Have you wondered if direct mail marketing is still a viable way to promote and grow your business in a Web 2.0 world? With all the hype focusing on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media and internet marketing is there still a place for direct mail?  Does direct mail still work?

We have heard these kinds of questions from many of our Atlanta area customers considering direct mail and we are pleased to say our answer is an unequivocal YES.  Direct mail still works.

We always follow up that answer with some crucial direct mail tips that we have learned here at Heritage Printing and Quick Copy over the years.  Successful direct mail production embodies several disciplines – marketing strategy, design, print, and mail; all of which need to come together in harmonious unison for your direct mail piece to provide a suitable return on your investment. So, here they are – our top 10 direct mail marketing success tips.

1. Develop Your Direct Mail Plan

Start with a plan. It does not need to be complicated, but you should definitely write your plan down.  Begin by identifying a few key factors –identify who you want to reach [your whole customer/prospect base of just a segment?] and what you want them to do.  From there – consider what is the best time or season to reach them with your offer. If you have multiple segments of prospects, you may develop a direct mail plan that targets different segments, with different offers, at different times of the year.  While you are writing this all down, begin thinking about how you are going to measure success.  Think in terms of things you can see and easily track: calls, email inquiries, visitors to your web site, and new sales are all things you can count and track.  What will spell success for you?

2. Think Direct Mail Campaign and Test, Test, Test

Too often we hear from clients who say they tried direct mail once and it didn’t work. Well the truth is a good response rate on a first time mailing; with a cold mailing list – one you have not used before, is about 1%.  It is not until you refine your campaign over a series of mailings that it really becomes the most cost effective. So, plan to mail to your list more than once – think and budget for a direct mail campaign.

In the direct mail business, you need to think in terms of both impressions and conversions.  An impression is when someone sees your brand and your offer.  A conversion is when they buy what you are selling.  Both impressions and conversions are valuable.  Ultimately, if you want to translate impressions into conversions you need to keep your name in front of your customers. The more times a prospect sees your name and relates it with your service, the more likely they will become your customer.

3. Develop Your Direct Mail Budget

Naturally, you should plan a budget. Key cost items include design/copywriting, list rental [if you don’t have a list already], list management [de-duplicate, CASS Certify, NCOA], printing, and postage. If you just don’t know where to start, feel free to ask one of our direct mail specialists for a free quote.

4. Create a Call to Action

To get the desired response your direct mail piece needs to create excitement. So, focus on what you want your prospects to do and then make sure you ask them to do it in a creative way.  Things like discounts, buy one get one free offers or something as simple as “Call Today for more details” helps the recipient understand how to take advantage of what you are offering.

5. Design a Super Direct Mail Piece

Will a postcard work, or do you need a sealed #10 envelope, will your budget allow for 4-color or just 2-color printing?  These are all important questions. Equally important is the impact your direct mail piece has when someone sees it for the first time.  You get about 2-3 seconds to grab and hold a prospect’s attention. So, make sure you contact a professional graphic designer like the one on staff at Heritage Printing.  A good use of color, images, logo and other branding is vital and your call to action must be instantly visible.

Generally, in direct mail, postcards are your friend.  They are inexpensive to print, cheaper to mail, available in a number of sizes, and the turnaround time is fast here at Heritage Printing.  Of course, we do just as well with more complicated direct mail pieces too.

6. Build or Rent Good Mailing List

The best direct mail response rates always come from mailing lists a business or nonprofit has generated and cultivated over a course of years. If you are just getting started, or if you are looking to expand an existing business, you should consider renting a mailing list.  Heritage Printing and Quick Copy can help you research available mailing lists and rent one to target most any demographic.  Simply put the more targeted your mailing list is, the better the response will be.

7. Clean Your Mailing List and Get Postal Discounts

Once you have your mailing list – keep it clean by removing duplicates and old, outdated addresses of people or businesses that have moved.  At Heritage Printing and Quick Copy we utilize leading software to ensure a list is clean before we put anything in the mail.  Our software connects directly to the post office to CASS Certify your list to validate the ‘deliverability’ of the address while simultaneously checking the name and address against the National Change of Address [NCOALink].

To help you save even more on your mailing, Heritage Printing’s system pre-sorts your mailing to help you get all the postal discounts we can.  In addition, we utilize the new intelligent mail barcode system that will enable you to qualify for even lower, automation, postage fees.  Bottom line –you save money on your direct mail with Heritage Printing while also reducing waste by dramatically cutting down on returned and undeliverable mail.

8. Personalize Your Mail Piece

Have you noticed how you respond differently to mail that is address to “Current Resident” as opposed to your full name?  For most people, ‘current resident’ is an instant turn off.  We strongly suggest you personalize every piece of mail you send. Here at Heritage with can integrate all your variable data. Our system dynamically inserts your variable data when your mail piece is printed so the final product looks more natural and takes less time to produce.

In fact, you should consider moving beyond just personalizing the addressee name. For example, if your data includes other variable data – such as customer past purchases, the date of their last visit to your location, or even past donation amounts, we can easily integrate that data into your design and print run to produce a highly targeted and powerful mailing.

9. Give Prospects Multiple Ways to Respond

Everyone is a bit different – some like to email, some prefer to call, and still others want to research you before they do either.  Make sure you provide multiple ways for people to contact you.  Include your phone number, email address, and web site at a minimum.  These days though, if you are on Facebook or Twitter – consider adding them as well.

10. Track Results and Make Improvements

Knowing your product or service and your market goes a long way toward direct mail success, but you never know exactly what your prospects will respond to until you try. The best way to increase response is by testing three elements of your direct mail campaign, one at a time in successive mailing. The elements are the headline (or opening sentence), the offer and the pricing.  In successive mailings, however, you should split test your mailing.  Send ½ of your list the same piece, and send the second ½ the new piece with the new headline, offer or price. Then, track which illicit the best response. By knowing and using what has already proven to be successful, future campaigns will be more efficient and will generate higher ROI.

There you go Atlanta,  our top 10 Direct Mail Marketing Success Tips! In truth, we could go on for quite a few more but that should be enough to get you started.  If you have questions we did not answer, give us a call, shoot us an email, or write it in the comment section below. Our Atlanta area direct mail specialists stand ready to serve all your design, print, and direct mail needs.