Business Direct Marketing – Top 10 Must Do’s For a Successful Program

Let’s face it. Companies spend a big portion of their budgets on print and online advertising. And, we all know that we still get a bunch of “junk” mail. Why? Because it works. While inventing new ways to market your business can sometimes pay off, let’s make sure we do not drop the ball and overlook the ground rules for direct marketing.

Small business owners can effectively use direct marketing to grow their business and build relationships with their current and prospective clients. But, a poorly executed direct marketing program will hurt you where it counts! Here are a few tips to give you a great shot at putting together a successful direct marketing campaign.

1. Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Create a marketing plan. Set goals for your direct marketing effort and put it in writing. Share it with key employees and have clear-cut objectives that reflect your marketing research and intuition.

2. Get “personal” with your target audience. Sending a marketing letter to “The Manager” is the best way to get your message ignored and thrown directly into the garbage or virtual trash. Get personal by using and creating marketing databases that have detailed information on the businesses you are trying to reach. Do not be afraid to use this information in your message. This conveys to the recipient that you have done your homework and have a value offering that relates to their business.

3. Test before rolling out your promotion. You have done your research, crafted the look and content of your sales message, and prepared your database. That is a lot of work done to get to that point but do not waste your time and efforts by sending your message out to your list without testing it first. Take a smaller nth name test from your database to see the response to your message. Get a feel for turnaround times, inquiries and general receptiveness to your offer. If you like the reaction, roll it out. If not, change something and test again until you get an acceptable response.

4. Include a “call to action” in your message. Putting your address or phone number is not enough. Stay away from creating open-ended offerings. Reinforce your compelling sales message by telling the recipient of your marketing letter exactly what to do and when.

5. Consider a multiple step direct marketing strategy. With the investment of time and money, it is easy to understand why small business marketers want to make the sale on the first pass of a marketing effort. The ability to do that will depend on your product or service offerings. But, two-step direct marketing has some valuable upsides. It allows you to collect a larger pool of potential customers and build a relationship with this market. In many instances, it provides an opportunity to increase the unit sale and introduce additional products and services.

6. Be a Copycat. Do not resist what is working in your market. Understand what your competitors are doing to get business. Pay special attention to what the market leaders are doing and what promotions are repeated. Other companies have done their market research and testing and, sometimes, you can benefit from their investment by implementing a similar strategy.

7. Follow up with a vengeance. Do not let your direct marketing effort fizzle on the back end. Just like in sales, the weakest link is usually in the follow-up.

8. Perceptions are important. We all want to work with quality people. We all want to deal with quality companies. Make sure your message does not make claims you cannot back up or seems deceptive in any way.

9. Niche out your products and services. Packaging a product or service for a particular group can sell more of your business offerings than if you tried to sell to a general market. If you are a specialized business already, look for sub-markets to sell to. It is more work for sure but, you may find a gold mine. Following tip #2, people respond positively to messages that they can relate to.

10. Make sure you analyze your results. You can easily tell if a direct marketing effort was successful in generating sales. But, be sure you note the qualities of both the positive and negative responses because you can miss valuable sales and marketing information if you do not. Things such as response times, geographical disbursement, respondent job titles, inquiries that turn into sales, and actual client feedback, can help you roll out a more effective direct marketing campaign next time around.

Okay, here is one more bonus tip for you. Make your sales message compelling. Be creative and use your instincts. Remember, every sentence you put on your marketing piece should have a purpose. Leave out extraneous information and be clear with your sales message. Now, go ahead and use these tips, along with your business savvy, to form a successful direct marketing program.

