Direct mail is one of the most profitable ways to market, though it’s also one of the most expensive. If you’re thinking about doing direct mail marketing, whether you’ve done it before or this is your very first time, you’ve got to consider a few things in advance. What is your budget? What is your target market? What’s the competition doing? Needless to say, you want to promote something a little different and a lot better.
Then you have to think about what type of appeal is most likely to motivate the people you’re mailing to, whether they’re existing customers or new prospects. Consider the action you want the prospect to take. Never send out direct mail without telling the prospects exactly what you want them to do: call for more information, get their credit card out, or come into your store. If you tell them what you want them to do, you’ll get better results. In addition to that, you’ll want to raise prices, so you can afford to send more direct mail and do more promotions. Consider that as a value-added touch, because that’s what’s important here. No matter what your service is or what your products are, think of ways to add value so you can raise the price and lower the cost of promotion.
Although direct mail isn’t cheap, it’s very dollar effective, because it produces such wonderful results if it’s done right. Of course, you also have to consider the mailing list you’ll use. You may need a list of people within a few miles of your store, or you may want to try a list of people from all over your city, state, or nation, depending on what you’re trying to sell and the range you want to reach out to.
You must also consider ways to make your offer more powerful. That’s what makes the sales soar. So many offers are so dull that they have little or no chance of getting people interested enough to buy. You have to make it exciting and fresh. There has to be something in that sales letter that makes people say, “Wow! I’d rather have this than the money he’s asking for it.” Or “This sounds great. I’ve got to get over to this shop as soon as I can.” Always strive to improve the impact of your direct mail. Stress benefits, not just empty words about your company.
Practice reading your copy out loud. This is a technique I learned long ago from the late Gary Halbert. He said that if you read your copy aloud, even though your potential customer will be reading it as a letter, you’ll find things you like about it and things you don’t, and you can make positive changes. Consider reinforcing your letter with a flyer or brochure if and only if your product needs one to highlight it. There are some products that look great in color, like landscaping. If you’re sending information about how you’re going to help people with their landscaping, sometimes a color picture will help — but for many forms of direct mail it’s not necessary.
Make your letters as personal as you can. Don’t write to some amorphous “Dear Potential Customer.” Always write your copy as if you’re writing to just one person. You may be sending out 10,000 letters, but you want each to feel like it was aimed right at the person who reads it. Of course, today it’s easy to personalize your letters, in the salutation and throughout the body; try that and see how people respond. Also, keep in mind that good direct mail copy consists of short sentences and paragraphs. And don’t forget a call to action: tell them exactly what you want them to do. Use testimonials if you can. People expect us to be all gung-ho about our products and services, but if they see other people making positive comments about them, that’s very helpful.
Any good direct mail letter should also include a postscript that summarizes what you said and repeats the call to action. If possible, offer a guarantee for anything you’re selling, because that reduces or eliminates the risk, and people really love that. You also want to write a letter that’s very easy to understand. Use simple English at about an eighth-grade level. If you do all this, especially if you make the product or service sound fantastic, you’ll have big results.
Let me re-emphasize that I’m especially in favor of raising your prices, if only so you can spend more on promotion. Most marketers tend to do the exact opposite, either because they think they won’t get any orders if they don’t, or that the economy just isn’t good enough to support a higher price. Then they contribute to a race for the bottom as they try to keep their prices lower than the competition. There are 101 excuses for lowering the price on a product.
On the other hand, when raising your prices, you may reach a price ceiling beyond which your customers will no longer respond. But most businesses never do, because they never try raising their prices. Remember, when you price toward the upper end of what your market will bear, you can do more creative things with your marketing to try to attract more customers. Your additional revenue covers the costs. You can spend more money to attract your customers and still make better profits, because you were more aggressive with your marketing and ended up with more customers.
More customers equals more chances for repeat business or sustainable long-term growth. That’s an important point to keep in mind — so always think about what you can do to charge more. Maybe you can bundle several products and services together to create a bigger package that you can price higher, so your average ticket price goes up.
Do all you can to increase the size of every order that comes to you; that may be the most effective strategy for making more money with direct mail. Here at M.O.R.E., Inc., we occasionally put an option for an upgrade right on the order form. Some people will automatically take advantage of the premium package if it’s available. It doesn’t have to be huge; if your main product costs $99, you might add a paragraph of copy that says something along the lines of, “For a limited time, we also have this package available for $37 more.” And bam, all of a sudden your $99 sale has jumped to $136. Even a small incremental increase can make a big difference over time.
We’ve seen people do this where they’re selling a premium upgrade for several hundred dollars instead of a few dozen. So if $99 is the base fee, you can also have a super premium package available for $495. Even if you plan on offering them that upgrade later, don’t be afraid to try it on your order form, because that does a couple of things. Not only will it get your average ticket price up (because some people will take that option right away), it notifies everyone that you’re going to make another offer available to them soon. When you do go back to them, they’re already familiar with it.
Even if you’ve never thought about using direct mail before, it’s time to do so. Find ways to incorporate these strategies into your business, because they can help you make some serious money. There are very few businesses out there that can’t benefit from direct mail strategies. And don’t just try it once and give up; continue to try it until it works for you. One of the nicest things about direct mail is that you can test small but aggressively. Your direct mail package can be expensive, which lets you do a complete job of selling. But even if it is expensive, you won’t lose your shirt if you test it to small numbers of prospects first. If that works, you can roll it out and make a fortune.
Since you can test small, I suggest you test everything you can, even if you’re not sure it will resonate with people. Test different offers, different formats, different mailing lists. For example, you might try testing three different direct mail pieces. Let’s say two are postcards, and one is a more complete package. You can spend a little money and see how that works for you, and then take the results in the direction the response indicates — because direct mail is a never-ending process of testing new things.
And again, it’s all about salesmanship. A good direct mail package replaces some or all of the things a salesperson would do to clinch a sale. It presents the benefits in the greatest light, answers the prospect’s biggest objections, wears down their sales resistance, and makes them want to know more or even want to buy.
Direct mail is exciting and fun, so don’t look at it as work. Consider it a labor of love. It’s so exciting to pour your heart and soul into a good direct mail package, throw it out there, and then wait for the response. That waiting can make you feel like a little kid again, waiting for Christmas Day.