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Mail Marketing is Still Working

Jul 2, 2018
Alexis Wilke

When I receive nice letters, I usually check them out, whether it looks like it's an ad or not. I like to learn about marketing and checking out others work is a sure way to learn something or being reminded of a few tricks you can use in your next campaign. However, in mailing campaigns, just like in email or SMS campaigns, I think that there are certain rules you have to follow to increase your chances to get your letter read by its addressee.

The scan of a letter I received with my business street address, including the extra 4 digit zip code, which only machines take care of...
This envelope picture is one I received not too long ago. You can see my address written by a machine but using a font which looks like it's written by hand. I think that this is a good idea, but at the same time, the address should be written properly, but not so totally perfectly that you'd include the zip code and the extra sub-division 4 digits. By having that included in the mailing address of the envelope, I can immediately tell that was not written by hand. That is, it's really rare that someone who sends you a letter written by hand would include those extra 4 digits, simply because 99% of the people have no clue what they are. So in this case my recommendation would be: change your setup to not include these extra 4 digits.

How Do I Know That It's Still Working?

Well... Once in while, I actually give in to such mailings. So I think that some of your customers will too. I suppose that it will depend on how much you can expect back from your direct mail campaign. However, without trying, you are not likely to find out. One way to test is to select 1,000 of your existing customers and send them letters. See the response and decide for yourself whether it would be worth trying again with the rest of your customers. If the response was high enough that you had a Return On Investment with your first test, it's likely that you would have such in your second mailing.

Of course, like with anything else, you should probably look into ways to limit your mailing to users who are more likely to answer it. There are many criteria that can be considered and I think that they'll mainly depend on your products and services. For example, older people may be more responsive to a direct mail campaign for a tailor suit. If you know the average age of your customers, then it could help you target only people who are 40 or more. On the other hand, if you are selling baby carriers, you probably want to target 20 something moms.

Now, to further answer my question above, I can tell you that it works because many companies still use direct mail and that includes Internet companies such as Google and Paypal. If they do it once in a while, it probably works and gives a kick to their business, especially if they had a buying customer who has not purchased anything for some time, it can revitalize that account. Giving them a nudge is often all it takes for you to get positive results.

The following are ideas that will help you increase your chances to make money with your Direct Mail Campaign.

Make Your Direct Mail Content Useful

Whenever you send a piece of Direct Mail, it often quickly goes in the recycling bin (or worst, the trash... but not at your place, right?) One way for people to keep you around is to send them something useful.

What is useful? Scrape paper to write your new year resolutions, a ledger for purchases and sales, a small calendar that fits in your wallter. Anything that you can think of and that your customers would love to keep for one reason or another. Of course, that something should have your name, phone number, address and other contact information.

You may even including multiple useful things because one person may like that one and another the other.

Make It Lumpy

This may sound a bit... but we're talking about a letter here.

People are generally curious so when they receive mail which looks and feels like there is a neat little present inside, they are more likely to look into it.

Most often, when I receive mail from a marketing company offering gadgets such as pens, thumb drives, or key rings, which I could use to promote my company, they include such a gadget with my company's name on it. I have to say that when you see and can actually touch what you can get, it gives you a much better feel for the product. If you have the possibility to do the same, then do!

The 6 Questions in Marketing

Remember that your sales letters are expected to include the six main questions: Why? How? What? Who? When? Where?

The order is important as I mention in my article above, although the Why? could be the Who? or the Where?. So remember that in marketing nothing is set in stone (it's a human science, closely related to psychology.)

There are actually more and more people who follow Simon Sinek's concept of answering the Why? first. Telling people why they need your product or service, instead of answering the What?, which is often the boring part.

The Why? also goes by the name of "Value Proposition". Don't have a long boring letter about the What? before you answer the Why?. The Why? is what catches the attention best and keeps the people around until the end because they want to know how to reach that wonderful state the Why? offers.

An interesting aspect of placing the value proposition first is that you can then immediately check on it and see whether you like it yourself. If not, then you probably want to drop it and move on with a different idea for the value of your product or service, until you get the right one. That's one reason for having younger people enter your company as marketers...


