Optimizing Direct Mail for Your Small Business

Author: Christina Galoozis Date: July 08, 2010

More advertising resourcesDirect mail can be an effective part of any marketing campaign. Yes, email, Facebook and even Twitter work for some small businesses, but that doesn’t mean tried and true methods like direct mail should go by the wayside.

Rather than think of direct mail as a one-shot deal, consider it an ongoing process to be tweaked over time.

Direct mail “enables you to establish and build relationships that will help keep you and your company first in mind,” says Patty Block, president of Block Consulting, a marketing, PR and sales company in San Francisco. Because small businesses tend to be short on resources, they often don’t do enough planning and follow-up to make their direct mail campaigns successful, she says.

Some tactics are essential across any delivery channel. To increase your success rate, inject your direct mail campaign with five key elements:

1. Time.
Block estimates that a third of her time is spent marketing her business, and direct mail is an integral part of that. That means the job never ends. Each week you’ll need to schedule time for you or a sales agent to network, update your database, send out messages and follow up on responses that came in.

2. Data. Your campaign is useless without an up-to-date list of targets. Be sure you’re regularly adding potential customers through referrals and trade groups or incorporating specific demographics whose business you’d like to secure.?

3. A plan. How many dollars do you have to spend? Do the math and try to calculate the probability of a response. Snail mail is pricier, but some people prefer a real letter. If 1 out of 10 people shows interest, that could be more than enough to offset the cost of the campaign.

Keep in mind that response rates will vary depending on how customized the offer is and whether your prospects are qualified. You may want to test different mailing lists and messages. On a mass snail mailing, anything over 2% is generally considered a decent response rate. Your campaign will be more effective if you sort contacts according to importance so that you can target each group differently. For instance, you could contact some recipients by e-mail, but send a letter on nice stationery or letterhead to certain chief executives or those with the most sales potential.

4. A well-crafted message. The headline is the key, says Block. Tell people something new, but keep it under 10 words. “If it looks like a sales pitch they’re not going to even bother.” The wording should encourage people to take action. “Safeguard your data.” Or “7 Ways to Make Your Home Safer.” Also keep your message short, but be creative. Grab people’s attention with unusually sized postcards, a new study or a customer satisfaction survey. ?

5. Follow up. Some businesses simply follow up with variations on the same message once or twice, hoping to catch people when they’re ready to respond.  But you’ll broaden your success rate if you follow up by phone, says Block. She suggests requesting feedback by email, as well as phone numbers. Then you can ask respondents to connect you with other potential customers you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

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