Creating a successful direct mail campaign can be a complicated process. There are many factors to be considered that can affect the success of your mail piece. So, before you lock yourself in your basement office and sit down with your favorite piece of outdated “layout” software, here are 5 key points to consider.

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1. Communicate a Clear Message.

At some point, we have all heard the old adage, “you can’t be everything to everyone.” So often, I have clients that want to pack their direct mail promotions with multiple messages in fear that if they focus on just one message, they may lose out on prospects who do not identify with it. This is a valid fear. Every business owner wants their direct mail promotion to appeal to as many new prospects as possible, but when a promotion contains multiple messages, what you are often left with is an ineffective piece that does not communicate any points clearly. In addition, overloading your mailer with too many messages can be overwhelming to the reader.

Do not for one second fool yourself into believing that your business is so darn interesting that people who receive your direct mail piece will rejoice and say, “Hey, what a great company! Man, I would like to take some time out of my day and read about these guys!” If that is your perception about how prospects respond to a direct mail piece, then brother, you are lost. Throughout the day, people are bombarded by advertising. Messages come in from every direction and from multiple media outlets. The goal for your Direct Mail Piece should be to cut through the clutter and give the prospect a comfortable place to land, even if only for a few seconds.

So how do you choose a message that won’t greatly limit your ability to appeal to a mass audience? Well, the first step is to know the needs and wants of your client base. If you are a health club, and you are sending out a fall seasonal mailer, what would appeal to your new prospects? What are they going through currently in their daily lives and what void can your company fill? In the fall, family schedules are back in full gear, kids are back to school, and change is in the air. So, if you are in an area with a large middle class, perhaps you do mailer focused on women with the theme of “Now you have the time to get fit”, or “Now you have the time to make a change.”

Perhaps you own a small Karate Studio and you want to send out a mailer in January. Then you need to understand that the New Year is when adults have an overwhelming urge to lose weight and improve their fitness. So that is the perfect time to send the message that your studio is “A one-stop shop where adults and kids can get in shape.”

Choose a message that is current and appropriate for the time you are sending the mailer out and for the core market that you are trying to reach. The key is, once the main theme has been established, and the prospect now interested, then you can begin to communicate some of your additional benefits and amenities without bastardizing the original theme and message.

 

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2. Show an Achievable Goal.

I love it when people state over and over again that they are “visual.”  What they are really saying is that they are visually lazy and only like to read what they are interested in. Don’t get mad, it’s okay. Most of us are like that. I’ll admit that I certainly fall under the category of being “very visual.”  So, if the bulk of our population is becoming more and more “visual,” then how do we get prospects to pick up and read a direct mail piece? By doing something that has appealed to all of us since we were very young: show lots of pretty pictures.

Okay, so it’s not THAT simple. You can’t just slap pretty pictures on a mail piece and expect your phone to start ringing. There is an art and a strategy to choosing the right “pretty pictures.” If you are a health club, I would not advise plastering a bunch of hot bodies and meatheads all over your card for the same reason that I would not recommend that a martial arts studio feature photos of a middle aged Grand Master doing a mid-air, roundhouse kick while holding a sword. Pictures like this demonstrate the extreme result of using your service, which is a realistic goal for only a very small percentage of anyone that may be interested in your company.

New prospects want to see “the achievable goal.”  They want to see a life that is better than the one they are currently living, but also one that is realistically attainable without too much hard work or sacrifice. So if you are a health club, use pictures that show healthy people living a happy, healthy lifestyle. If you are martial arts school, show pictures of healthy, confident adults and children. Again, it is important to use photos that show people living the life that realistically appeals to your target audience.

Be sure to use high quality photos. The stock photography industry has come a long way over past 5 years. Stock photos are now more affordable, and there is a greater variety for you to choose from. Stock photos are a great solution for the main imagery on your direct mail piece. By and large, stock photos are taken by professional photographers, who understand the craft and importance of the visual composition and proper usage of lighting. If you are a health club or any small business, I also recommend including photos of your actual place of business, but only if they are of high quality. Grainy or blurry photos with bad lighting will only be a turn off and will not present your business in a positive way.

