In this digital age when marketing campaigns are increasingly focused on email, pay-per-click campaigns, and social media, there is still a place for direct mail. In fact, millions of businesses send direct mail advertisements to their customers each day because it is such a highly effective way to get in front of targeted audiences.
Although no one can dispute the convenience of email, it’s a fact that people still read their “snail” mail. According to the United States Postal Service, 98 percent of people retrieve their mail daily, and more than three-quarters sort through their mail as soon as they get it. Businesses in every industry, including digital marketing giant Google, continue to use direct mail because of its efficacy and high potential return on investment.
Define Your Target Market and Goals
Unlike TV, radio, and newspapers, all of which offer opportunities for mass advertising, direct mail can be extremely targeted to market to specific potential and existing customers. To reach the right audiences, the secret is having high-quality direct mail marketing lists.
Where to Begin?
It can seem overwhelming to tackle the task of developing a direct mail marketing list, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s an investment that can be used again and again to generate new business or to help you stay top-of-mind with existing customers. The first step is carefully considering who will be interested in what you’re offering. To hone in on exactly who defines your target audience, you’ll want to answer a few important questions.
Are you trying to reach consumers or other businesses?
What do you want to promote?
When and how often do you want your message to go out?
What’s the goal of the direct mail campaign?
Do you have a specific geographic area that you’d like to target?
The answers to these questions will help you identify your audience, goal, and potential sources for obtaining names for your list. Yes, most likely you’ll be acquiring names from a variety of sources, and you should be continuously adding to this list from these sources on a regular basis. Here are some of the primary sources where you can start:
You may already have a robust list of customer names and addresses. Direct mail can be particularly successful when it’s geared to existing customers who are already familiar with your brand. They’ll get a reminder that you’re still there, and they may even pass along your direct mail piece to someone they know.
Have you collected contact information from an open house, trade show, or promotional event? These are warm leads who also have a high likelihood of reading your mailer. Of course, you’ll want to continuously be gathering prospects for both your digital and direct mail campaigns.
Do you know other businesses that offer related or complementary products or services? There may be opportunities to exchange mailing lists. You may even be able to split the cost of a direct mail campaign with a co-branded piece that can be distributed to your combined list.
Your Online Community
If you have active social media channels, it’s likely that you have a valuable community of individuals who may be interested in your mailings. Offer an incentive to those who will visit your website and sign up for mailings.
Buy vs. Rent
Not every direct mail campaign requires the purchase or rental of a list. In many cases, sending out a mailer to prospects and existing customers may be sufficient to achieve desired goals. However, a larger or highly targeted campaign may require more names than you can gather on your own. This is when you may want to consider enlisting the help of a third-party provider. In many cases, you have the option of either purchasing or renting a mailing list for one-time use. Each offers pros and cons.
Renting a Mailing List
In the realm of direct mail marketing lists, rental means that you don’t own the rights to the data you purchased. Typically, the data is purchased for a stated time period and is often just for single use.
The big advantage of renting a mailing list is the cost. It’s the least expensive way to acquire the names and addresses you want. However, the drawback is that you can’t maintain your own list. You are also dependent on the provider’s sources for the accuracy of the information within the list. Yet, a quality provider can be a valuable ally who does the legwork to ensure you are given up-to-date data.
Purchasing a Mailing List
By purchasing a list, you get to use the data however you like and as long as you like. However, you’re also responsible for the upkeep of the list going forward. Some list providers offer updates as part of the purchase agreement while others don’t.
Before investing in either a rented or a purchased direct mail marketing list, it’s a good idea to carefully consider how often you want to send out direct mailers. If it’s often, a purchased list may be the way to go. However, if you’re just testing the water to determine if direct mail is a smart marketing option for your business, it may be better to first test out a rented list. You can always purchase a list at a later date.
For many businesses, they simply don’t want to deal with the hassles of maintaining a purchased list and like the fact that a third party can stay current with data. Costs and convenience are all considerations worth weighing.
Like with other business purchases, you get what you pay for when it comes to direct mail marketing lists. Keep in mind that an unusually inexpensive mailing list is a key indicator of poor quality or outdated names. Unfortunately, not all list owners/brokers are on the up-and-up, and some are not always proactive about keeping the list up-to-date and high quality. To help ensure you get the best list possible, here are some questions to ask list providers:
Where did you acquire the names? Did they result from a previous purchase of a product or service?
Were the names generated from a response requesting additional information or a visit to a website?
Are they names that came from a free offer? (These are likely uninterested prospects)
What other businesses have purchased or rented the list?
Was the list generated from mail responses?
Mailing List Hygiene
Of course, the success of any direct mail campaign hinges on the quality of the mailing list. For lists that are purchased or rented, you’ll want to ensure they are processed through NCOA (National Change of Address) which removes undeliverable addresses from the database by verifying changes in address through the United States Postal Service files.
Your list of customers, prospects, and others that you maintain should also be updated on an ongoing basis and given a complete refresh at least once a year. Approximately 12 percent of Americans move each year, so it is definitely worth the time to update this information. Update addresses and remove names of those who are no longer valid. Having a solid, up-to-date list can save you substantially on printing and mailing costs and deliver the best results from your campaign.
Your direct mail marketing list can be stored in your CRM or even just in an Excel spreadsheet and then uploaded to your marketing solution as needed. Don’t forget to regularly backup your data, too!
A Few More Direct Mail Tips
Add Value. You need to provide your audience with a reason to take the next step once they receive your mailer. Give them an offer like a sale, rebate, or bonus that is unique and substantial enough to provide real value. Also, create a sense of urgency by making it a limited-time offer so you can accurately measure your campaign’s success.
Choose the Right Collateral Type. Carefully consider what your audience is most likely to respond to, whether it’s a brochure, postcard, sales letter, or other type of collateral. Each type has its own set of advantages.
Write Standout Copy. Memorable copy will grab your reader’s interest and encourage them to take the next step. Take extra time to carefully write a headline and a call to action that is related to your specific offer. If you don’t have the time or in-house resources for writing copy, consider hiring a professional copywriter.
Rely on Your Printer. A provider like Xpressdocs can save you a considerable amount of time by providing you with design services and printing, along with the direct mail list and mailing services. With a single solution, you can maximize your direct mail success and save yourself hours of work!
Test the Market. Direct mail is an investment. You may not want to place all of your budget into a campaign before you’ve tested the success rate of a particular market. Consider testing multiple smaller markets to determine where your dollars will be best spent.
Follow-Up. A secondary direct mailer sent as a follow-up or a reminder can yield big dividends. This can be a postcard following a brochure or a sales letter. The more personalized the better!
Although we’re all hyper-connected today via smartphones, tablets, and PCs, the reality is there’s still something special about getting a piece of mail with your name on it. Direct mail isn’t going away. In fact, it may be even more beneficial and can help you stand out from those who have shifted their marketing efforts to exclusively digital. To add an extra boost to your marketing, give direct mail a chance and see just how it can truly help you increase the power of your brand while also boosting your bottom line.