More Direct Mail For Less Time and Money

By choosing to use Zairmail to launch your direct mail campaigns you are already saving time and money. However, there are other steps mailers can take to get even more value for their direct marketing dollar.1. CLEAN MAILING LISTSWhether using a customer list or a list of prospective customers, it is important to make sure that addresses are accurate and deliverable. Accurate lists insure the highest possible delivery rate and speed delivery time. Mailing lists that are kept in electronic form can easily be updated for accuracy by scanning through manually or using an inexpensive off-the-shelf software. Incorporate these mail file hygiene practices:Keep address records up to date. Promptly incorporate change-of-address information on customers for recent moves. Save returned mail and delete the records associated with these addresses. Use the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) capability as needed.Remember to remove duplicates. This is especially important when merging two or more lists from different sources.
Maintain USPS postal standard addresses using postal geocodes, ZIP Codes, ZIP+4′s, and Carrier Routes. Employ the USPS Delivery Sequence File (DSF) service to confirm the existence of a delivery address. Zairmail automatically cleans lists uploaded using Zairmail Express Direct.2. REDESIGN MAIL TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RATE AND OTHER CHANGESWith any change in postal rules and rates comes a need to re-evaluate mail design for the rate categories in which a company mails. Assure that the shape and weight do not require additional charges. Design mail pieces with enough flexibility to maximize possible postal savings while enhancing postal delivery performance. This requires knowledge of the rate & rule changes and where new opportunities may exist for optimal savings.All postcard and letter templates featured on the Zairmail Express Direct site are optimized for maximum savings.3. TARGET MAIL, A MUST FOR TODAY’S DIRECT MAILPut the right offer, in the hands of the right prospect, and sales will grow. Put the wrong offer, in the hands of the wrong prospect, and the only thing that will grow is mailing costs!Be sure that the offer matches the recipients (e.g. don’t mail a steakhouse coupon to a vegetarian). Know who your customers are and target those with similar demographic characteristics. Use smaller mailings at first to sample the market you wish to reach. Have a compelling offer and a call to action. Test and measure each mailing’s performance to fine tune the message and offer.Consider using “Or Current Resident” addressing when targeting addresses; if a prospect has moved, the new resident may fit the current best-customer profile.Personalize mailings for the recipient – response rates can increase up to 50% on personalized offers. Test and develop different versions of mail pieces to distinct segments within an audience. For prospects and less profitable customer segments, employ smaller, more limited mail pieces than those mailed to the most profitable customers. And if you are mailing your current customers, let them understand that you recognize the value of their business.4. BE COMPATIBLE WITH POSTAL PROCESSING EQUIPMENTMake sure the design of mail pieces facilitates easy postal processing so that problems with automated equipment are avoided. For example, some types of copy formats and fonts are difficult for automated postal equipment to read, or make it difficult to identify a return address. Avoiding these snags eliminates the increasing occurrence of “loop” mail — mail sent to the return address because postal automation equipment read it as the “delivery” address.When using windowed envelopes, assure that the windows are large enough, and the address is placement on the letter is correct, so that the delivery address is always visible. Use the “tap test” of tapping or shaking the envelope to simulate mail handling and see where the address appears in the window.Avoid design and placement of information in postal requested “clear zones” on the face of mail pieces reserved for postal use. Request the advice of mail preparation and postal experts when designing mail to maximize “mail deliverability” without compromising marketing benefit. The local Business Mail Specialist at the USPS can often provide advice for free. Automated processing makes strict adherence to postal rules and guidelines imperative. Failure to do so may result in loss of postage discounts, a potential drain on marketing budgets.Of course, standard letter and postcard formats available from Zairmail conform to postal rules to assure speedy problem-free delivery.5. PARTNER WITH POSTAL CONTACTSCommunicate with the USPS in advance about large mailing events. Describe the purpose of an upcoming mail piece, expected mail “drop” dates at a USPS facility, the target delivery date, and other pertinent mail delivery needs. Use preferred USPS partners and vendors, many of whom have established long trusting relationships with the postal service.6. TRACK THE PROGRESS OF ALL MAILINGSMarketers often keep track of response rates, but it is also important to track the progress of a mailing through production and delivery. Record the date mail is produced, when it is mailed, and when it is delivered. One common technique is to “seed” mailing lists (e.g. add the name of the sender and/or other trusted recipients). When the seeds arrive verify production quality and delivery time.Other advanced services, such as the new USPS PLANET CODE Destination Confirm service, WEB ADVANCE and other USPS or privately-offered mail monitoring services, can also be helpful for larger mailers.7. OUTSOURCE EXPERTISE WHEN NECESSARYThe most effective marketing campaigns take all these factors into account. Yet, having all the expertise in-house is rare – especially for small business. Select mailing partners with fully integrated systems and knowledge that compliments what you already have available to you. When in doubt, give Zairmail a call, we are here to help. We are “Your Special Delivery.”

Real Estate Postcard Marketing – 6 Secret Ingredients for Success

Remember a few years back when all the fast food chains crowed about their “secret” sauces and ingredients? It sure added some mystique, didn’t it? Nothing improved the flavor of a hamburger or drumstick like good old-fashioned secrecy!

Now let’s transition to postcard marketing, where a similar concept applies. A small percentage of real estate agents have discovered the “secret ingredients” of postcard marketing. As a result, they enjoy huge success each time they conduct a mailing.

Other agents, however, do not enjoy such success. They send postcard after postcard, but, alas, no response. These agents do not know the secret ingredients of postcard marketing success.

Let’s uncover some secrets, shall we?

