For a local business hoping to increase foot traffic to a brick and mortar location, direct mail marketing is a great way to reach out and touch the neighborhood. While online and mobile marketing are increasingly dominating the advertising horizon, there’s just something unique about a colorful postcard that people hang on to – if it’s also a profitable investment for your business. Like a business card, it’s a tangible reminder to make contact. Here are some things to consider when launching a direct mail marketing campaign.
Choose a Service Provider
If you don’t have time to handle each step separately, you may decide to go straight to a direct mail advertising company, such as DirectMail.com, PostcardBuilder.com or CactusMailing.com. These services can handle everything from designing and printing the postcards to creating the mailing lists and dropping them off at the post office. If you’re more the hands-on type – and want to save a little money – USPS.com’s Advertising with Mail page has quite a lot of helpful instructions and recommendations.
USPS also offers an Every Door Direct Mail delivery tool that allows the user to map out a target area using demographic data – including age, household income and size – select a delivery route, choose a mailing date, and even pay online. This is perfect for local businesses who want to target specific neighborhoods. For those seeking to reach a more select demographic, you’ll need to pay for a specialized address list from a mailing service.
Determine Your Budget
If you go with a direct mail marketer, you’ll be given a quote for a set number of pieces. If you decide to do it yourself, you can find some helpful cost estimates at the USPS website. If you need a specialized address list from a mailing service, you’ll need to add that to your budget. Other costs to budget for include graphic design, printing, alterations and proofs, a quality control check, and, of course, postage. A list of estimated costs can be found at the USPS website.
Decide on a Format
For most direct mail marketing campaigns, postcards are the best bet. They’re a cost-effective way to announce new products and services, promote sales events, and extend special offers. They can be posted on a customer’s refrigerator or carried in a purse or briefcase as a reminder to attend a special event, or used as a coupon or invitation.
Flyers allow more space for your message, but require extra handling costs for folding. The next step up is letters in envelopes, which are somewhat more costly than flyers and postcards. Letters are used for more formal requests or invitations, and can include coupons, tickets, or other items in the envelope. Should you decide to send out brochures, pamphlets, or reply mail, you’ll definitely want to purchase a mailing list so that you can target more strategically, as printing and mailing costs for these items are significantly higher.
Create Your Message
Get the most out of your mailing by persuading the recipient to hang on to it. Use a call to action that says something like “present this coupon for” and include your offer, whether it’s a general discount, buy-one-get-one-free, free add-on service with purchase, or introductory special, among other things. Now your postcard will remain in the customer’s purse or briefcase, in the console of their car, or on their refrigerator, providing free advertising every time they look at it, right up until they remember to come in and present it. Don’t forget to include an expiration date.
Find a Local Printer
The USPS website has recommendations for local printers if you don’t already have one. Ideally, you should be networking with other local businesses so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Hopefully your local printer will happily keep some of your postcards on his or her counter for customers that come in.
Many printers have graphic designers they work with, or you can hire one separately. While it isn’t necessary to budget for a four-color printing process, you should add at least a pop of color to a basic black and white design to highlight key parts of the message. Be sure to proof your design carefully before it goes to print and make sure to get a quality control check along the way. Once the pieces are printed, you can take them to the post office yourself, or many printers will even drop them off for you.
Keep Track of Returns
One of the benefits of having the customer return your postcard is that it provides an immediate, physical validation of the success of your mailing, and addresses from returned postcards can be used to make up a preferred customer mailing list. Be sure to track the return rate of each mailing to see which messages, offers, and deals are the most effective.