Topic overview

Creating a mailshot

A row of colouring pencils on a wooden table

Your marketing mailshot has to stand out on your recipient's doormat. It must have a clear and simple message and be attention-grabbing. Above all, a direct mailing needs to convince people to respond.

Creating a successful mailing depends on getting all these elements right. Before you plan your approach, it's a good idea to answer a few questions:

  • Who are your target market?
  • What is your key message?
  • What are the main selling points of your product or service?
  • How can recipients take advantage of your offer?
  • What sort of response are you looking for?

Use your answers to draw up a creative brief. It will inform all your decisions about the mailshot from now on.

What to include in a mailshot

Mailshots come in all shapes and sizes. They can be simple leaflets or flyers, or they can be highly personalised packs with several components.

If possible, address your mailing to a named individual and include personalised text. You need to demonstrate that you know the needs of your market, and have something relevant to offer.

Royal Mail offer a range of mailing services that can save you time and money such as Hybrid Mail and their postage printing online service which allows you to print postage labels without the need to visit the Post Office.

Apart from the size of the letterbox, there are very few restrictions governing mailshots. As a result, the look and content of door drops vary widely. You can include a variety of items to help make the sale, such as product brochures and catalogues; flyers advertising events and offers; order forms and pre-paid reply envelopes; samples and coupons.

Vouchers are especially effective. Make sure you include any conditions for redemption, the closing date for your offer, and your full name and address. Your coupon must meet the Code of Sales Promotion Practice.

Writing a direct mail letter

It may sound obvious, but the letter should look and read like a real letter. Write in a direct, lively and personal way, using 'you' wherever possible. You're writing to a real person, and your letter should come from a real person.

Your letter must have a proposition - a clear message that the recipient will remember and respond to. The proposition should communicate two things: it should say what is special about your product or service, then show how that can specifically benefit the end user.

The most effective approach is to tell recipients that you can save them money or time or improve an aspect of their life that is currently causing them pain.

You can highlight the key benefit in a snappy headline or by opening the letter with a question, such as 'Are you losing money through your old windows?'

Once you have their attention, explain what you can offer. Add credibility to your argument by including testimonials from satisfied customers. Add an interesting PS, reiterating the main message and with a call to action.

Your mailshot call to action

Your mailshot must include a clear call to action. Indeed, every aspect of the mailing should lead the recipient towards responding to you. If you include a brief question-and-answer section, for instance, finish with a call to action.

Offer as many ways to respond as you can - by return of post, phone, social media or email - but make sure you have enough staff available to deal with enquiries, and the stock to fulfil demand.

Make it easy to respond with pre-paid reply envelopes or freephone numbers. Add an incentive, such as money off or free gifts for a quick response, and include a closing date for your offer.

Producing your mailshot

Taking a mailshot from initial ideas to final artwork takes time. To ensure the process goes smoothly, break down the jobs into stages.

The style of photography, the weight of the paper, the words on the page, the colour of the envelope - all these elements have the power to persuade or put off your potential customers. Allow time to edit and refine the words (or hire a copywriter) and images to make sure you get it right.

Unless you have strong design skills in-house, it's a good idea to find a design professional to help lay out the mailshot. A freelance designer will be the cheapest route, or you can approach a local design agency. Alternatively, you could ask your printer if they can handle the design as well as the printing.

Whoever you choose, make sure you see several examples of their previous work to ensure they offer the best service.

Successful mailshot campaigns

A successful mailshot is, broadly, one that pays for itself. It is also one that meets the objectives you established at the outset. You could be measuring success in several ways - total revenue generated, number of sales, response rate, customer information gathered and so on.

Even if you don't meet your targets for revenue or number of sales, you can still gather worthwhile customer information. For example, was it new customers who responded or old ones? What parts of the offer did they responded to? Who has spent more?

Every mailshot gives you the opportunity to find out more about your customers, whether via recording sales information, inviting customers to fill out a simple questionnaire or gathering contact information for a follow-up phone survey.

This increased customer knowledge will help you segment your database, build customer profiles and target groups of customers with highly specific mailings in the future which are likely to produce a higher response rate. This in turn will mean that your direct mail campaigns become even more cost-effective and useful.

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