Beginners Guide For Selling With DIRECT MAIL

Five people sitting in a conference room discussing marketing their business

Direct mail is a fantastic form of advertising because it can deliver results for all sorts of businesses. Whether you’re big or small, online or offline company, direct mail is flexible enough to fit your needs. You can cheaply cast a wide net, or launch a small batch of super-personalized, sophisticated pamphlets to pamper your biggest customers.

With all the hype of online marketing and the Internet, I find that very few business people talk about direct mail marketing. It seems to me that everyone is frantically trying to learn internet marketing, even though it takes so much effort creating all the different parts and pieces of an Internet campaign.

My favorite airlines—big, large corporations—send me letters every month to remind me how nice a Bahama getaway would be. My dry cleaner—a tiny shop—sends me a personal thank you note to make me feel like they are the only dry cleaner that appreciates me (and they include a few coupons to try to make me get more dry cleaning).

Great for the BOTH the EXPERIENCED and the NOVICE marketer

I wrote that direct mail offers something for everyone; let’s start with the experienced marketer.

The experienced marketer can add direct mail as a new and distinct channel for reaching customers. It complements telemarketing and sales meetings very well, introducing and reminding customers how your services will improve their lives.

Get your name in front of new groups of people that you can’t get through online marketing (which would be the other form of easy mass marketing).

You can choose to blast a massive campaign that covers a huge population with something like the economical postcard.

Or you can create highly targeted and sophisticated brochures and catalogs, tailored to each person’s buying habits and preferences (this is called variable data printing). This sort of marketing is pricier, but it is well worth it for higher open rate (the number of people reading your mailer), and your sell rate (how much you actually sell per campaign).

Direct mail is also great for a first-time, NOVICE advertiser

The process is great for novice advertisers, because the process is so simple:

  • Purchase a leads list: purchase a list of leads of customers likely to buy your product (ex. infoUSA.com)
  • Design a mailer (i.e. postcard, brochure, letter, envelope): we recommend that you consult USPS and a print company to figure out the design dimensions, postage regulations, etc.
  • Mail the pieces: go to your local post office, and they’ll help you mail it
  • Customer receives the mailer: opens it, reads it, and a certain percentage (rule of thumb: 1-5% customers will respond to the average mailer) will follow the action item that you advertise (ex. “come into our store”, or “visit our online store”).

Mail is straightforward to understand, and straightforward to execute. There’s not a lot of fancy lingo involved here.

If you wanted to learn how to do any of these steps, any of the companies I talked about above would be happy to walk you through step-by-step what you need to do to order from them. You don’t have to read any books to get you going.

Now that you know what direct mail is about, here are some tips to keep in mind as you build your direct mail campaign.

Tip #1: Be clear about your “call to action”

Every mailer ought to focus on one “call to action”. Make sure you’re clear on what it is, so that you can measure your success rate. Whether it’s:  “come in to our store”, “call us for a quote”, “follow us on Facebook”, or “order online”, make sure that your call to action is designed to be big, and easy to read.

If you give them a “call to action”, you will greatly increase your chance of them following that suggestion.

Tip #2: Measure your progress

Also, it’s important that you find a trick to track if people performed your call to action. You can buy a cell phone number, create a special website, or a special coupon code that they use.

Tally up the two pieces of data: (1) how many people inquired about your company as a result of the mailer, and (2) which orders actually came in as a result of your direct mail campaign.

The simple question you need to answer is: did the profit from new business pay for the cost of advertising? You were successful if the numbers indicate “yes, this was profitable!”

Tip #3: Start small, improve, repeat often

I can’t emphasize the “start small” piece of advice. New advertisers love to blast the biggest audience possible, even before they’ve tested and tuned their marketing tools and skills.

Start small, because there are so many details you need to figure out. It might take a few tries to find the right type of leads. It might take a few tries to design a great call to action on an effective postcard.

If you’re going to be doing multiple experiments, improving each time, you’ll be making multiple mailings. You should run your repeat experiments on a small—and cheap—batch. You should keep the mailings small, even if it takes you many mailings over a few months.

There’s no reason for scaling up a sub-par campaign! Scale it up only after you’re ready.

Where do I go for advice to refine my direct mail process?

I recommend the book “Duct Tape Marketing”, by John Jantsch. We’ve cited this book in a few other articles because he gives a broad look at the different kinds of marketing and advertising that are well-suited for small and medium-sized businesses. He has an entire chapter that details his direct mail process (Chapter 11, “Direct Mail is an Ideal Target Medium).

If you have any questions, I also recommend that you talk with your printing company. They want you to be successful with your mailing campaign, so they will probably be able to advise you on building a better mailing campaign.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Direct mail lets you dip your toe into the pool, and slowly build up your marketing campaigns as you get more familiar with it. You can get up and running within days, putting your business in front of hundreds—or thousands—of potential customers.

It may take some time and patience to learn and to improve your process, but a steady stream of customers making the cash register ring makes it all worth it!

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