How Not To Waste Money on Direct Mail

What do you want to accomplish with your direct mail campaign? I doubt anybody answered, “For it to get thrown in the trash as soon as it’s picked out of the mailbox.” Or, “To spend a lot of money on a really nice mailer and send it out, only to guess a few months later its impact with our customers.” Worst of all, “To create one piece and mail it to a set of ZIP codes that we chose after looking at a map for five minutes.”

Actually, some of you might have said something similar to those last two quotes. Many people do not understand the science of direct mail. Most savvy business people know that a 3% return is the norm – maybe even a little high for reasonable expectations. Still, direct mail can be a very effective part of any marketing or advertising campaign, if done well.

That’s where bloomfield knoble has carved out our niche (among others to be discussed in future blogs). Long ago, we perfected the science of direct mail. While I don’t have time to go into all the ins and outs of creating an effective campaign, there are a few things that you should definitely consider when developing any direct mail program. These are things that you should keep in mind if you’re creating and sending in-house, as well as the things that you should ask your agency and print shop if you’re having a professional do it.

It’s easy to come up with a concept, print it out, address the pieces and drop them in the mail. It’s a totally different game to make sure you know who you’re sending it to, where the mailer goes, and whether they responded or not.

Who Are You Sending it to?

This is the first step: You need to know your target audience. You need to know details about them, such as their tastes, personality traits, income level, shopping habits, and a slew of other fields relevant to your product or service. If you do this part right, you have identified your target demographic. For a business, it is important to also consider issues affecting their industry and the dynamics that drive consumers to them, who they currently use services competing with yours and size of their company.

Next, are you specifically targeting the CEO, the Marketing Director, the Sales Manager, or franchisees? Obviously, each one has a different mindset, daily routine and level of responsibility. How you communicate with them will differ greatly from position to position.

Once you answer those initial questions, you can develop the design and messaging of your piece. A direct mail campaign targeted to regular Starbucks customers will differ greatly from a campaign targeted to Home Depot customers. Just like a piece directed to mom-and-pop operations will differ from one directed to Fortune 500 companies.

A little research will tell the tale. This research can be discovered through a survey(s), inherent knowledge of customers from doing business with them every day or from professional expertise. The point is, to have any hope of success, you need to know who they are, not just think you know. A title of a book we like to quote around here says, “Hope Is Not A Strategy.” (We did not actually read said book. The title says it all.)

Where Does It Go?

Aside from understanding as much detail as you can discover about your target demograhic, once you know the audience, you need to know what name and address to put on the piece. This seems pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how many companies look at a map or business directory and eyeball it for five minutes and then buy a list from a not-very-legitimate source. Your mailing list will be one of your largest expenses when executing a direct mail program. So you better get it right. (Traditionally we use existing client lists of their existing customers. We do not purchase lists.)

Depending on whether it’s going to the CEO or to a franchisee – or anyone in between – will affect where the piece is delivered. Simply addressed to “Director of Marketing, ABC Inc.” has a lower percentage of reaching your target than personalizing, which can increase your chances ten-fold. In some cases, three-dimensional, or “lumpy mail,” is the most effective. That is, sending in a box, die-cut piece or even oversize envelope, UPS or FedEx. But that is an entire blog in its own right.

Take the time to do a little research to make sure you’re targeting the right people in the right position. The extra effort can pay huge dividends for the effectiveness of your campaign.

Did They Respond?

Fine. You designed a strategic piece that delivers your message in a concise, attractive way to your target audience. As a bonus, you wasted very little by ensuring you had a valid mailing list. But then what? Did you get an uptick in business? If so, did those people come in because of your mailer? If you said, “I think so,” you made a mistake. You NEED to know. It is imperative to track your mailings. What if your business went down, but you can verify through tracking that you actually brought in new customers because of your mailer? You obviously had a successful mailer, but something is running your customers off once they do business with you. Tracking codes (numbers, letters or, better yet, QR codes), offers, unique phone numbers, unique website landing pages – all allow you to verify how much traffic to your site, or through your door, resulted from your direct mail campaign. Then you can start that Return-on-Investment process for a cost-benefit analysis. In other words, was it worth the cost? How much did each respondent cost you? How much did each lead cost you? Most importantly, how much did each new conversion cost you? That is the true measurement of any campaign.

See? It’s not as easy as the deceptively simple name “direct mail” implies. But it is very easy to waste a lot of money on direct mail. Think of all the pieces you throw away every day when you check your mail. If you do your research on your target audience and who they are, what they want, then follow up with a way to track your mailing, you’ll waste less money and possibly see a larger return on investment.

At bk, we have literally sent millions and millions of direct mail campaigns in complicated matrices by zip code, respondent action, etc. Usually direct mail is just one component of an integrated campaign. In each case, we ensure we have as much success as possible by doing as much research and planning up front as possible. We don’t want to waste one stamp. Ever. You should do the same with your campaigning.

Remember the book: Hope Is Not A Strategy!