direct mail correctly. While it can be an influential tool to enhance any marketing plan, doing it wrong can make it a real money sink.

To stay on the side of profitability, make sure these four essentials are nailed in your direct mail marketing campaigns.

Distinguish Your Mailing List.

It’s elementary, Watson: if you’re planning to send out mail, it might be wise to settle on a list of names and mailing addresses.

Depending on your industry, there are a multitude of resources your business can turn to for a targeted mailing list. A company offering a credit product or service, for example, should seek a credit bureau as a fine source of names. It should go without saying that you should use mailing lists with people that you feel are true prospects for your product or service. Sending luxury service direct mailers to low income neighbourhoods is telling your money to take a hike.

Keep in mind there are rules on the types of offers you can make in direct mail marketing. The consequences of non-compliance can be harsh, so make sure you triple check the procedures.

Apart from that, you can find all sorts of lists that are purchasable – choose wisely!

Test, Learn, Refine.

Test and learn, rinse and repeat. Direct mail is a continual process of testing, learning what works and what doesn’t, and applying your newfound knowledge. You won’t get it the first crack. But over time, you’ll learn which sorts of offers and looks are successful in particular markets.

Areas you should test consistently include:

Market Segments: Even after you’ve obtained your mailing lists, a mass-send isn’t going to generate results or useful data for your marketing strategy. Identify segments in your list instead, highlighting who you’d think would be more responsive to the specific offer you’re sending out. Many lists are just a vomiting of names; you need to work on the segmentation yourself. Sending your print materials to everyone won’t teach you anything.

Offers: Try all kinds of different offers that are easy to differentiate. For example, you can test an offer, then use a similar one that cuts the cost by 15%. Does the potential volume increase of leads/sales make up for the lost margin? Keep in mind that an offer that’s highly effective in one market segment may perform poorly in others.

Creatives: Fiddling with the creatvies of your direct mailers can impact results, too. Maybe a ‘stealth’ envelope, which conceals the contents of the mailer, delivers more leads than one that loudly advertises a product or service on the front? Even if you find a creative medium you think is unbeatable, continue to test different creative features. A well-performing direct mailer will eventually degrade over time.

Cadence: Are you planning to send direct mailers frequently, or irregularly? There’s no black-and-white answer as to what’s better than the other. In some cases, you don’t want to bombard your market with the same offers, or it’ll start going from the mailbox to the trash directly. But, long periods between mailers won’t keep you at top of mind with your leads. So test, learn, and refine!

Analyze Your Research.

Many of the tips we’ve given so far revolve around collecting data on your market, and the segments within them. There’s a reason we need to analyze the information we’ve collected.

Evaluating your results will help you understand the economics of your testing. Sure, a high-gross response rate is fantastic – but you’ll need to recognize your close rate, and how much capital you’ll make from a closed sale. All costs must be considered, not just the sale conversions at the end.

Building a profitability model can help keep your direct mail marketing plan stay on the right side of the ledger, after all costs are taken into account.

Send ‘Em Out.

You have your data, and it’s been scrutinized and explored diligently. You’ve targeted the market segments of your mailing list that will be profitable.

It’s time to start churning out the mail!

Now that you’re fully equipped and prepared, you’ve got the green light to send out the max volume of emailers your business can reasonably handle. Remember that part about understanding the economics of your testing? This is where it’s crucial. You might’ve been using mail runs of 15,000 in your testing, and now you’re upping the order to 1.5 million units for the real thing.

Now imagine you didn’t do any testing or research before hand. Forecasting a profit of 10 cents per unit, but instead losing 10 cents a piece, can completely upend your entire direct mailer marketing campaign.

A well-managed and properly researched direct mail plan can be extremely profitable – it simply needs to be executed correctly.

While a meticulously planned direct mail campaign can pile on leads and sales, a mismanaged strategy can be a huge sink of time and money.

Get the most out of your direct mailers by working with Print Three’s print marketing experts. We’ll see your campaign from conceptualizing your printed materials, to rolling them out to your market segments. To learn more, find a Print Three location near you!