How to Use Direct Mail Effectively to Keep Costs Down

Direct mail
Direct mail

It’s reported that 98% of Americans check their mail box each day. From restaurants to credit card companies, direct mail still remains a strong advertising medium to reach customers. Why? Direct mail is used to get orders and take sales.

However, the same report indicates 86% of people sort their mail over the garbage upon retrieving – meaning if your piece doesn’t interest someone in four seconds, it’s going in the trash. Is there a way to make sure this doesn’t happen? How can you use direct mail at a low cost even though postage rates are on the rise? Like Internet marketing, good old fashioned snail mail still works if you know how to make an immediate impression and have a targeted list. Here are a few tips to keep your marketing targeted and responses measurable.

  • Mailing list. Your mailing list is the direct mail campaign foundation. You can buy a list from a mailing service broker, or compile your own list using past customer information. If you don’t have a list at all, buying a list is a good option as long as you have various filters and parameters set up (e.g. families making over $100,000 with children ages 4 and younger in the specific Boston zip codes). Most mailing list companies have to keep lists NCOA compliant which will give you the most accurate information. Plan to spend around $100 to $400 on 1,000 names.
  • Paper quality and weight. Some business owners think the most expensive options are what they need to use to achieve the highest response rate – not true. Postcards, for example, can be very effective, and prove to work well for restaurant coupons, retail gift cards, and some services (car repair, house maintenance, etc.). If you choose a postcard, pay attention to the guidelines and work with the USPS to keep the costs down. At the same time, don’t just choose a postcard because it is the cheapest option. If you’re marketing a new green or organic product, use recycled paper. It doesn’t cost much more and leaves a lasting impression with the recipient.
  • Reduced postage rates. Depending on how many pieces you plan to send out, you could qualify for a bulk mail rate and reduce the postage rate of each piece. A bulk mailer pre-sorts pieces by ZIP codes, for instance and saves the post office time. The USPS will also work with you to make sure the barcodes, presorting, standardized addresses, etc. are all optimal sometimes lowering your mailing costs up to 50%.
  • Volume and mailing permits. If you plan to mail a significant volume amount for your business, you could qualify for a permit instead of going through a mailing service company. A mailing permit, known as indicia, is placed on your pieces and replaces a stamp and could lower your costs. Check with the USPS to see if you qualify for a permit.
  • Personalization. Creating a handwritten piece personalized to the sender is easier to achieve now with laser jet printing and distinguish the piece from the rest of your mail. Ask your printer about costs to personalize your pieces.
  • Effective messaging. What’s the action: tell your audience. We have millions of messages going through our head each day. You may have an 800 number or an email address on your piece, but it doesn’t tell people exactly what they need to do and why they need to do it quickly.
  • Consistent messaging. Combine direct mail with another aspect of marketing. The more times people see your brand, the more they will remember when they are ready to make a purchase.
  • Make it simple: include a tracking URL. If receivers need to fill out a form and mail something back in, your response rate is going to be less than 0.1 percent. Don’t just list the URL with the promo code in large font, list a trackable URL so they don’t even have to fill out a promo code. Include an 800 number and set up an inbound call center to answer any questions and take orders. According to data from the Direct Marketing Association, approximately one-third of consumers who receive information via direct mail- such as a discount offer, a personalized invitation, or a gift certificate- visit the website of the company to respond or learn more about the offer.

The DMA predicts that total U.S. spending on direct mail will hit $67.2 billion and generate $846.9 billion in sales in 2011. Looks like it’s time to get started.

Image by visual.dichotomy.