Direct mail and email can be a highly effective way to promote your products or services but which of the two forms is better and how can you use both to maximum effect as part of your marketing strategy?
Some pros and cons
To state the obvious, direct mail and email are different, and as research by Royal Mail and others have shown, both have strengths and weaknesses. Direct mail is perceived to be more formal when compared to email and also more reliable, believable, personal and informative. However, the rise in postage in recent years has made direct mail more expensive than email, whilst email is quicker for news, updates and messages.
What do you want to achieve?
Being clear about what you hope to achieve in a specific campaign can help you decide whether to use direct mail, email, or a combination of the two. Emails can be an effective way to generate sales through a special offer, keep customers informed and build loyalty. Direct mail is the perfect way to show off new products with a well-produced brochure – to be followed up later with an email.
Your mailing lists
To get the most return from direct mail and email marketing, you need an optimised mailing list, either your own list or one you pay for. Creating your own list has a number of advantages:
- You already know who your existing customers are and not only are they more likely to place a new order, you can incentivise them by offering a discount if they introduce a friend or order before a set date.
- You can train staff to get full contact details from customers and any sales’ enquiries to add to your list of potential customers.
- You can use social media platforms and your website to harvest contact details by encouraging enquiries from visitors with a clear call-to-action option.
- You can use your network of business contacts to source leads by asking them for potential customers’ names. In exchange, you can offer some names from your own list.
Manage your database
A well-maintained mailing list tells you when a customer was last contacted by email or direct mail and how they responded. Clean up your database regularly by deleting the names of mailings that were returned to sender, or emails that were bounced back. Ask customers to confirm/amend their details. Depending on the volume of mail you plan to send out, you can use CRM (customer relationship management) software for greater efficiency. Another option is to use a reputable mailing house but check to see what additional services each one offers, such as printing labels etc.
Rent or buy a mailing list
If you want to extend the reach of your campaign beyond your listed customers, buying in or renting a list is worth considering. You can find sources for lists online, through specialist magazines, trade associations and business organisations. Quality of the lists varies, as do the prices, so be sure to shop around. If you want to reach every household in a specific area, Royal Mail offers a door-to-door delivery service. The Direct Mail Association has information on list brokers and owners. If you rent a list, you can only use it once although any replies you get become ‘your’ customers who you can mail again in future.
Time it right
Give due thought to when you do a mailing. If you’re promoting an event, material should be sent out 4-6 weeks in advance, while weekends and holidays are the best time for consumer products. Mailing ahead of the end of the financial year can be a good time to target businesses, especially if you’re selling big-ticket items as the cost of these can be included in the company’s budget for the year ahead.
Make it count
Mailing should be compelling, so recipients want to read on. Come up with a catchy subject line for your email and make sure the content is well-written and free of any grammatical or spelling errors. Include a clear call to action and link to your website. Whether you’re looking for sales, testing the market or wanting to collect names and contact details, facilitate responses by including a reply-paid envelope, giving your full contact details and telling people where to find you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. You can also incentivise them to reply by offering a time-limited discount.
Follow up mailings with a phone call or email after recipients have had time to consider your offer. Just make sure you’re equipped to deal with the orders you do receive!
The Data Protection Act
You must comply with rules on data protection such as storing personal data safely or deleting it upon request. You should always provide an unsubscribe option and opt-outs on your mailings and not send mailings to anyone registered with the Mailing Preference Service. For more information on data protection, visit the ICO site and click here for the Mailing Preference Service.