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Successful Direct Marketing ... or expensive junk mail?

Do you need leads? Do you want to multiply your selling power without having to add more and more highly paid sales people to your team?

Well, part of the answer may be direct mail.

But is it that easy? Isn't it just expensive junk mail that nobody reads?

One of the most common and most expensive mistakes people make when they get into direct mail, is to be seduced by the wonderful array of 'prospect' lists being touted around. 

Very often, we get calls from disgruntled business people who have rented (or bought) lists from data suppliers at great expense, only to find their dreams of turning it into a wealth of new business are soured.

It's no small problem.

When you think that compiling a mailing campaign can cost you in the region of 1,000 per thousand names or more, it's a big investment. If you mail 5,000 names and it fails, you've wasted five grand cold!

The other day we received a call from a rather demoralised client in the cleaning business who thought he'd done every thing right to use direct mail to promote his services. 

He paid dearly for a great list so he could personalise the letter that went with the expensive brochures he'd had printed.

But just how valuable is the 'cold' list to him?

Sure, the records on the list are most likely to be current names ... but what else qualifies them to buy his services? In reality nothing.

The results to his mailing bear that out. He did a test mailing ... and got no response at all.

So how do you know if a mailing list is going to be any good for you?

Well, let's look at the worst lists ... and go from there. The worst lists incidentally are often "dressed up" as being your perfect list. They are names and addresses compiled from directories, registers and the like.

Even though they may tell you what and where the consumer or business is, you don't know anything about their propensity to buy your product from you. This is not to say you won't get any response, but it will most likely be so small you'll consider the whole affair a waste of money.

Better is a list of people who have been identified as having purchased your type of product before ... and better still if they have done so in response to a direct mail or online offer. And better yet if they are frequent buyers.

Great. But where do you FIND a list like this outside of your own customer files?

Of course, there are some good list companies and brokers who are interested in making your direct mailing work. They'll search out lists for you, research carefully the most likely prospects, and they'll help you set up tests of different lists.

The key is to find a list company you're comfortable with, and test small. Don't invest all your budget until you have satisfied yourself that the project is viable.

The Offer...

And when you mail, build in an offer ... something so good, it will bring people out of the woodwork.

Often, you can afford to make a much better offer than you may think, which could unleash a flood of new clients. A big mistake many people make when deciding on a great offer is not to calculate the lifetime value of a prospect. Rather they judge how attractive their offer can be based on the value of the first sale.

When you consider that many businesses are happy to acquire new clients at a loss, because they know that on average new customers go on to spend many times the value of the first transaction over the next 1, 2 or 3 years, this single transaction thinking really can stop your direct mail from working because you "pull your punches" with a weak offer.

Testing "Packaged Information"...

Undoubtedly, the best list you can have apart from your customers is one you build yourself through generating enquiries. By getting people to put their hands up and say, "I'm interested in what you have to offer!" you automatically profile your prospect, (and establish that they are direct marketing responsive).

To do that effectively, I urge you to think about creating and testing an offer of "special reports" ... packaged expertise, or Packaged Information as we call it.

When you create a White Paper, Special Report, Buyers Guide, Fact Sheet or Data Sheet that is of high value to a prospective customer and offer it, you can see lead flows from your Ad, Email, Website or Direct Mail letter increase by 2, 3 or 4 times.

In addition to creating more leads, this group of responders in turn become your new 'hot list'.

Even with Google and Email marketing now playing such an important role in generating new business, Direct Mail is still a vital cog in the new client machine for many businesses, especially when you understand just how hard it is to find anything remotely resembling a decent email mailing list.

But unlike Google AdWords, or Email broadcasting - when you are testing Direct Mail it can cost you a small fortune unless you work at it and understand these simple 'rules'...

1. Targeting - your targeting will make the biggest difference to the results you achieve. Test different lists, with multiple small mailings to discover which list works best. If your data supplier isn't interested in helping you test multiple lists, be very suspicious.

2. Strategy - single or multi step campaign? When you consider that most sales are made after your 5th contact, test going back to the same prospects between 5 and 8 times against a single step campaign (some of the 5 to 8 steps can be email or phone if appropriate). This often produces vastly better results.

3. Headline - the headline on your letter is usually the next most effective way to change results. Once again, test, test and test again to find out which headline works best for your prospects.

4. Offer - you can see up to 3 to 4 times better results by changing your offer. Try a Packaged Information offer if that is appropriate for your industry or product (Not sure? Call us on 01536 747 310 and we'll ask you some questions that will help you decide). Consider the Lifetime Value of a customer when creating your offer as this will allow you to think bigger and to test a better offer.

5. Compelling Copy - your copy can be the difference between success or failure - it's that simple. Some of the world's best copy writers make tens of thousands for writing a letter. Why? They make their clients millions!

Test your way to Direct Mail success.

We have practical, expert help available for businesses of all sizes. Contact us online now or call us on 01536 747 310 for more information.

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To read more articles related to this go to the Generating Leads section of the Academy.

You will also find other useful articles in Marketing Foundations, Online Marketing, Converting Prospects, Increasing Average Transaction Value and Increase Purchase Frequency.

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Marketing Foundations

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Converting Prospects

Increasing Average Transaction Value

Increase Purchase Frequency