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Q&A: Why choose direct mail for your business?

Your customers are bombarded with mailings from one source or another. So what's the point of investing in direct marketing? Andrew Miller from Royal Mail, explains how an intelligent approach to direct marketing can help you acquire, retain, develop and win back customers

Why should my business invest in direct marketing?

Andrew Miller [AM]: "A unique selling point of small businesses is their strong personal relationship with their customers. But, as your business grows, maintaining the personal touch becomes more of a challenge. Customers want you to speak to them in as personal a way as possible, which is what direct mail offers. Research suggests that direct marketing is eight times more likely than any other medium to make customers feel valued."

How can I be sure my mail ends up in the hands of potential customers?

AM: "The key to any campaign is ensuring your message is relevant - this means targeting the right people, effectively. If you know enough about your existing customer base, you can build your own mailing lists for targeted campaigns to win more custom from them. But you can also buy lists of potential customers.

"Data is a challenge every company grapples with and it's essential to get the targeting right. Royal Mail, for example, offers its customers a range of data services and we're working hard to tailor them to small and medium-sized enterprises. Direct mail is also one of the easiest marketing tools to evaluate."

What about my existing customers?

AM: "You could improve customer retention by, for example, rewarding loyal customers with a money-off voucher. But direct mail is also a perfect tool for up-selling. If you're keeping good databases and tracking customers, you'll know when a particular group may want a product upgrade or benefit from a value-added service. Direct mail is a fantastic tool in any customer development strategy."

Can I use direct mail to win back customers?

AM: "Yes, but you have to understand why you're losing customers in the first place. Assuming you can pinpoint that, you can address the issue in a very targeted mailing. Maybe you can send out a special offer, or even an apology - direct mail is about reaching out and having that personal touch. Customers are valuing that more and more these days."

How should direct mailing fit in with my other marketing activities?

AM: "By itself direct mail does a good job, but there are great synergies to be enjoyed when it is used with other channels. For example, one study showed that using direct marketing alongside a press campaign can enhance the campaign by 120%.

"TV and radio can send out a grand message, but direct mail enables customers to spend time with your information. It is much more impactful than the low-value, high volume tool people sometimes perceive it to be. It puts your brand directly into the hands of customers - which is what marketing is all about."

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