Sunday, February 28, 2010

Direct Mail Works!

Direct-mail does work, but you have to decide on one of two major proven effective approaches, and apply effort and patience to the practice - shotgun or limited target-specific.

The decision on which to use is often based on budget/economics but spending huge amounts of money on a campaign is not necessarily the most effective approach to achieving a good, or any, return.

The favorite approach among those lucky enough to have a significant marketing and/or advertising budget is the “shotgun” approach. Send out LOTS of pieces, hit LOTS of addresses, and spend LOTS of money to draw in a small percentage - 1% return is often considered a good response.

Yeah, a 1% percent return on a million pieces is a significant number - so what! Not everyone has a million-dollar-plus budget. Right? I mean, I don’t!

MY favorite approach is significantly LESS expensive, significantly MORE specific, and thus far for me has delivered a GREATER response - 5.3%.

Agencies, corporate entities, and individual small business owners often perceive, or are told by advertising/marketing consultants that it is the “design” of a campaign piece that enhances its success. The assumption being that when a 1% percent response is generated it is because the campaign piece was outstanding.

Well, effective or compelling anyway.

These folks are also told that it is necessary to utilize mail-management services and purchase expensive commercial mailing lists in order to enjoy any hope of a successful direct-mail campaign.

Not necessarily so, and sending out thousands, much less millions, is not the best way to judge a piece’s effectiveness when dealing with percentages. Ask enough people to dance and somebody will. Does that mean you had GREAT looks, charisma and personality, were dressed sharply, or exhibited smooth dance steps? No, it means you had determination and patience.

You COULD ASK THEM ALL, somebody in the room is going to step out with you if you ask enough of them.

But what if you were particularly good at a particularly popular dance style? What if, by watching and studying them, you discovered which ones appeared to “favor” that dance style and approached ONLY them? See where I’m going with this?
Same with sending out high enough numbers in a direct-mail
campaign. A simple one-page marketing letter in an auto-labeled envelop can be effective with shear numbers (that “shotgun” approach where only one pellet has to “hit” to prove compelling). It helps if your copy is effectively presented, or if your aim is close, using the “shotgun” analogy, but that is not an absolute necessity.

It’s the numbers! But what if your “aim” was better, your “target” more defined?

Create a compelling piece, a half-page-size direct-mail postcard, for example. Why? Nothing to open, instantly visible (talk about instant messaging), colorful, informative AND compelling with a call to action. EVERY individual handling this piece, even the one carrying it to File 13, will scan the message and be informed - especially if the piece is aimed at a target-specific audience.

Since January 1, 2010 and through today, end of February, I have conducted a direct-mail campaign using target-specific half-page-size postcards that has seen only 150 pieces mailed, generating eight replies and resulting in four paid video production jobs.

Eight responses out of 150 pieces - 0.15 of the normal target of 1,000 pieces per campaign - is 5.3% and a significant response level based on ANY marketing entity's formula. Furthermore, I estimate expense of less than $1 per postcard including the 44-cent 1st class postage. That computes to less than $150 for the four-interest-area campaign.

My specific targeted markets were dance schools, public school performing arts programs, martial arts studios and funeral homes. Three dance schools responded, two public school programs, two martial arts and one funeral home. EIGHT RESPONSES out of 150 pieces! Even MORE significant is that fewer than 50 pieces were sent to any single area of interest, jacking the response percentages WAY up there - much higher than 5.3%.

A target-specific campaign lends itself toward small print runs, a reduction in overall costs, and easily adapts to an “as available” budget rather than a more expensive and perhaps more difficult to sustain major campaign with high spending levels...
...then waiting for the dribble of return, if any

At the beginning of 2010 I determined to develop a series of specific-interest and targeted area postcards, mailing them in small quantities. I promised myself to average AT LEAST one-piece-per-day, but my actual budget is $50 a month in postage. So, 50 pieces minimum a month, only $600 a year. I currently “print on demand” but will eventually outsource some of my designs to America’s Printer - GREAT products, prices & service.

WHAT IF 600 direct-mail pieces a year resulted in a five-percent return? What if each gig generated $250? $350? $500? That’s $7,500 to $15,000 a year on a $600 a year investment. That’s $12.50 back on each dollar spent.

Using my FOCUSED strategy where I not only send a postcard to ONE NEW ADDRESS a day, but after adjusting my mailing lists (obtained via the Internet) for returns/bad addresses, I will repeat the mailings to previous groups/addresses every 90 days.

This approach has a two-fold effect: I perceive that I gain a NEW set of eyeballs EVERY DAY, but move one degree closer to the “repetition is effective” marketing philosophy, establishing credibility, visibility and linkage, along with BRAND RECOGNITION.

Repeating to previous addresses on a persistent basis helps me take advantage of the marketing belief print-ad publishers have that an advertisement has to appear THREE TIMES before a person even NOTICES it.

I also achieve the argument for “page dominance” - my postcard has NO competition for attention at the time it is displayed. AND, I achieve the published ad market’s other argument for repetition and linkage. I am establishing the “credibility” print advertisers promise when trying to sell you on contracting for multiple ad placement. Or, when they suggest annual advertising contracts providing for an ad in every consecutive issue over a 12-month period.

These arguments hold water, more or less. They are effective, more or less, but NOT NEARLY SO EFFECTIVE as a direct-mail campaign focused on a narrowly defined target base.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

1 comment:

Star City Fame said...

You are so darn right. Love your blog. The direct mail thing is something I have overlooked the past year, and I'm really glad your post reminded me. Thanks a bunch!