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Using Direct Mail to Build Your Business

By: Alison Daniels - Updated: 23 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Direct mail is one of the most contentious forms of direct marketing. For some people, it’s an environmentally unsound blight, with tons of junk mail going straight to landfill, for others it’s a great way of building your business.

Don’t Expect Too Much

Even the Direct Mail Association (DMA), the industry body, suggests that success rates are low, with an average response rate of just 2.61%. This means that more than 97% of your mailers and, more importantly, 97% of your budget could be going to waste. Direct mail is essentially a numbers game and how it works for your business will depend on the type of business you are looking to gain, the types of customers you have, the frequency and value of their purchases, the attractiveness of your offer and the appeal of the mailer itself. Before committing yourself to a campaign, check out our article on calculating expected response rates to decide if direct mail is right for you.

More Effective than Advertising

Despite the low response rates that direct mail typically offers, it can still be more effective at generating a response and sales than advertising. The DMA suggests an average response rate of 0.15% for print advertising and TV and Radio ads can be of the same magnitude or lower. Where these methods score is where you need to reach a lot of people, as they are best for products and services that many people need, such as food, insurance and consumer goods.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to increase the response rate.

I’ve got a Little List

The key to direct mailing success is to build a good reliable list of named individuals. It is possible to buy lists which are generally up to date, for one off or repeat use. You have a degree of flexibility in narrowing down choices by post code, company size, job title or other factors. This can be a worthwhile purchase if you operate in a very niche market.

You can also build a list yourself. This will take more time, but you have control of the quality and can keep the list up to date.

Add Value

Many pieces of direct mail add value by offering some form of incentive for buyers. This might be a free gift with purchase, extra product, entry into a prize draw or competition, or a discount.

Compelling Copy and Dazzling Design

Producing an attractive, unusual mailer can help raise response levels. It may be worth contracting a freelance writer or designer to enhance your mailer. You can either use short copy, where you have an easy to understand proposition. Many direct mail experts prefer long copy which spans several pages of text. This is often used in the USA, particularly for financial or health products.

Repeat Mailings

There is evidence to suggest that sending a series of mailings will help build awareness and improve your response rate. Consider sending mailing to fewer people, but more often.

Follow Up

Wherever possible, you should follow up a mailing with a phone call to begin to establish a business relationship.

If you think about your target customer and provide a compelling offer, then direct mail can be an effective way of building your business. After all, junk mail is really just direct mail that has been sent to the wrong target.

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