Direct Mail Postcards Work

Direct mail is the most powerful advertising medium available returning on average thirteen dollars for every dollar invested (Direct Marketing Association). It is an essential tool for every business, association, and non-profit. However, it can also be a waste of time and money if the campaign is not properly targeted and the proper direct mail package is not used.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on elaborate and expensive marketing campaigns. You probably know this from examining your own mailbox. However, much of this mail goes unopened. It is instantly tagged “junk mail” and filed accordingly – in the trash bin.

How do you cut through this clutter and compete without breaking the bank? Postcards are a powerful tool that can help you break-through to your best prospects. They are fast, they are inexpensive, and when used properly, they are extremely effective!

Here are some simple tips to make postcards work for you.

Target the right audience. The world’s best offer will produce zero results when directed to the wrong recipient. Understand who your best customers are. Understand what they have in common. Then use this profile to identify your best prospects. Zairmail provides an online tool for creating mailing lists based on demographic profiles.

Get right to the point. Have a simple and powerful offer. With just a glance, the recipient should be able tell if your offer is worth considering. Proposals that cut straight to the chase are always appreciated.

Make contact simple. Be clear about the action you are requesting. Do you want your customer to visit your store, send a donation, navigate to your Web site, or pass the message along to a friend? Ask for the response you want.

o Make sure your contact information really stands out. Use colors, fonts, and placement to make sure that this information is impossible to overlook.

o Open many channels of communication. Include your telephone number, Fax number, email address, Web site URL (as appropriate). Different recipients often prefer different methods of making contact. Allow your customers to reach you in the way that feels most comfortable for them.

o Reach out to your customer. Follow-up calls to recipients can often double response rates.
Make it memorable. Creative postcards get past gatekeepers and reach their mark. Great postcards also have staying power – sometimes they will end up on a refrigerator door or a bulletin board for years.

o Use a compelling headline that spells out the benefits you’re offering.

o Make the design look like something other than an ad. Make your postcard interesting, scenic, funny, or touching. Give your customers a reason to spend more time considering it.

- Put some useful information on your postcard. For example, if you are a computer repair person you can include a list of 10 basic computer maintenance tips; if you’re a landscaper you may want to tell recipients what they should have in their garden this time of year; if you’re a banker you may want to consider some saving or investment advice. These types of postcards are saved.

- Funny can work well – but make sure the joke isn’t on you. There is no point in making recipients chuckle if they don’t notice your message.

o Use every inch of space effectively. Distill your ideas to a core message and select a powerful image that supports it. Zairmail has pre-formatted templates online that can be used as a convenient starting point.

o Offer something of value for free (e.g. a helpful video, audiotape, or industry report). These types of offers get immediate attention. However, make sure that your giveaway is most valuable to those who are likely to be your customers.

Postcards offer businesses, associations, and non-profits the ability to scoot around competitive giants and put points on the board. When used correctly postcards can be the most powerful tool in your marketing toolbox.

Happy Selling!

Making Direct Mail Work for Small Businesses

If you own a small business, then you know the value of affordable and effective marketing. Unfortunately, many traditional and online advertising methods are becoming quite expensive. This article will explain direct mail guidelines and methods.

Direct mail is an often over-looked method that can be very effective if executed properly. There are three guidelines to follow when conducting an effective direct mail campaign:

1. Catch the reader’s attention immediately. You only have a few seconds to do this before your mail ad is thrown away as junk mail. Therefore, opt for postcard mailings instead of sending your offers in an envelope. If your business is relatively small and unheard-of, the reader will never open it unless your company’s name is familiar to the reader. Envelope advertising is cheaper than postcard advertising, but is only effective if you have already built up name recognition.

When using the postcard method, you will need to be able to print images on the card. I highly, highly recommend investing in a quality home photographic printer. You will end up saving money in the long-term, and your printer will be right where you need it whenever you need it. Whenever you have materials printed professionaly, you pay for labour, expensive inks, and expensive equipment.

When searching for images to print on your postcards, remember the the point of this first guideline: catch your reader’s attention. Of course you don’t want an offensive image for your cards, but you do want one that is slighly “controversial”. When choosing images for your cards, ask yourself these questions:

Does it stand out among the rest?

Does it contain bold colors (but isn’t an eye-sore)?

Does the image relate to my business or current offers in some way?

Does the image request user interaction? (ex. a face staring directly at the reader, someone pointing at the reader, etc.)

Does the image have enough white-space for some large text?

2. Offer the reader an incentive for responding. Unless the reader is and has been genuinely interested in your services/productsfor a period of time before receiving your postcard ad, they will never repspond unless you offer some sort of incentive. For instance, you postcard could also serve as a coupon; tell you reader to bring in that post card for a discount. Also, you could use the postcard ad as an announcment for a storewide sale. Be creative when offering incentives to your readers.

Be sure to make your incentive very visible on the postcard. Let’s say, for example, your postcard is also serving as a coupon for 20% on your products/services. Print that “20% off” in large text with the image, along with your product type, such as “20% all dog beds”. Then, on the other side of the card, usually with the recipient’s address, print the discount again with any terms that may apply.

3. Target your readers. The best way to waste advertising money is by sending your direct mail to random people, paying no attention to whether they would actually buy something from you. This is much easier when dealing with business-to-business advertising. When it comes to consumers, find out their interests is a little difficult.

