Do’s and Don’ts of Direct Mail for Small Business

Author: C. Curley Date: July 30, 2012

Consider these best practices for sending direct mail to your customers.

Many factors must come together to make direct mail campaigns succeed—the first of which is the decision whether to have one. Given the high costs of production and delivery, small business owners should start out feeling confident that this method of advertising will generate new leads. 

So how do you know if direct mail is an effective way to reach your target audience? Let these industry pros help you decide:

Do you have a clear purpose?

First, determine your overall goal, however simple. “One ideal target for a direct mail campaign is selling new services to existing customers,” says Neil Thanedar, who has experience advertising for multiple businesses.
But he doesn’t recommend direct mail for every business. Thanedar currently owns Avomeen, a company that does laboratory testing and LabDoor, a mobile health app company in Indianapolis, Ind. “While there's definitely a place for mailers in the lab at Avomeen,” he says, “I wouldn't consider one for LabDoor, given the huge amount of data I already get from online ads, video and social media.”
If you’ve tried direct mail but find that other means are more successful, then stick with what works and save the money.

Have you narrowed your target demographic?

Reaching a niche audience requires previous research. When John Follis launched an ad agency in Stamford, Conn., he created mailers based on a directory of advertisers. “I realized that half the names and addresses might not even be accurate,” he says. “I ultimately decided to bail and cut my losses.”
A campaign he worked on for a Montessori School was more successful. “The mailer was only sent to a qualified, targeted list of area parents with the right demographics, like income and having kids of the right age,” he says.

Can you tie it to an event?

Random mailings often end up in the trash. Can you tie yours to a seasonal service or event?
Jerry Robertson, CEO at Big Daddy Deals in San Antonio, Texas, says he used to send out thousands of postcards to advertise going-out-of-business sales as a service to other local businesses. He timed the campaigns shortly before the event, encouraging customers to turn them in to get discounts. The stores that did direct mail campaigns tied to sales ended up making many times more money than similar stores that hadn’t done any direct mailings, Robertson says.

Do you have the resources to follow up?

Direct mail isn’t cheap. Whether through phone or other methods, multiple follow-ups may be  necessary to ensure that prospects understand who you are and what your company can offer them—ultimately, giving you more bang for your buck.


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