Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooperative Direct Mail Marketing for Small Business

Direct mail is dead... or so people thought. A decade ago companies invested millions in direct mail marketing. As those same companies shifted toward the Web, It looked like direct mail was dead. After all, who would spend $2-$3 per contact when you could e-mail the same person for two or three cents.

However, times have changed. Today when you go to the mailbox instead of a handful of bills and a giant stack of advertisements, you'll find catalogs, birthday cards, and more pieces of mail you enjoy. Even your telephone bill, mortgage and credit card statement are all deliverable online. The mailbox is a much happier place today.

Because your direct mail piece may be one of two instead of one of 20, direct mail is more effective than ever.

Furthermore, the cost of printing, particularly digital printing has come way down. The actual components of your direct mail piece are cheaper now than ever. Finally, fulfillment is cheaper too. Rather than return postage or having operators standing by, your direct mail piece can now drive people to your website. These potential buyers may never have seen you site otherwise.

Even with all those savings, small businesses struggle to justify the expense of a direct-mail campaign. Direct mail isn't for everyone, but here are the factors you should examine.

Frequency -- One of the cardinal rules of direct mail is frequency. We know that a typical consumer doesn't respond until they've seen a mailing piece from a particular company at least three times. It's far better to mail three postcards to 1000 potential customers than one postcard to 3000 potential customers. I recommend my clients try at least three direct mail attempts separated by three or four weeks each before making any judgments about return on investment. Furthermore, for those that see results, I recommend the 12 piece campaign over roughly 6 months.

Professionalism -- Let your market dictate the quality of your mailing piece. Someone promoting handyman services in a small residential area may be able to get away with an inkjet printed flyer. A restaurant should pepper the area with postcards or coupons. A financial services planner needs to look high-class to attract high-class clients. The senior portrait photographer better have lots of high quality photos.

Uniqueness -- Find balance between being unique and being cost effective. Something as simple as a die cut postcard can improve your uniqueness without adding lots of expense.

Recycle -- Today whenever you print marketing materials consider multiple outlets. Can this brochure be mailed, display the other local businesses, included with your product, and used in place of a business card? Create mailing pieces that can be used in more than one place and you can improve the overall benefit compared to the cost of printing.

Smaller Is Better -- When experimenting with direct mail, it's tempting to purchase 5000 brochures instead of 1000 because of the cost per piece. When examining costs look at production, distribution, and breakeven points. Don't print 5000 postcards if you can't afford 5000 stamps too. How many units must you sell a particular product to cover the cost of promotion? Remember, the most expensive printed piece is the one you bought but no one ever saw. Make sure you don't have stacks of old brochures collecting dust or heading to the recycling bin. Once you have a tried and true marketing campaign, then you can multiply the effect by repeating the campaign to a new audience.

The List -- Do you still keep a mailing list of your customers? Is it up-to-date? The only thing worse than than a mailing piece you can't afford to send, is sending it, and having it returned. Your best potential or current customers able to buy more product. Keep your list and keep it clean as possible. Every time you get a postcard or envelope returned, make sure you clean your list. If you don't own a list, there are many for sale, but as you start making sales don't depend on list brokers. Every time you make a sale make sure that your customers continue to get your direct mail pieces.

Cooperative direct mail marketing can be an extremely powerful tool when done correctly.

Often the most expensive cost is postage. Split the cost among half a dozen non-competitive businesses who need to reach the same audience. There are lots of things that new mommies need to buy. Purchase a list and postage, and share it with other companies who need to reach new mothers. Senior citizens, small businesses, and high income individuals are just a few more examples of consumers who buy a variety of goods and services.

By connecting with other businesses who serve your niche, you can increase the impact of your direct mail campaigns while reducing the cost per piece. This is particularly true if each of these companies brings lists of their customers to the table. This kind of information sharing legally can't happen by e-mail, but there's no reason not to exchange postal addresses.

If you like more information about our cooperative mailing opportunities, call Jason Tweed at 215-253-3737 or contact me through my website, www.tweednet.com.
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