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Running a direct mail campaign

Direct mail: letterbox marketingRunning an effective direct mail campaign is more about getting the science right than the inspiration. Success depends on continually testing and refining all the elements of a mailing, rather than necessarily having a flash of creative genius.

Any small business can use direct mail to increase its sales. The starting point is to identify your target market. Next, you send your best prospects an enticing offer, making sure you can fulfil the orders that it will generate.

Now you can measure and evaluate the response. This analysis will tell you two things: who is most likely to respond and which creative approach is most effective. Use this information to send more tightly focused mailshots in the future. Your response levels - and with it your return on investment - should rise.

Targeting your direct mail

With direct mail, there are two key variables - who you target (your mailing list) and what you send them (your mailshot). Of these, the mailing list is by far the most important factor.

You must target your message at those most likely to respond to avoid wastage and increase response rates. Your hottest prospects are your existing customers. To drum up business from new sources, you need to identify people who match the profile of your existing customers.

To further refine your direct mail campaign, you can segment your database and send highly targeted messages to people with specific buying habits or profiles. Once you have established who gives you the best customer response, you can rent or buy new mailing lists of prospects that match that profile.

You should also decide on the best delivery method for your direct mailing. If you want to personalise the mailing, you can post it in the normal way. If you want to cover a certain postcode with no need for names and addresses, it could be worth trying door-to-door delivery. Make sure you have the resources to handle the responses properly. If in doubt, stagger your campaign and send the mailshot in smaller batches.

Maximising response levels to your mailshots

Direct mail can produce a response of between 1% and 5%, but the most common response rate is between 1% and 3%. The higher the response level, the more business you bring in. The aim of your direct mail strategy is to maximise response.

A good mailshot should include a clear message and a strong call to action. It's best to offer recipients a variety of ways to respond to ensure there's a reply mechanism that suits everyone, including mail, telephone, email and web address. Pre-paid reply envelopes or cards can really boost responses.

Incentives such as prizes, offers or discounts will also help to increase response levels and money-off coupons and samples can be very attractive incentives.

Direct mail offers a cost-effective way to test creative approaches. You can send different mailshots to small groups and then roll out the mailing that got the highest response rate to a larger audience.

Evaluating the response to your direct mailing

Evaluation is one of the most important aspects of a successful direct mailing campaign. To track responses you may need to use codes or offers so you can connect the response to a specific mailing. That way you can compare different approaches and different target markets.

It is important to analyse the costs of the campaign and quantify the rate of response. With this information you can produce a cost per response and find out if the mailing has been profitable.

Direct mail is a continuous learning process; this data collection and analysis can deepen your understanding of your customers. The findings will help you to refine your next campaign, making each mailing more effective than the last.

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