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Decisions to take about direct mailing

Direct Mail Services Buyer's Guide

The principle behind a direct mail sales campaign is straightforward: you're hoping to improve the sales of a product or service by sending details of promotional offers. But once you've made the decision to engage in such a campaign, you need to pause and consider a number of key factors. This way, you'll ensure you get the best possible response rate.

Who are your customers?
The last thing you want to do is waste money and time on a campaign that targets the wrong people. Therefore establish who your customers are.

  • Are they new customers or old ones - or both?
  • Are you trying to sell to customers
    - in a certain location
    - from a certain income band, age group or background?
  • Do your customers have specific interests?

Know your customers. You can then begin your direct mail campaign with greater confidence.

Your offer
Always remember that when customers receive direct mail they ask themselves, "What's in this for me?" They want to know how they can benefit. You must appeal to them with an offer that catches their attention and makes them feel that if they ignore it, they'll lose out in some way.

Your offer must therefore stand out as something irresistible. To help achieve this, you can highlight that

  • your product or service is new
  • customers will save money
  • the offer is for a strictly limited time only
  • the offer will improve the customers' lives in some way

You must then make the process of obtaining your product or service as easy as possible.

The budget
The biggest single expense of a direct mail campaign is the postage. Although direct mail companies will negotiate discounts and get quotes from private firms as well as Royal Mail, you'll still find that postage uses up 30 - 35% of your proposed budget. Bear this in mind when you start putting your figures together for the project.

To help keep your postage costs down, you may want to restrict the weight and size of your direct mail literature. When you start getting quotes from direct mail companies, it's worth discussing these issues with them before making a final decision.

It's likely that direct mail companies will want you to post at least 5,000 items. Fewer than this, and the costs may rise dramatically - or the companies may simply say that the volumes are not cost effective.

As for your direct mail content, you can send out anything from a postcard to an envelope bulging with a glossy brochure. If you've been involved with direct mail and the associated printing costs before, you may know what size budget you'll need. If not, speak to the direct mail companies and obtain different quotes, if necessary, for the options that interest you.

Your other expense is the creation of the promotional material. Someone has to write and design it, so if you can do this in-house, you'll reduce your costs. Alternatively, direct mail companies can help you. When you get a quote for this side of the project, ensure you'll have the opportunity to comment on the copy and design, and to request changes. Responses Direct mail campaigns have a low response rate. Be prepared for this and build it into your budget so you can decide on the amount of money to use on direct mail. Also remember that a low response doesn't mean the campaign has failed. When you calculate the final figures, the sales you make can still more than justify the expense. This is why direct mail is such a popular advertising medium. It also puts your business name in front of customers who may not buy anything from you now but may turn to you in the future.
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