Putting Direct Mail to use

Direct mail messages should ideally ask for some kind of response, though this is not always necessary.  Still, always consider how a response to something you intend mailing out will help make your sales approaches more profitable.  Because it provides you with a measurement of interest, it’s an ideal way of finding out where your major effort must be, or where you might be wasting time and money.

If your mailing included a brochure, for instance, the reply card is a valuable means of identifying prospects worth the expense of additional mail approaches, telephone contacts or personal visits.  A response indicates their willingness for further contact.

What follows is a list of possible uses … it by no means claims to be complete, as every business will have unique opportunities.

  • Customer Retention: Your existing customers are the most cost-effective people to mail to and you can communicate with them by:
    • Following up on a sale.  A letter or postcard saying how much you value their custom is always appreciated.  It stimulates positive word-of-mouth testimonials and is the best way to commence an ongoing communication between yourself and your customers.  Rather get the communication going early than after some time has passed; at that stage, your approach can be interpreted as a situation where you’ve suddenly discovered you need their custom, something that might be resented.
    • Cards or letters that enquire whether a product or service was to their satisfaction, how things can be improved.
    • Newsletters about your business or containing articles on your specific industry.  Not only would they regard this as your continued interest in them, it might spur them into action where they buy again. A motor dealer could produce a newsletter dealing with subject matter of interest to his customers, such as items on vehicle insurance, emergency repairs, the effect of various driving styles.
    •  Keeping them informed of changes or improvements to your products, business, or its services.  Direct mail lets you give more detail than an advertisement.
    • Letting them know in advance of any advertising you have planned.  Here you could use a letter, or if visual impact is required, a leaflet or brochure.
    • Keeping them informed of any changes such as telephone or facsimile numbers.
    • Keeping them informed about anything that might affect or interest them, or that enhances the image of your business.
    • Congratulatory postcards on personal events regarding your customers.  Weddings, births, promotions — anything that can act as an excuse for a letter or card.
    • Follow-up on sales calls.  When prospects have been visited, follow-up with a letter reinforcing your sales messages — tailor-made for them.  It helps keep the door open, especially if your competitors don’t demonstrate the same level of interest.
    • Gaining and developing sales leads. Including a response device in your mail package or adverts (for a free information booklet, for example) provides an easy way of determining who warrants further attention and who is inclined to purchase.  You can then follow up with further direct mail or a personal sales approach.
    • Mail to your existing customers, offering them a gift voucher or some reward for introducing a friend whose visit results in a sale.
    • Win back inactive customers.   A series of messages to lost customers can show you regret losing their custom.
    • Invite customers and prospects to special events.
    •  Arrange for a well known personality who’s considered an expert on your industry to give a talk at your store.  A letter or special invitation will draw guests.
    • Enhance awareness of other promotional activities.   Direct mail can draw attention to forthcoming adverts, events and publicity and even your next mail package.  Always do this in advance of such activities — not after an advertising campaign has already commenced.
    • Test your markets. Because a response device included in your package makes your message measurable, you can test specific prospect groups or trading areas for their scope and inclination to purchase before investing more money in further promotions.
    • Test your promotions:
      • advertising themes
      • special offers
      • headlines
      • mail packages
      • seasonal preferences.
    • Research your business
      •  the level of customer satisfaction with your business, its products and services
      • whether sections of your business need further promotional exposure.
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