Yes! Container...

Most people think cheap when they want to send many mails since it costs more to send items other than standard letters. Depending on what, it could actually be a lot more.

Yet, we hear about great success stories whenever someone uses something more dramatic to send their message in. For example, I heard of a Real Estate investor who decided to send his mailing using small containers like those you get at the pharmacy with pills inside. Actually, it looked very much the same: the label on it had the customer's name and address and inside was the message about how he could help them sell their home.

How could you just throw away such an item? It's not unlikely that this could actually be your pharmacy delivery. Even if you're not currently ill and taking medication, if you know how medication containers look like, you'll wonder what's inside that one, right?

If you are actually selling such small containers, even better, you can make the advertising with the very product you are offering! Our previous example may not work with pharmacists and if you are an envelops reseller (although it still might,) but the greater majority of people are likely going to be impressed and open your container and thus get your message.

Tailored messages are best

Depending on how much information you have about a customer or prospect, if you can tailor the message and small gift, the more powerful your direct mail campaign will be. This can mean higher costs, but don't forget that much better targeted campaigns can give you a higher rate of return. In other words, on a totally random set of potential customers, you may get a purchase by 0.5% of the people you touched. With a highly targeted campaign, you could sell to as many as 6% of your customers.

To better tailor your campaigns, it's important that you seriously consider asking questions to your prospects and existing customers to get the necessary information. This sounds great. Yet I know it can be difficult to implement and not that easy to get useful results, although with a form on your website, it makes it rather easy to get answers quickly and already attached to the corresponding customer. It's often that businesses send a piece of mail asking their prospects to fill out a feedback form. In most cases, it's for that very purpose: get you stealth targeted marketing.

Note that tailoring in this way for really small businesses (like those who have under 1,000 customers) is probably not going to help much. For such businesses, you are likely to be in direct contact with your customers. That means you should already get a lot of that information directly talking with that contact. Make notes in your Customer Relation Manager (CRM) software so as you continue to work with that one customer, you can remember their preferences without having to ask them about it again. It's more impressive when you talk with someone who knows you than having a cold call each time.

Also today there are services allowing you to create pieces of mail through the Internet and you probably can find a system that integrates with your CRM making the mailing ever more customized. Also they can use handwriting fonts and have printers that write with a pen (opposed to a laser printer) which makes your letters look like they really were written by hand.

Find Partners

Depending on the business you're in, it's not unlikely that you could find someone to partner with. This means you can create a mailer with two people paying for the expenses of printing and mailing the piece of marketing.

Many times Real Estate agents partner with a loan provider or an insurance agent. They send one mailer on which both appear. The cost is then split 50/50 between the two and thus it either costs less or you reach twice as many people as a result.

Check How It Looks Before Shipping

Make sure to have a final review of your mailer. If the envelopes are the wrong color, the wrong shape, do not close right, do not allow the correct image to appear in the window, anything, then you need to go back to work.

I think there are two additional things to watch out for as well:

1. The address on the envelope should look as if you were writing it. Most software write address perfectly straight, nicely left aligned or centered, all the A's appear the same...

If at all possible, have the software introduce variations. But most of all, make sure that the address does not include the extra 4 digits in the zip code. My zip code is 95662. If you send me a letter and the zip code says 95662-5326, I'll immediately be thinking that this is advertising (or worse... an invoice.) The envelope I scanned and put as an example above shows what I mean.

2. The letter should have a real stamp, even better if a stamp of collection, although that may mean you have to spend the time sticking the stamps on each letter by hand.

Yet, whenever I receive a letter and there isn't a nice stamp, it just looks like I'm receiving an invoice and who likes invoices?

Test, Test, and Test

Whenever you're in charge of marketing, you pretty much have only one choice: test new ideas over and over again.

One important thing to remember is that things change. However, the truth is that human psychology does not. What is important, though, are the ideas used to generate interest and get your mail opened. New ideas will generate new interests.

One complaint I've heard of with mailers is that it's expensive. The fact is you can first test with small quantities. With all the new technology available today, it's definitely doable. So today you can easily test with small quantities and see the effects of your mailing campaign before going big.





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