Direct mail advertising is exactly what it sounds like, mailing advertising materials directly to consumers homes or places of work. Typically, direct mail advertising is used by targeting clients who are most likely to read the mail or respond to what is sent. Businesses will build a database of all sorts of types of consumers, separated by age, sex, income, or a whole host of other characteristics. Direct mail can also refer to joint mailers or “coupons”, such as the value-pack or local mailings attached to reading materials.
Organizations that use Direct Mail Advertising
Many different groups will use direct mail advertising for their advantage, but there seems to be consistent use among certain organizations. Political organizations heavily use direct mail advertising, as they try to solicit voters for elections or raise awareness of political events. Financial institutions are also heavy users of direct mail, as they will send credit card and mortgage advertisements to per-existing banking consumers.
While these groups are geared towards using direct marketing advertising, you should consider whether your business can benefit. Professional services, such as lawyer offices, medical services, or tax services often do not use direct mailing, especially as many regulations exist to limit the types of advertisements they can utilize.
How can Direct Mail Advertising help your business
1. Evaluate your business and targeted clients
Direct mail advertising does not work for all businesses, but can be helpful for numerous businesses, local, regional, or even national. Consider whether your clients will be likely to respond to mailings sent to your house and whether your business will be received positively and negatively. Some clients react negatively to what they consider “junk mail”, some react positively, and most will be neutral.
2. Consider your budget
Direct mail advertising will require some funds from your marketing budget in order to work. The amount you spend will highly depend on the materials you are sending, how many units you send, and whether you spend for access to targeted mailing databases from other companies. You should budget for your mailers to be sent multiple times, as it often takes a few attempts before certain clients will be reached and respond to them.
3. Start your Direct Mail Advertising campaign
You must determine who you can send your direct mail to. Many states have restrictions on who can receive advertisements through the mail, as consumers in these states have the right to be excluded. Always be aware of these rules before addressing your direct mail. Many companies provide you with names and locations of people who should not be contacted.
Your direct mail advertising should include the following: A response device, main letter, an envelope, and a brochure or other similar document.
A. The Response Device – You must provide a way for your consumer to contact you and further expand the relationship. At minimum, you must have your business name and contact information prominent in your mailer. You should also include return cards, forms, or any other way of getting your consumer to actively respond to your ad and contact you.
B. The Main Letter – You must address your consumer in a professional manner and engage them with interesting content and new information. This is the crux of your direct mail, so ensure that it will achieve maximum exposure and be received positively by your consumer base.
C. The Envelope – While an envelope may seem like a simple and obvious part of direct mail advertising, you must put time and effort into creating an envelope that will garner attention to your consumer. It is the first thing they will see when they get their mail and will determine whether they choose to open your mail. The envelope must match your business and the consumer's expectations. Flashy and attention grabbing envelopes will grab attention, but may not be proper for all types of businesses. Consult with consumers and clients to determine what type of envelopes will get their attention.
D. The Brochure – Besides the above, you should also include something for your consumer to review with the hope that they keep for their reference. Brochures are one way to try to get a consumer to hold on to your mailer for an extended period of time, but you can also use things like refrigerator magnets, calenders, bookmarks, or other useful items that can be sent. While they may raise your overall costs, it is important that your direct mail remain with your consumer for an extended period of time, as they will review it when they need your services or products.
4. Evaluate whether your Direct Mail Advertising campaign is working
Direct mail advertising can be very difficult to evaluate, as you will not know when people receive the mailers, what they think of when they read it, and whether they find the mailers positive or negative. You should consider contacting some recipients and consumers who have become clients and ask them what they thought of them. Many clients will be very open and their feedback will be crucial in understanding the reception of your mailers.
Direct Mail Advertising and new technology
Recent technology has made much of direct mailing less popular than it has in the past. The ease of email, the transient nature of many residents, and the general dislike of “snail mail” by a younger generation has made targeted mailings seem out of date. Instead, targeted mailing is now generally used to reach older populations who do not use the internet or other communication technologies. Consider using internet advertising strategies if your target audience includes younger consumers.
Recent Opt-Out Laws
Many new laws in states across the country have begun to adopt Opt-Out laws, which require database companies to abide by the wishes of consumers who do not want their names on the lists and to receive direct mail advertising. Maintaining these lists while taking names off the list is a very difficult task and often leads to direct mail being sent that violates these regulations. Ensure that you comply with these opt out laws by using only reputable consumer lists from respectable companies. If you have further questions, contact a legal professional with experience in advertising regulation.