Postcard Secret #1 — Don’t Rely on Technology

You first need to realize that technology alone won’t lead you to postcard marketing success. If it were that easy, all agents would enjoy record-breaking responses from their mailings.

In fact, technology is the most straightforward part of the equation. A postcard marketing service will handle all of the technology for you. But there’s the rub. Technology can help you deliver a powerful message, but it cannot create that message for you. That’s your job.

Nobody knows your audience or your skills better than you, and nobody cares about your success as much as you do. So the message, and everything that brings it to life, must begin with you.

Postcard Secret #2 — Know Your Audience

When creating your postcard message, start by identifying your audience. This might seem obvious, but it’s a critical step upon which the rest of the process will rest. To identify your core audience, you simply have to ask yourself a series of questions.

What area do I want to represent? Am I focusing on buyers or sellers? Where might I find these people? What’s important to them? What do they want to know? What do I have to offer that might motivate them?

When you’ve answered these questions, you should be able to write a paragraph from the combined answers. This paragraph is your audience statement, and it will help you set your postcard marketing objectives accordingly. Once you’ve defined your audience, you can more easily determine the kinds of offers that might motivate them.

Postcard Secret #3 — Identify the Desired Response

Now that you know your audience (and assuming you’ve done some research to really get to know them) you can set the objective for your postcard campaign. Ask yourself, “What do I want to happen as a result of sending my postcards? What’s the ideal response?”

Here’s the key to this step. Don’t ask your postcards to do more than they’re capable of doing. I see real estate marketers using postcards to try and convince recipients that they offer superior service. That’s a lot to ask of an 8″ x 5″ piece of card stock.

Scale back your objective until you find something that (A) gives the postcard a more realistic task, (B) follows a more natural sales progression, and (C) capitalizes on known behavior.

What’s a good response to aim for? How about a phone call or an email? Now that’s something a postcard can handle, especially if you give people a good reason to contact you (like an insightful report on future construction in your area). And that leads to our next “secret”…

Postcard Secret #4 — Offer Something Great

We know from statistics that most consumers end up choosing the first real estate agent they contact. So you can capitalize on this known behavior by aiming for that critical first contact. This is where your offer comes into play.

The value and relevance of your offer will determine the size of your response. That’s a fundamental principal of postcard marketing that many agents overlook. A postcard without explicit value is a postcard destined for the trash.

Think of it this way. The postcard is only a messenger. A messenger without an important message is worthless. But if the messenger has valuable news or information, everybody wants to hear what he has to say!

Here’s an example. If I lived in a residential area suffering from “commercial creep,” and somebody offered me an exclusive report on future commercial development and how it might impact my home value … I would want that report! And I’d contact anyone to get it.

Postcard Secret #5 — Leverage Your Website

Have a website? If so, you have a perfect marketing partner to complement your postcards. The reasons are somewhat psychological:

The goal of any marketing program is to gain new business, but sometimes you have to offer indirect paths as well as the direct ones. Direct paths are for direct people. A direct path on a postcard would be a phone number. Some interested prospects will choose the direct route and call you straightaway.

But those who are less direct would rather learn more about you first. They need to get comfortable before they “raise their hands.” So why not build an informational resource section of your website and point to it with your postcards?

The point is to offer different response channels for the different personality types. A direct phone number for the direct people, and an indirect website path for the more timid souls. Then mention both paths on your postcards, and you’ve increased your chance for response — be it direct or indirect.

Postcard Secret #6 — Measure Your Success

Make sure you have some way to track the responses you get back from each mailing. This will allow you to compare one postcard message to another to see which one performs better.

First, establish a baseline response based on your first mailing (out of X number of recipients, X responded). Next, try to improve one element of the postcard, such as the offer. You won’t know if it’s truly an improvement until the test is complete, but that’s the whole point.

Lastly, send the new version of your postcard to the same list, the same number of recipients, and with all other things being equal. Track the results as you did before, and compare the two mailings. You’ve just completed a simple A/B test to determine which of two offers is more effective.

You can continue this testing in one of two ways: You can keep putting your winning offer up against new challengers. Or you can move on to other aspects of the mailing, such as the design, headline, list, timeframe, etc. The goal is to have a postcard that combines the best of all elements.

Conclusion

I hope you see now that the “secrets” of postcard marketing success aren’t really secrets at all. They are proven methods that have been used by direct mail marketers for years. And now that you understand them, you have everything you need to create your own postcard marketing success.

* Copyright 2006, PostcardSmart. You may republish this article online if you retain the byline, author’s note and active hyperlinks.