Using direct marketing - checklist

Person receiving letter from letter box

Direct marketing is a targeted marketing option that lets small businesses reach new audiences while making the most of limited resources. But a clear message and a quality mailing list is essential to get the best results. Here are the steps to follow.

  • Decide what your objectives are: for example, making direct sales, maintaining customer relationships or generating new enquiries.
  • Decide on a method. Whether you choose a leaflet drop, a mailshot, SMS (text message) marketing or emails, ensure it is the most effective for your budget and is the method most likely to get the desired result.
  • The benefit of sending an email to your target audience is that they are only one click away from your website. If they have bought from you previously, you can structure your email so that the customer is reminded of their purchase and directed to related products.
  • Leafleting is simple and relatively cheap. However, it has a lower response rate than other types of direct marketing as it is less targeted. 'Blanketing' involves dropping leaflets into every building in a particular area.
  • Identify your target audience, typically similar to your existing customers.
  • Establish your budget; consider how much each response will be worth to you, and the likely response rate. Be realistic in your estimates.
  • Build your own mailing list and keep it up to date; keep records of enquiries and existing customers, and ask existing contacts for potential new leads.
  • Consider buying or renting a mailing list; clearly specify your target audience, how many names you want and whether you intend to re-use the list. Ensure that the list has been cleaned to remove any names that have 'opted out' of receiving mailings.
  • Ensure that your use and storage of personal data complies with the Data Protection Act 2018.
  • Write a clear, attention-grabbing message selling the benefits of your offer and a clear call to action (CTA). Don't bombard the recipient with too much information - work out what result you are hoping to achieve, and keep your message limited to that one topic.
  • Design the communication to be attractive; personalise it as far as possible - ideally with a recipient name - and avoid the appearance of junk mail or spam.
  • Encourage responses: make responding easy (eg with a pre-printed reply card if posting) and consider offering an incentive to reply promptly.
  • Plan the timing of the mailshot; avoid holiday periods when recipients will be away, and ensure that mailings that are linked to a specific event arrive in good time to be of use.
  • Use test mailings to establish likely response rates, and to compare the effectiveness of different messages or mailing lists.
  • Decide how you will handle the response and make any necessary preparations: for example, train employees how to deal with related enquiries, and ensure you have adequate stock.
  • Send out the mailing: consider using a specialist mailing house to handle large mailings.
  • Analyse the response; record which contacts have been mailed and their response. Update your mailing list for any mail 'returned to sender' or email bouncebacks, and cleanse your list of any recipients opting out from further communication
  • Reinforce your message. Once you've streamlined your target recipients and the purpose of your message, consider using several 'touchpoints' - in other words, contacting the customer several times in different ways.

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