Is Direct Mail Marketing Dead? What is The Response Rate For Direct Mail Today?

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Direct Mail words in 3d letters coming out of a green metal mailbox advertising

Is direct mail marketing for small business dead? Some would say yes. The naysayers say the Internet and high postage rates have killed direct mail marketing. Yet the facts are that direct mail marketing is alive and works better in today’s over-advertised society than most other advertising mediums.

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Does Direct Mail Work Better?

The most basic illustration I can give you that direct mail works is as follows:

  1. 99.999% of all people living in the United States have an address where the United States Post Office delivers their mail to them on a daily basis.
  2. The United States Post Office through rain, snow or shine delivers the mail regularly and reliably.
  3. People receive and go through their mail everyday. This means your message is delivered DIRECTLY to the recipient more effectively than any other advertising medium you have available to you today.
  4. Because of this direct mail is a direct communication between you and your best prospects.

Don’t believe me? Well, name one medium that does it more direct or better!

TV? Right! There are over 300 cable channels on TV, and with TiVo and other digital recording devices people don’t have to watch commercials. Besides, when was the last time you sat through a 10-15 commercial break? And you are spending how much to produce a commercial?

Radio? Ok! Similar to TV, but it is more personal. People tend to have a relationship with their favorite radio station. Still with iPods, smartphones and other digital devices many people do not listen to radio as much as they used to.

Newspaper? Really, you are reaching now. Newspaper has gone the way of the dinosaurs. It is basically extinct and the corpses are rotting in the field. The Sunday paper still works for selling cars, but everything else is hit or miss. Besides, the Internet has really replaced newspapers and the yellow page directories.

What about Internet marketing? Everyone is on the Internet! True and Internet marketing certainly has its place. The fact is the Internet is a 1000 lane-marketing highway. There is so much competition on the Internet that there is no certainty that people will find you. You have to put up a site, optimize weekly so people will find you, create back links to your website, structure web pages so you can capture leads from it. (By the way, direct mail is a great tool to drive DIRECT traffic to your website. We do have a program that is effective at driving traffic to your website.)

What about email marketing? Delivery rates with email marketing are lower than ever, and open rates even lower. The spammers have almost killed email marketing. Having said that it still works if you do it properly. Mostly is effective for marketing to existing customer or people who already have a relationship with you.

So here, finally is my point. Direct mail puts your message directly in the hands of your best prospect, bang, boom, and end of story! No vias. It’s personally delivered. It’s personally read by your prospect. Well! People do still get their mail. You send it and they will receive it!

But why then did you get poor results the last time you mailed out a postcard?

Direct mail, like anything else you do, can succeed or fail. The good thing is the reasons why your direct mailer fails lie solely in your control. There are only at the most four things that can go wrong when your direct mail piece fails to pull a response and all of the reasons you can control and fix:

  1. The mailing list.

Up to 40% percent of your direct mail results is contingent on the quality of your mailing list. Be sure to order your direct mailing list from a reputable company, like Wilson Printing USA. Avoid trying to pull together a list on your own from various sources. The money you save on a mailing list will be wasted 5x over when your mailer misses the target.

  1. Poor message and/or design:

Design is arguably the most important part of your campaign because it is where your direct mail program gets traction. Three most important areas to consider for your design are:

a) Your Offer.

A weak or no offer will get a yawn while the piece is headed to the trashcan. In fact, the offer is more important than the overall design and aesthetics of the piece. I have seen absolutely ugly and amateur looking designed postcards generate 10% returns because solely of a strong offer prominently displayed. Make no bones about it when you are advertising you are buying customers. How much you buy them for depends on your business type and your market. Also keep in mind that if the prospect can buy what you are offering across town for half the price chances are they will not call you. This is where the old newspaper advertising term, lost leader comes into play.

b) Poor design, copy and printing

Right behind the offer in importance is the design of the piece. A strong offer combined with a well-designed piece will generate a response. You should hire someone who knows about marketing, as well as someone who can design something that looks good. There are a lot of graphic designers who are experts in InDesign or Photoshop but do not understand the basic principles of marketing and promoting.

c) Don’t forget the call to action.

You have to tell them how to respond clearly and often in the piece. Leave this part out and you will get no calls of traffic for sure.

  1. Too low a volume of pieces sent out.

Resist the urge to skimp on the volume. You have to print and mail enough postcards to reach enough people to generate a healthy response. Which do you think has the potential to generate more leads—a mailing of 500 postcards or a mailing of 2500, 5000 or 10,000 postcards?

The good news is that you can save money as you print and mail in volume. Bulk postage is cheaper and offset printing becomes considerably cheaper as you print higher volumes. This isn’t to say you should spend more than you can afford; but it does mean you should send as many postcards per campaign as fits within your budget.

  1. Low or NO repetition

Repetition is key to long-term direct-mail marketing success. This one is a hard one for some business owners to swallow. They want to “test” the waters and see what they will get from one mailing before they commit to mailing more. The big mystery here is that there is no way to tell how many people will be in the market for what you sell at the moment in time when you first mail. This is a very similar concept to trying to time the market in the stock market. When you send out one mail piece to a list to see how it works, you are essentially hoping and praying that enough people will be in the market to buy what you sell today. You fail to take into consideration, competitive influences and the fact that most people who are ready to buy today have been thinking about and planning their purchase for a while. This does not consider the number of people on the mailing list who will be in the market to buy what you sell next month or the month after that. They will forget about you if you only reached them once.

For tips on how to calculate a marketing budget see Breaking Past the Budget Barrier and What a Customer is Worth to You.

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