 

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3. Show the Value!

Picking the correct offer to put on a direct mail piece can be tricky. In most markets, your business already has or will have many other competitors offering the same or similar services. In a competitive market, prospects are increasingly conditioned to look for the best value. We live in a price-focused world. Everyone is out to get the best deal.  “What’s in it for me, and why should I choose you guys?” Those are the questions on a prospect’s mind. The obvious solution for many is to discount their price and become the cheaper option. This solution often works in the short term to get the phone ringing, but heavy discounting can be a slippery slope. Heavy discounting will not only cut your profits, but could have other harmful effects, including negatively affecting the customer’s perception of your product or service.

Whatever offer you choose, it is important to demonstrate its real value. This goes beyond simply pointing out that you are now offering a “$50 Savings.” Demonstrating value also means that you communicate the real benefits of your services. Leverage on what makes you different and better than the competition. These are points that stick with and make sense to consumers. Any discount on top of the fact that you are already a better fit for the prospect is only icing on the cake.

 

4. Create a Sense of Urgency.

If you have followed steps 1-3, chances are that you have peaked the interest of more than a few possible new prospects. Now that you have their interest, it is important to urge them to pick up the phone, or send an email, or visit your website RIGHT NOW! Not later, not tomorrow, not after they finish watching a documentary on the migrating habits of Galapagos Penguins… RIGHT NOW!

Once again, this is not as easy as just mindlessly plastering “SAVE NOW” all over your card. You can include often over used terms such as “Act Now!” or “For A Limited Time Only,” but you must give them the answer to the question, “why?” Why should I “Call Today?” Because this is an exclusive offer limited to the first 50 callers. Why is this offer for a “Limited Time Only?” Because memberships are selling fast and you are the most prestigious health club in town.

 

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5. Direct Prospects to your Communication Touch Points.

The term Touch points has a few definitions. What I am referring to are all of the points at which customers/prospects interact with your company. These include your website, social media, telephone answering service, and the walk-in customer experience. All of these touch points are important tools in bringing in new prospects.

In the design of your direct mail piece, make sure that your points of contact are clear and readable. Obviously, you do not want a new prospect to have to search for a way to contact your company.  That’s really groundbreaking stuff, right? Okay, not really, but consider this: have you mapped out how each one of your points of contact harmoniously interact together to funnel new prospects down the path of becoming new members? Also, have you thought about the importance of each one these touch points in the design hierarchy?

To maximize your response from a direct mail campaign, it is important to optimize and coordinate all of your points of contact to ensure a consistent customer experience and to efficiently move new prospects on through the sales funnel. For example, if your mail piece is designed to have an open, friendly, lifestyle feel to it, and your website URL is displayed on the mail piece as one of your points of contact, then make sure that your website reflects the same look and feel that is communicated on the mailer. Anything else can confuse the prospect about your brand. It’s not rocket science. Coordinate each touch point so that they all work together to further your promotion. This goes for your social marketing, phones, and the walk-in experience as well.

Do not prominently display your social networking points of contact if they are not coordinated and reflecting your brand’s current promotion. I often have clients ask me to include their social networks on their cards because it makes them look “hip” and “modern,” but if anyone were to visit one of those points of contact, they would find very little activity and very little information that promotes the brand. This does not mean that you should regurgitate your promotion onto your social networks; rather you should be creative with your content. For instance, if a health club sends out a direct mail piece with a discounted offer for everyone who joins in the New Year, don’t simply plaster that offer and card on your Facebook page. The truth is, you may not want current members to know that the offer exists. Instead, post information about your “New Years Member Drive” and all of the benefits of joining.

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Follows these five steps and you should see increased response on your direct mail promotions. Of course, there are many other facets that can also affect the success of a promotion, so be sure to discuss your ideas with a professional before diving into a large direct mail campaign. Trust the experts. You may know your business, but direct mail professionals see on a daily basis what is working and what is not working in the industry, so be open minded. The more dialog and planning you have before launching your promotion, the more successful it will be.