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Planning your Direct Mail Campaign

Posted by Brian Berg Google+


When planning your next direct mail campaign, there are a number of items a direct mail marketer should not do without.  The key to success with any direct mail marketing campaign is the preparation.  Before you begin, be sure you know what your costs will be, that you’re matching your direct mail piece with your mailing list audience, and that you measure your direct mail response.


Keeping within budget


Every direct mail campaign will have costs that change from time to time.  The paper cost your mail piece is printed on will change from year to year, the postage cost continues to rise, and your mailing list cost adjusts as well.  But don’t forget, your time.  The more time you spend on each of these campaigns, the more they cost.  All these costs, whether they are true dollars, or extra time spent do to lack of preparation, affect your bottom-line return on investment from the sales leads your campaign produces. So let’s start with your mailing list. 


When determining the total number of mail pieces you want to mail, make sure you have an ideal mailing list to target.  Don’t assume there’s an infinite number of people to mail to that’s ideal for your product or service.  If you’ve got a limited budget, does it make sense to mail to a more targeted audience, or try to reach as many people on the smallest budget.  The biggest mistake business owners make is that though they know and understand their market better than anyone, they rarely understand their direct mail marketing. 


Talk with marketing business that’s doing the printing and/or letter shop and get as many different viewpoints as possible on this subject. Once you’ve narrowed down your ideal mailing list audience and feel comfortable with the best test quantity, tally up your direct mail campaigns printing, mailing, and postage costs.  Be sure to include those small costs involved with the entire campaign such as cost for the creative design work you’ll have done for the direct mail piece.  Also include the cost to include a live stamp on your “standard rate” postage if you’re going to include this on your direct mail piece.  And finally, don’t forget the cost of measurement vehicle. 


Are you going to include a Business Reply Mail card attached to each of your direct mail pieces?  If so, how many are you expecting to come back?  Remember, you’ll be paying a premium for postage on those return replies. 


What other kind of costs are involved with measuring your response?


Match the mail piece with the audience


Before you assume you know what you want to offer on your direct mail piece, be sure it matches the mailing list audience you plan to mail to.  Depending on who you are mailing to, you may want to have a talk with your mailing list broker to see if you can learn more about the people on the mailing list you’re about to test.  Let’s say you’re an outdoor lighting company offering specialty residential lighting to high-end homes. 


If your budget allows you to mail to all homeowners with a home value of $500,000 or greater and your list broker runs a count and determines there are over 25,000 homeowners that fit that criteria, consider mailing multiple versions of your direct mail piece that more appropriately communicates to a particular segment of the mailing list.  Your mailing list broker can tell you which of those homeowners are within the senior market as compared with those that are homes with children or homes where the owner lives in another states the majority of the time. 


Knowing this before hand, you’re now able to include different photography of the people on the direct mail piece that better fit who will receive your offer.  Depending on the city you’re mailing into, you may find that there are just as many homes with a value of $500,000 to $750,000, as there are with the value of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000+.  It’s not difficult to assume that the home lighting needs in those two home value ranges don’t greatly differ. 


Make an offer that better addresses the two audiences and spell this out those direct mail pieces that reach this audience. The same holds true when using your own internal customer mailing list. 


Even though you know who your customers are, with the help of a good mailing list broker, you can append certain types of mailing list element data to your internal customer mailing list.  Doing so allows you to see if there are any patterns or groupings within your own customer mailing list.  If so, you may be able to capitalize on this knowledge by mailing a different offer to one group over another, or at least a different mail piece creative version.


Communicate, measure, and record


Consider the communication thread that’s taking place to your direct marketing audience.  Ideally it’s a two way street.  The more two way conversation you can have with your customers and prospects, the better.  Each time you hear from them, you learn something.  Record this information, no matter how trivial and use it to your advantage. 


The more your prospects and customers know that you understand them, the more they’ll appreciate you a business product or service provider. Measuring response is important to testing any direct mail campaign, but don’t stop there.  Measure the responder too who responded but didn’t buy.  Ask yourself what they all have in common and see if you can draw any conclusions to this commonality.  You may find that they are all located around your competition or all within a certain age and income bracket. 


If so, plan not to include that age and income bracket on your next campaign, or consider mailing and alternate direct mail piece to that segment of the population the next time. Also consider mailing over and over within the same geographic territory.  In doing so, you might learn that some segments of the mailing list population response on the first drop, while the greatest response occurs between 2 and 4 drops.  The more you can measure your direct mail campaigns, the better able you are to improving your direct mail return on your investment.