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.

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!

800 Number Management For Direct Response Marketing (AKA Toll Free Number Management)

800 Number Management has numerous related titles such as TFN Management, Dialed Name Identification Service Management (D.N.I.S.) and even Toll Free Number Management. For the sake of simplicity, and sanity, this article will use the term 800 Number Management, despite the numerous different references to the actual meaning behind the term.

When it comes to 800 Numbers the primary reason for having one is to sell a product or service or to make it convenient for an existing customer to receive service of a product or service. Hopefully, their purchase originated from you and your company. If you provide exceptional service to your existing customers, one method is to use an 800 Number to provide support services, with a bit of luck more additional products and/or services will be purchased.

The bottom line purpose for having 800 Numbers is to sell more products or services and to maximize the marketing results. However there is always an issue with having a bank of 800 Numbers or running multiple call centers and that problem is the management.

A company accumulates 800 Numbers because the C.M.O. wants to link the company’s marketing campaigns for every product, for every creative, for every offer, etc., to a unique 800 Number. So every variation requires a different and unique 800 Number. Then the C.M.O. wants to see which combination of product, creative, offer, and campaign is driving the most sales. This is called multi-channel marketing. So tracking marketing results via these linkages from marketing across multiple call centers and 800 Numbers to a sale quickly becomes a mind-numbing challenge.

No matter how you look at the problem, it requires smart executives to think more, spend more time and invest more money to get it right! Not to mention productive collaboration between the C.I.O., C.F.O., and C.M.O. Unfortunately, even the largest multi-national and national direct response companies don’t have this process down right.

A few marketing work-flow issues that must first be thought through are:

– Have standards been established for data collection and is there a mechanism to find, isolate and correct data issues as they arise?

– Are the people working in marketing, the call centers and the web group in possession of the commensurate technical knowledge? Do they have the insightful diligence to ask for the right information; in the right format; from their vendors?

– Is there a central repository, unique to marketing, for all historical information and data; from all vendors; across all marketing initiatives?

– Have we established a reporting infrastructure that can link calls (response), orders (sales) and other outcomes (disposition codes) to the specific marketing campaign that drove them?

I have talked to a lot of companies who use individual vanity 800 Numbers for each of their campaigns. The top two problems every company and ad agency have are:

1) They have a manual process of assigning, segregating and linking their 800 Number to an individual campaigns, offers and creative. Why, you maybe wondering? All but a handful of companies have a manual process for aggregating and linking. These manual processes open the door to huge probabilities for data errors.

2) A C.M.O. is forced or inadvertently funnels all their campaigns to one 800 Number, following a branding strategy, thus making it impossible to identify which campaign, offer or creative is the one real driving force behind the response and the sales revenue generation. This is called campaign overlapping and it is not pretty. One company is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in attribution modeling to statisticians in India, when the problem can easily be solved for as little as $500/month.

Summary of the Solution:

The ultimate goal of an 800 Number Management system is to be able to effectively use the 800 Numbers and their associated Dialed Name Identification Service as a mechanism to quickly, easily and cogently link or tie marketing activity directly to sales. Creating such a relationship is critical to measuring return on marketing investment. Having a direct, systematic, and automated link between everything marketing produces and touches with all response channels, such as: retail outlets, telesales and the web-group eliminates every hard-metric a marketing department has. Having an automated marketing work-flow process in place also provides an opportunity to achieve maximum marketing efficiency! Notice I said “opportunity,” the overwhelming majority of companies can’t even fantasize about such a system, let alone imagine implementing one.

The first step, and it is a solid one, would be to implement an 800 Number Management system, most companies don’t have a mechanism that seamlessly manages 800 Numbers, and associated Dialed Name Identification Service. The system must also be able to communicate and track every change, modification (and who initiated such edits,) and this information must be captured accurately and consistently. It must also be able to prompt action such as disseminating request, allocation and usage information. All of the aforementioned functionality is critically important to the success of any direct response marketing organization.

Additional bolt-on modules or having the flexibility to expand functionality in order to accommodate growth is also critical, such growth oriented functionality would be: forecasting, bucketing tracking tags by product, campaign, marketing group, agency, etc.; assignment of appropriate skill sets to specific call center personnel, and staff level balancing. The more sophisticated organizations will want to measure call center productivity over time periods (e.g. week over week) as well as marketing campaign performance at a granular level.

The Benefits of an 800 Number Management system for Telesales:

1) A centralized location to easily manage and track Dialed Name Identification Service across vendors, programs, skill sets and campaigns.

2) An apples to apples comparison of vendors that field calls for the same 800 Numbers and the associated marketing campaign.

3) Ability to bucket 800 Numbers to be used by the marketing organization to ensure seamless assignment and use of 800 Numbers across campaigns.

4) More accurate and timely forecasts based on marketing activities.

5) The ability to split out call volume by day when an unexpected Dialed Name Identification Service receives calls from multiple campaigns.

6) A simple to use interface that allows modifications to historic data, including splits of existing data across Dialed Name Identification Service, the ability to add new information, and deletion of data that may result from overflow that occurs, for example: when a trunk fails at a call center the overflow calls need to be reallocated to in order to provide accurate reporting.

The Benefits of an 800 Number Management system for Marketers:

1) 800 Number / Dialed Name Identification Service Management is one viable option for addressing direct response marketing professionals needs, however only a hand full of companies understand the real needs of marketing.

2) A centralized location to track and assign 800 Numbers to Dialed Name Identification Servic across programs and campaigns.

3) Elimination of unwanted re-use of 800 Numbers across multiple campaigns simultaneously.

4) Historical tracking of 800 Numbers as well as a mechanism to plan future use and assignment of 800 Numbers.

5) Link Campaign results to the campaigns that drove them (Direct Mail, Direct Response – Promo TV, Radio, Circulars.)

6) Systematically manage the assignment of 800 Numbers to campaigns based on business rules of your choosing.