(Today’s Guest Blog is written on the subject of direct mail for small business, by Jim Davis, a former senior executive in the direct marketing industry.)
In a world of electronic communications, websites, banner ads and Facebook pages, there remains one medium that is a consistent response generator for small businesses - direct mail.
Following a few simple guidelines, direct mail still can still yield excellent and cost effective results for businesses of all sizes. The proof is in our mailbox everyday.
There are three factors that experts agree consistently contribute to direct mail success: Audience, Offer, and Creative. But the relative importance of these three factors may surprise some new mailers.
Think of the factors this way: 60/30/10.
A full 60% of any direct mail success can be attributed to the Audience, or, in other words, the mailing list used. Whether mailing to a geographic area, a demographic segment or a business group, a mailing is only as good as it the list used.
We’ve all receive mail addressed to Resident/Occupant or the friendlier greeting “To our Friends At”. This is a sure indication that every household in your neighborhood is receiving the same mailing piece. And household mailings are a basic and reliable traffic-building tool for consumer-oriented, local businesses.
Compiled, demographic mailing lists which incorporate an individual’s name also are available for more targeted offerings. Similarly there literally are thousands of specialty mailing list comprised of everything from subscription lists to individuals who have responded to previous offers.
Businesses-to-business lists are another whole category of mailing lists. These lists offer selectivity by SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code and various company size indicators (annual sales, number of employees, etc.). And, again, there are specialty lists comprised of subscribers to various trade journals or other select groups that are available as well.
It would be remiss not to mention what may be the best mailing list of all - the one that businesses can compile consisting of their own customers. As always, existing customers represent one of the best sources of new and repeat business and every business should have the ability to mail to this select audience.
The next factor is Offer, which can impact a mailing by 30%. Think about it – without a compelling offer or incentive, direct mail is just a simple message. There is no reason to respond. Too many mailings have weak, inadequate or ill-timed offers for a chance at success.
Customers and prospects want to know “What’s in it for me?” and that is the question that must be asked about every mailing piece designed.
Finally Creative must be considered, but the way the offer is communicated contributes to the success of the mailing only by 10%. It is true that there is a crucial point (typically three to four seconds) when a recipient decides whether or not to further read/consider a mailing piece. That’s when creative can play its role.
Veteran mailers often say that creative must appear to one of four basic emotions: Need, Greed, Fear, or Exclusivity. Try looking a mailing piece you receive at home and you can learn to identify the elected emotional appeal for the mailing.
And to be sure, direct mail creative is technique-driven. That is one reason that postcards or self-mailers -- communicating an Offer quickly, without the need to open an envelope -- are so popular with small businesses.
The numbers 60/30/10 can vary by the mailing professional citing them but the principle always in the same. Audience, followed by Offer and then Creative determine the success of any mailing.
So, if the secret to success is so evident, why doesn’t every business mail? One reason dominates all others: expense.
Even using the most cost-efficient mailing techniques for smaller mailers, each piece of mail delivered is relatively expensive -- ranging from 40 to 50-cents up to a dollar or more for elaborate mailings -- so the cost per thousand contacts is higher than most other mediums.
Still, direct mail has it place in an overall marketing strategy. As long as Americans maintain the habit of checking their mail daily, direct mail messages have the opportunity to be seen, and to sell.