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Direct mail has marketing advantages for a small business
By Ralph Coker 

Direct mail marketing has advantages over other marketing techniques. It’s proactive because you don’t wait for the potential customer to find you. Your message is delivered directly to customers or prospects you identify as being likely buyers of your product or service.

It builds relationships with customers because you can tell your story and build your credibility. It sends a targeted message. You can send different messages to different types of customers or prospects that appeal to their interests.

Well-designed direct mail is not treated as junk mail by the recipients. A survey by direct mail giant Vertis Communications found that 85 percent of women in the coveted 25-44 age bracket actually read direct mail marketing pieces.

Among total adults surveyed, 72 percent said they have replied to “buy one, get one free” direct mail offers. Of all adults surveyed, 63 percent said they have responded to direct mail discount offers.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, the return on investment of each dollar spent on direct marketing including direct mail is $11.69 compared with $5.24 from non-direct marketing expenditures.

There are several key steps in successful direct mail marketing. The backbone of an effective direct mailing is the list. The best list is the one you compile yourself from existing customers and prospects.

The other source is direct mail brokers; however, you must first identify and define your target audience. Direct mail list brokers have access to thousands of lists segregated by location, age, income, gender, marital status and many other criteria. The greater your understanding of your target audience, the more precisely the direct mail broker can pinpoint your direct mail list. The more precise your list, the more effective your direct mail will be.

The next key step is making the sales offer. Effective sales offers usually have a compelling offer (buy one, get one free), a call to action (visit our store or web site Tuesday) and a deadline (offer expires May 10). Different offers work best for different audiences. Try several small test mailings with different offers, calls to action and deadlines and compare the response rates before making the large mailing. For example a discount or offer of free delivery may get more response than a gift with purchase. If your product has a long selling cycle, you may need a longer deadline than other businesses would. Postscripts reiterating your offer and call to action are effective people read them.

The final key step is getting the word out. That requires writing the copy, designing the piece, printing, stuffing envelopes, stamping and mailing. Allow enough time to complete that process so that your mailing is not delivered after the deadline expires. There are numerous commercial services available to handle that process probably more cost effectively than you could yourself.

You definitely need professional help in the graphic design of the piece. Also, professionals will ensure that your piece complies with postal regulations, otherwise you could end up paying more postage or being denied delivery entirely. Avoid oversized and odd-shaped pieces.

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