Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guerrilla Marketing Time Machine: Direct Mail Marketing

Note: We are in a series examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.

Ok, sorry for the delay between posts. Been working on a Starbucks re-experience project over on The Marketing Spot.
"Direct marketing is where it's at. Direct marketing is the name of your game."
- Jay Conrad Levinson - Guerilla Marketing
I have to agree with JCL on this one. Direct Mail can be a very effective marketing tool for small businesses, and very cost efficient.

Levinson cites these advantages of direct mail:
  • It's easier to track results
  • You can zero in on almost any target audience.
  • You can personalize your marketing like crazy.
  • You can compete with, even beat, the giants.

Levinson's rules of thumb for using direct mail:

  • The most important element is the right list.
  • Make it easy for the recipient to take action.
  • Testimonials improve response rates.
  • Test your results and keep good records

Tips for Getting a Maximum Response Rate

  • Always tell the person what to do next - Make a phone call, go to the website, come to the showroom.
  • The four most important elements in direct mail are the list, the offer, the copy, the graphics. Pay close attention to each.
  • Direct mail success comes from the cumulative effect of repeat mailing. Make them repetitive, yet different from one another.

I frequently use direct mail for clients, and for my own business, because of its versatility and cost effectiveness. Direct mail allows you to specifically target who you want to receive your mail. You can target by almost any category and combination of categories you can conceive. Some examples of targeting are geographic, demographic, income, family size, employment category, or any combination of the above.

Accuracy of the list is very important. Make sure you check the age of you list with the list broker. The list should be no more than 12-18 months old. And remember, you want to mail to a person, and not to a title. My advice is to eliminate titles from your list because they are often inaccurate and they are often truncated. Truncated titles like "Pres" and "Treas" damage your credibility. This is why you need to establish a relationship with a good mailing house.

The Most Important Thing
What do you want to accomplish with your mailing? Yes, you should use all marketing to advance your brand promise and image. However, if you are going to use direct mail, you need a stronger purpose.

Before you mail, decide the action you want the customer to take. Call for an appointment? Redeem a coupon? Visit your website? Then transform this goal into a prominent call to action on the direct mail piece.

Your Partner in Mailing
Do not try to mail things yourself. A dirty little secret is that you don't have to pay full price on postage if you sort things the right way. But you don't have to do the sorting. Find a good mail house with which to work. They can give you invaluable advice and save you money on postage, enough to justify the cost of using them. Many of them will also print your materials for you.

The key is finding a mail house you can trust and one that will give you good advice. The internet can set you up with just about any mail house in the country. I recommend going local if you can. Sometimes, you need to be able to sit across the desk from someone so that they understand your business is important. In Central Texas, I use MailMax Direct

Consider Using Postcards
Postcards are cheaper to print and cheaper to mail than letters or the fancy pieces direct mail marketers will try to sell you. More importantly, postcards are more visible. There's no envelope to open. The customer has to touch your mail piece when in arrives in their mailbox. There is no way that they can avoid looking at your message.

If you are going to use postcards, your call to action or your brand promise has to be immediately visible. And because you have less space to write, your copy has to be concise and powerful.

Tips on Using Postcards

  • Use large format postcards (8.5" x 5.5"). The cost to print them is not that much more and they stand out prominently in the mailbox.
  • To reduce printing costs don't use bleed (printing to the edge of the sheet), and print your piece in two colors rather than four color (this takes a skilled graphics designer).
  • Don't stick mailing labels on your postcard, have your mailhouse inkjet the names. This can actually be cheaper to do sometimes.

Brad over at Branding Strategy Insider has a great a great Direct Marketing Guide which you should bookmark as your reference tool.

Guerrilla Marketing Tactic?
Direct mail may be an even more effective marketing tool than it was when Levinson wrote the first edition of Guerrilla Marketing. Many big companies sink a lot of money into flooding your email box, leaving more space in your conventional mailbox to stand out.

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GBS said...

This is great information on how to establish and execute a direct mail campaign, however I don't see anything about how many times someone must see something for them to "buy". What is the direct mail "rule of thumb" on frequency and time between each event? In other words, should you send something once, twice, half a dozen, etc. and do you wait a week or two or three between each round of direct mail? If you have access to any stuides that have been done on the subject I would be curious to see the results of those. Thanks Jay!

Jay Ehret said...

The cop out answer is "it depends." But it really does. It depends on the purpose of your campaign, your product/service, the effectiveness of your piece, and the irritablity factor of your product/service.

If your goal is to stimulate sales over a long period of time, then you will want to mail often and consistently.

If your goal is to introduce a new product, you may want only mail once.

If you have great copy and an irresitable call to action, they you may only need to mail once. If you don't have either of these, you probably shouldn't mail at all.

The key for your situation will probably be to find a counselor at a good mail house. Shop around. Give our office a call if you are getting frustrated.