Despite the rumours of its imminent demise, direct mail is very much alive and kicking, so make the most of it. The shine may have been taken off it by the arrival of the new kid on the block, social media, but it’s difficult to ignore a well-targeted and executed piece of direct mail when it lands on your desk or doormat.
No, it’s not junk mail
Many people think that ‘direct mail’ and ‘junk mail’ are interchangeable but they are not the same at all. The key difference is that direct mail is, or should be, the stuff that comes through the post with your name on it – properly addressed and delivered specifically to you. It’s not the random postings addressed to ‘the home owner’, or ‘to whom it may concern’, or the random leaflets pushed through the letterbox with no address at all – that deserves the title ‘junk mail’ because it’s not properly targeted.
Good direct mail is highly personalised and targeted and consists of a mailing piece with relevant content for its intended recipients and a clear call to action. Plus it should always be built around solid contact data and followed up to encourage action.
So what are the rules of engagement…?
Make it relevant
– Do the research and make sure that you are approaching the right markets with the right offer, or message, at the right time for them – otherwise you’ll be wasting your time. For example a business could produce the most creative and beautifully written mailing piece promoting its solar panels to homeowners, and showing how they could reduce their heating bills, but if its mailing list is full of people who live in leasehold flats then the company may be wasting its time and money because the information is not relevant.
Don’t mass mail
– Don’t be tempted to send everything to everybody. Be focused. Direct mail can be expensive so make it count. Only contact those with a particular interest in your product or service with a specific offer that suits them. You may be sending out less but it will be more cost-effective if it’s targeted and easier to track and follow up on.
Good data is key
– If you’ve got the world’s most engaging mailing piece and it ends up on the desk, or doormat, of the wrong person your efforts will have been wasted. Take the time to make sure your data is accurate and complete, and that you have permission to use it.
Beware the MPS
– If any of the potential consumers that you are mailing have signed up for the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) you could be on the receiving end of a ticking off, at the very least, from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Although this only applies to personal addresses in the UK, upsetting people who have said they don’t want unsolicited mail is never good for business and may have an adverse effect on the company image. Don’t be tempted into thinking they don’t mean you.
– At the end of the day, you have to follow up on what you send out. It’s not enough to think ‘if I build it, they will come’ (I’m not sure that even worked for Kevin Costner). With the best will in the world the recipients of your mailing may have every intention of acting on it but stuff happens and without that extra nudge it could quickly slip their minds. By following up your mailings with a phone call you can check that they received it, they are still the right person to contact, and perhaps answer any questions they might have before they respond to your call to action. Linking the call to the mailing will help to fix the communication in their minds and could be the start of a new relationship.
For me personally, direct mail has been a significant part of finding new clients for my business. I’ve always found it much easier to call a potential new contact to set up a meeting if I have sent out a direct mail piece beforehand. It paves the way and gives me something to focus the initial discussion on which usually makes for a much easier conversation.
As part of an integrated campaign direct mail can still work for your business and shouldn’t be written off yet. However, as with everything in marketing, it should always be part of the bigger picture not the be all and end all.
About the author: Deborah Rowe, Consultant, Sheba Marketing
Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things. www.shebamarketing.co.uk