How to use mailing campaigns to supercharge your business.

Husain Sumra profile image March 11, 2021 | 5 min read

Direct mail campaigns are still an excellent way for small businesses to acquire customers. Direct mail campaigns give you the chance to market to customers based on ZIP Code. That means it is easy to market to potential customers living close to your small business. Find out if direct mail campaigns are suitable for your goals and start to plan your first campaigns.

Why direct mail campaigns remain valuable.

With local SEO and online advertising becoming popular, is there still a role for direct mail campaigns? The answer may be yes. Consider some of the following potential benefits that come from using postal marketing campaigns.

  • Focus by Geography. With direct mail, you can pick and choose your potential customers carefully. For example, you can send direct mail to everybody in a ZIP Code. If you only serve customers in the Chicago suburbs, you can market exclusively to them.
  • Pre-qualify Customers. With direct mail, you can partially pre-qualify customers through careful selection. For instance, you can market high-end clothes to people who subscribe to fashion magazines. With this focus, you are more likely to generate a response.
  • Avoid the Email Inbox Spam Folder. You do not have to worry about email providers putting your message in a spam folder with direct mail. Instead, you stand a good chance of getting a letter directly into a customer’s hands.
  • Use Direct Mail to Supplement Online Marketing. Did you know that some online marketing software like Mailchimp lets you send postcard campaigns? If some of your customers ignore your email, sending them a letter gives you another way to attract customer attention. A customer might not receive an email due to spam filters or an outdated email, so sending a letter by mail gives you a chance to market to customers who might be challenging to reach exclusively by online marketing.

Designing your first direct mail campaign.

The following step-by-step plan will help you design your first direct mail campaign. To enhance your results further, consider working with a direct mail expert and a copywriter. You can also create a direct mail campaign on your own. The downside is that planning a direct mail campaign takes time that you could use elsewhere in your business, like making sales calls to your customers.

Set your marketing objective and budget.

Your direct mail campaign will cost money, so you need to have a clear objective before you send a single letter. Some possible objectives might be to encourage people to call your small business and make an appointment. Alternatively, you might promote a special sales event such as a holiday sale like Black Friday or a summer sale.

In general, it is best to focus your direct mail on a specific goal by offering a coupon or invite people to an event. This kind of focused approach makes it easy to track when your direct mail generates positive results.

Describe your ideal customer profile.

Describing your ideal customer is an essential step because not everybody is a good fit for your company’s product or service. For instance, if you offer repair and painting services for high-end luxury cars, you want to focus your campaign on luxury car owners. A direct mail campaign to promote luxury car services to a ZIP Code filled with college students is unlikely to succeed.

To develop an ideal customer profile, answer the following questions:

What is your customer’s typical age?

What is your customer’s family situation (e.g., single, married, a parent)?

What other product or service does your customer typically buy (e.g., you might find that your best buyers of family photography services tend to attend certain private schools)?

Based on your customer files, where do your customers typically live?

If you are unsure about these answers, set aside an afternoon to call up some of your customers and ask them a few questions. Putting the preparation work upfront to clarify your ideal customer profile will help you focus your direct mail options.

Research mailing list options.

Direct mail companies offer you many different ways to build mailing lists. To keep life simple, here are two methods to make a mailing list. First, create a mailing list based on location (e.g., send a postcard to everybody in a specific ZIP Code). Second, rent a mailing list from an organization like NextMark.

Example mailing list:  

Product Offering: Solar energy upgrade accessories for homeowners

Mailing List: Take a list of people interested in solar and home improvement topics, such as the AAA Solar and Home Improvement Services Seekers Mailing List. 

Mailing List Rationale. You might have noticed that 80% of your solar panel customers also purchase home improvement products. Therefore, you decide to run a postcard campaign to the AAA list to see if you can generate more buyers. 

The above mailing list example is only for illustration purposes. For more guidance on direct mail list selection, consider reading “The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign” by Craig Simpson and Dan S. Kennedy.

Create your direct mail promotion.

In this step, you will create your postcard or letter. Start by writing the text (known as “copy” in marketing) first so you can easily edit it. After you are satisfied with the text, use a graphic design program to create a visually appealing direct mail piece.

Send your promotion for printing and mailing.

Contact a few printers and mailing services to request quotes for your direct mail campaigns. Note that some companies may have a minimum order requirement (e.g., a minimum of 1,000 postcards). After you find a printing and mailing service you like, place an order, and get your campaign underway.

Tip: Carefully review the final direct mail piece before it is mailed out.

Also read management mistakes to avoid with remote workers.

Measure the direct mail marketing results.

Measuring your response rate is a critical step in using direct mail. A straightforward way to measure response rates is to request that customers bring the mailing to your small business. Or, ask customers who receive a 10% coupon to tell you the coupon code when they call your company to redeem the offer. Tell your employees to keep track of every postcard and call that comes in. After a few weeks, you can tally all the coupon codes and calculate your response rate. Let’s say that you mailed out 1,000 postcards and 40 customers brought in a postcard and 10 called in with the coupon code when they placed their orders; that campaign would have a 5% response rate.

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