Saturday, November 08, 2008

Direct Mail Does Pay Off

Direct mail isn’t for everyone in the independent video production business, but it can pay off if you use a bit of logic about what you send out, and to whom. Obviously, if you live in a town where the sign posted as you enter says “Anytown, U.S.A. pop. 52 and a dog” then door-to-door might be a better approach.

For virtually everyone else there’s a cover letter, demo DVD and a stamp for an envelope that has your next client’s name and address on it. The general conception that thousands of pieces have to be mailed out at high cost for postage, purchase of an expensive “iffy” mailing list and a huge investment of time and effort in order to get them out and expect any positive response is simply wrong.

Some direct mail strategies argue that the more specific your target, and the more pieces you send out to demographics reflecting that target - be it income, higher property values, or geographical bracket - the more likely you are to hit that magical one percent return. This also simply is not so. You do not have to settle for a one percent return on 10, 100 or thousands of mailings. You can actually achieve 10 percent return, or better, responses, and a minimum of 30 percent sales from that. How?

By broadening your area of coverage, widening your base of operations and expanding your range of services. If you do more kinds of productions then you can market more of your services to a more general audience and expect a higher rate of response, more sales. For me a shotgun approach - either sending out a lot of pieces to the same interest groups (dance or martial arts schools, for example), or sending out fewer pieces to a more general demographic (individual householdds) - is very effective.

I realize this has a lot to do with the fact that I live and work in a very densely populated area (Southern Califoria) with a broad range of ethnic groups, interests, income levels and life styles. But living elsewhere doesn’t mean you cannot reach the people in your service area though it might be less dense, diverse and mostly poorer households.

Here’s that word I keep pounding on: “Diversification” of your video services. Stop thinking all you can do, have to do, should do or want to do is weddings. Unless, of course, you actually WANT to do weddings and nothing but. If you are a full time independent professional video services provider, or a part time IPVSP working full time hours in the business, you can make more money if you produce more than weddings.

In fact virtually every other video production gig available to you will generate higher income on a per hour worked basis than any wedding you have ever done, or ever will do. I will leave it at that, because this is a fine subject for an article all its own. Later.

Simply being willing to do other video production work puts you at an advantage, not only to acquire more business and generate more income, but an advantage as well in marketing your services by direct mail. I am currently developing a demo DVD that will contain a highly energetic intro with scenes from all the various celebrations of life I’ve produced. It will be brightly colored and printed on it in bold, black letters will be “Celebrate Life!”

In addition to the energetic intro I will have sample clips from each and every category of video production I have ever done. In my case that is going to be a bunch! But you can start something similar and ad to it as you produce other events, community programs, youth sports contests, school performances and activities, birthday, anniversary and milestone events celebrations, etc.

This new demo DVD will be chaptered for, and include an insert, to show the clips and categories featured, offering any recipients the option to view only what interests them at the moment. My slogan for this marketing tool is “Somebody somewhere celebrates something every day!” © Earl Chessher, 1995-2008. Celebrate Life! has been taken, but there’s nothing to prevent me from using that as the promotional title for my direct mail DVD.

Based on my “Somebody somewhere...” approach, this makes every household in the U.S.A. a “good and viable” target address for a direct mail campaign. I have not limited my chances for success by sending out only a wedding demo, or only a montage demo, or only a small business/services demo, commercial video, birthday demo, dance demo...
...get the idea? Somebody at that address is celebrating something the day, or week, or month they receive my direct mail cover letter and demo/sample DVD.

So, by not limiting the video service categories I am willing to provide, broadening my range, I am increasing the probability of a positive response that will take my returns to much higher levels. Even if you only had four categories including weddings, you have quadrupled the possibilities of someone at that residence being interested, or knowing somewho who would.

There is a high level of perceived value when a person receives a special DVD (in spite of AOL’s pervasive disk distribution campaign - notice they’ve discontinued that approach) and he or she will check it out instead of arbitrarily tossing it into the trash. The recipient will read a brief and specific cover letter, and more than likely will keep the DVD for a good while afterwards. Their thought being that it might prove a handy reference for some celebration down the way, or that they know somebody involved in one or more of the productions featured. An upcoming retirement, birthday, anniversary, or other special celebration.

If you live in or near a larger population base with multiple towns within driving distance, or a major city close by, and are willing to work at it, you can acquire names and addresses for area public schools, private clubs, car dealerships that sponsor annual car shows, local youth sports associations, martial arts centers, private dance schools, etc. from a number of resources ranging from the web to Google searches to the Yellow Pages to community/church directories.

I have every address of every client who has ever purchased a copy of something I have produced, or hired me for music instructional video production, product/business/service video for commercial clients, parents who have purchased school or event performance videos. Every address. And these addresses are from people who have purchased something from me before, people who are to some degree more or less familiar with my company and the quality videos I have produced. They are receptive - the absolutely best kind of direct mail addresses you can have, so long as you don’t bombard them with weekly mailings. Once or twice a year to these will be enough to generate a high level of responses for your direct mail campaign.

• Develop an effective sample/demo DVD (they are cheap and easy to produce in house)
• Develop a single-page, double-spaced cover letter telling them, or reminding them who you are
• Provide them with your website URL, e-mail address, mailing address and phone number
• You can use paper sleeves to reduce costs, and mail in invitation-size envelopes, but...
• ...investing a bit more in creating a color insert, using a protective plastic case, is better
• Include a couple or so business cards (don’t be stingy, they might want to share)
• Initiate a call to action: call now, e-mail now, visit now, buy now, (do it now!)

If you invest the time, energy and money. If you are tenacious, follow up with a second letter within 60-90 days (without the DVD this time). If you broaden your scope of video related services. If you obtain good addresses and names - doing it by hand, walking the community and writing them down, recycling the names and addresses of people who have done business with you directly or indirectly (You do keep a past/present client resource list don’t you?)

If you do any or all of these things, work that bridal mailing list you got from the last bridal fair, or any other event in which you’ve participated, you will greatly increase the effectiveness of your direct mail marketing campaign.

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