Test out the waters first. A good place to try first is InfoUSA. They sell mailing lists of consumers and businesses and may provide targeted consumer lists. You may be able to create interest in someone who has never heard of your products before, but when you are starting a new direct mail campaign and you have a very small budget, keep your list targeted. You don’t want to try to sell a web site to a business that already has one, or try to sell a dog bed to someone who only keeps cats.

I hope this article has given you some ideas on making your next direct mail advertising campaign more successful.

Three Things to Consider Before Hiring That Marketing Person

First, what does the position entail? “Marketing”, after all, means different things in different companies. To some firms the Marketing done entails identifying new markets, driving new product development, fielding market communication campaigns, then directing and motivating the sales force. Clearly, they envision a senior executive who would be very near the top of the organization..

At the other extreme, to other companies a “Marketing” person is someone who turns out ads, catalogs, brochures, flyers and so on and do it in-house. That’s what “Marketing Manager” means to these companies.

For most companies the “marketing person” needed is less than senior executive and more than a graphics designer. If your company is in this middle category then you need to consider these questions:

1. Is the marketing need long term and ongoing? Is there a regular monthly workload and will it continue at least two years? Too many companies hire someone to tackle a “huge” volume of work only to see it completed within a year. Then they have to find more for the new hire to do or let them go. Here are a couple of hints;

A. Plot all past marketing projects. When were they completed? If you don’t see an ongoing, steady output of marketing projects, chances are that you don’t need that marketing person.

B. Don’t hire someone just to save on agency or graphic designer costs. When outsiders aren’t working for you, they don’t cost you a thing. Salaries, on the other hand, are a fixed expense.

2. How will you recognize and avoid B- or C grade marketing? You want marketing that will boost sales and rock the competition but what if the new marketing person’s proposals don’t “wow” you? Do you run with them anyhow and hope for the best? Consider this:

A. “Creativity” isn’t all there is marketing. Successful marketing is always based on an insightful marketing strategy. The marketing manager must have both the education and real-world marketing experience to not only understand the strategy but to contribute to its development.. And those credentials don’t come cheap.

B. Creativity is required to implement the strategy but it must not only be attention-getting but must also reflect well on the product and on the company. Mediocre or “cute” creative can blunt the impact of the strategy. That’s why marketers want to see three or more distinct creative approaches.Will you be able to recruit —and afford—that creative a marketing manager?

C. Even creativity should be judged in a business-like manner. Younger, novice marketing managers may not take criticism, let alone rejection, of their pet ideas well. How to spot them? Go through a candidate’s samples and quiz them on why they chose a particular direction. Look for answers that refer to results not design theories. If they seem defensive, you can look forward to hurt feelings and sulking.

3. What if you hire the wrong candidate? In companies that haven’t a good-sized marketing department, there is no one to take up the slack when the marketing person is out, on vacation, or let go. Moreover, marketing people usually interact with only one or two others who are in a position to judge how well they’re doing. That’s why when that marketing person is let go, the reasons are usually not obvious to their co-workers. This uncertainty can affect employee morale. Hints? There aren’t any. Just don’t hire the wrong person.

At the start I wrote ” the bad news is that there are other reasons why adding to your staff may not be best for your company.” Well, the good news is that you can get the marketing you need without a marketing manager.

I’m not proposing that you simply go back to the ad agencies or designers you relied on before you considered hiring a marketing managers. Apply the same business acumen that you employ in the rest of your operations. While marketing services are far from being a commodity, shopping around for the right one… or ones… is easy in these internet days. And, yes, I did write “ones.” Let me explain.

A lot of companies do the same things they did all along because they thought that there were no choices. They’d hire one ad agency. They’d sign a contract. And, believe it or not, some paid a monthly retainer! Wake up, pal! You’re the Customer! You get to call the shots!

Why not hire the marketing expertise you need when you need it? Need a product launch plan? Hire someone who’s done it over and over again. Pay them then say “adios.”

Need a corporate identity campaign? Hire someone to get you that recognition then recognize that, once the mission is accomplished, you no longer need that someone.

Consider this radical idea in terms of the three questions we covered before.

1. Is the marketing need long term and ongoing? It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve settled on the price you can “employ” an outside consultant or agency for a month or a year. Let them go and re-hire them for the next project. What about the cost? Trust me, it’ll always be far cheaper than paying a salary, benefits, and for endless hours of web-surfing.

2. How will you recognize and avoid B- or C grade marketing? Simple. If you don’t like what they bring you, you don’t pay. You send them “back to the drawing board.” No more worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. No more putting up with missed deadlines. You’re the Customer not the Boss. And everyone in sales knows that customers are more demanding than any boss.

3. What if you hire the wrong candidate? Fire a consultant or an agency and not one of your people will care. Best of all, you can hire a replacement before the original is out the door. In fact, you can have more than one agency or marketing mercenary working for you at the same time. The secret? You don’t give anyone your account. You give them a project.

So before you fill that Marketing Manager position, ask yourself ” Why not hire a “temp” first?”

Richard Koranda has driven creative strategies for American Express, Bank of America, CitiCard, Visa, Dreyfus, and Diners Club. His work earned over 60 industry awards for response and creativity. He was also responsible for the highly successful repositioning of Visa “Visa. Its everywhere you want to be”, which led to the brand dominating the bankcard market.

Previously, he headed up UMarketing LLC as Executive Creative Director serving a broad range of clients including Blue Cross, AMA, KaVo Dental America, Blockbuster Music, MicroTek, and Diners Club International, Chase, US Bank, BMO Harris Bank.