Direct mail is one of the most overlooked yet one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to dramatically increase the leads to your business. The majority of advertising does not work, is not trackable, and is usually a waste of money. Direct mail and direct marketing is trackable, inexpensive, and the results are easily measurable. No matter what your business is, lead generation is vital. Direct mail is a great way to have a predictable number of leads coming into your pipeline each and every week or month for a low cost. Below are the seven keys that I have noticed from my own real estate business and from studying direct marketing that go into a successful direct mail campaign.
Step 1: You must know who your target audience is.
The better you know your customers the more effective your direct mail campaign will be. Is there a specific type of person that purchases your goods or services? The majority of the time, it is much more effective to send out several hundred or several thousand pieces to your specific niche market such as recent retirees, truck drivers, CPAs, rather than blanket neighborhoods at random. You can get lists of your prospective customers from list brokers who sell contact information for different groups of people. To get a good idea if your mailings are working or not you should be sending out a minimum of 500 letters or postcards.
Step 2: You must have a follow up sequence in place for your mailings.
The majority of people who send direct mail send out one letter or postcard and then stop. To crush your competition you must have sequential mailings, I recommend a minimum of three mailings for each campaign. If someone calls you then you take their name off of your list but until they contact you, you must assume everyone is a potential customer until they prove otherwise. To increase the effectiveness of each letter, reference the previous letters you have sent instead of sending the same exact letter or postcard every time. One of the greatest direct marketers of all time, Dan Kennedy would say that one is the worst number in marketing, you must use multiple steps and multiple media. As long as each mailing sequence you do is profitable you should continue mailing letters until the last step is no longer profitable.
Step 3: Build a collection of “swipe files.”
Essentially what this means is that if you see or receive any marketing materials including mail that is eye catching or is just great marketing you can keep a collection of these for ideas on your next mailer that you send out. If you are having a hard time coming up with what to mail look through your swipe file and adapt your marketing based on your favorite ideas and pieces that you have collected over time.
Step 4: Track your leads and how much they cost.
By tracking your leads and costs per lead you can improve on your response rate and increase your effectiveness. Some of the easiest ways to do this include using different names on letters, different telephone numbers, or asking the customer how you heard about your business. Split tests are another great way to track your marketing to see what is working the best. Send out two or more different mailings to prospective customers with different messages and designs to see which ones achieve a better response rate. You should be split testing regularly so that you can sharpen your ax and have the most effective marketing. For those just starting out you can keep track of the prospects that respond in an Excel spreadsheet but it would be wise to switch to a CRM tool like Infusionsoft or others as soon as possible.
Step 5: Headlines are everything in direct mail marketing.
People are swamped with advertisements from TV, radio, online, and direct mail so you must make your headline stand out and be relevant to your target customer. Most people are not paying attention to every advertisement so you really have to shake them to their core with something that is relevant and attention grabbing. Part of the reason why tabloid magazines like the Weekly World News and the National Inquirer outsell Newsweek and Times combined is because of the exciting and gripping headlines the writers use. When you are choosing your headline, write down as many as you can think of. Some copywriters write as many as 100 before choosing the one that best fits for the message they are trying to convey. The headline is the most important part of any sales letter because if you can’t grab attention with the headline then there is no way your prospect will care to read the rest of your message.
Step 6: To truly be successful with direct mail and leverage your time effectively you must create an automated system for your direct mail campaigns.
You can not be the one licking, stamping, and writing addresses on envelopes. There are direct mail fulfillment and printers in every city that can effectively get your direct mail out. With an automated system you know how many letters/postcards you send out, how many responses you are getting, and how many leads it takes to convert into a customer. Based on that information you can tweak your marketing by sending out more or less mail depending on your response rate. You can also hire someone for a reasonable hourly rate or pay them per letter to hand write the address and put stamps on.
Step 7: To dramatically increase your response rates with direct mail, your mail should be as personalized as possible.
Direct marketers will always talk about the “A” and the “B” pile of mail that customers receive. To land your mail in the “A” pile you must make it very distinguished and personalized. It pays to hire someone part time (25 cents an envelope) or pay a direct mail fulfillment company like Yellow Letter Mail to hand write the addresses. Printed envelopes almost always end up in the “B” pile of mail otherwise known as the trash can. Some marketers use what is called “chunky” mail where they put a small object inside the mail like candy which can increase response rates significantly. There is also a company called ScentiSphere, which can add a variety of scents to your mailings, including everything from apple pie to watermelon. Anything you can do to personalize or increase the uniqueness of your mailings will have a definite impact on your Return on Investment (ROI).
In conclusion you must see yourself as being in the marketing business first and foremost. There are plenty of high quality products and service businesses that fail because of poor marketing. On the other hand, even low quality products and services may thrive with the correct marketing. An easy example would be pizza restaurants like Pizza Hut or Dominoes. They are not successful because they have amazing pizza, any neighborhood pizza restaurant would outperform them in a taste test. Pizza Hut and Dominoes are successful because they focus on the marketing of their pizza. As direct marketing expert Dan Kennedy would say, to be successful in direct mail marketing you must see yourself in the marketing business, not necessarily the retail, dry cleaning, restaurant, or whatever business you are in.
Jeff Leighton is a real estate investor in the Washington, D.C. metro area and founder of Action Homebuyers.