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The Greatly Exaggerated Death of Direct Mail

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People love to beat up on direct mail, as if it has the dated un-hipness of velcro sneakers. Those who feel that way may be in for a shock. Amazon, who knows something about marketing, just launched a 4 million piece new customer acquisition campaign in direct mail. It’s doubtful that eBay is run by prehistoric fools, yet they just announced that, “Direct mail supports our long-term growth strategy.”

My, how times have changed. Direct mail is re-emerging as the targetability and results champion. Maybe you already thought this, but felt if you expressed it that you’d be branded as irrelevant and forced to read the Yellow Pages. Now you can speak up and be proud! Here’s why you were right all along.

Google and Amazon have embraced “Multi Channel Marketing.” They realize that “all eggs in one media basket” is in itself outdated and extremely limiting. Though we might have sounded like dinosaurs in 2012 when we advised “Marketing Integration for Contractors” at a conference with direct mail getting 30% of the budgeting focus, it seems the other online darlings were heading the same way. (By the way, Hudson, Ink doesn’t “announce” trends, we attend the marketing conferences that announce them. We just interpret and apply them for contractors.) The numbers support the case for most retailers, but contractors have even more reason to embrace direct mail.

Likewise, email and social media are largely used as steps in the marketing funnel, as discovered in our last two Coaching Calls, whereas direct mail can be used as a front line selling opportunity. Fast, cheap, targetable, and effective. Yet the most important reason of all, and why the online retailer giants are going after direct mail in a big way is response.

Included in their pros and cons:

  1. Direct Mail is more targetable – Email is great, but when people move accounts, they rarely alert their send lists.
  2. Direct mail is real – Again, email is fantastic, but no one lives at an email address. Service work is done in homes and mail is materially present.
  3. Touch Time – This means how long a prospect pays attention. Online catalogs from search are just 9 minutes. Requested catalogs for mail are 45 minutes, a staggering difference.
  4. Gets noticed – Email is now deleted at 41% of all sends, which is far higher than peak “junk mail” was ever thrown away (estimated at 30%, 1985).
  5. Perceived Value – No one gets all goose-bumpy reading an e-card for your birthday. Yet, how about a real card in the mail? Tangibility equals value.
  6. Investment Return – Direct mail “junk” has now largely moved to email. Direct mail is perceived at a much higher value.

The Move for Contractors Now

Use Direct Mail in two primary ways:

  1. To acquire, exactly as Amazon, eBay, and Google are doing. Let those promotions point to: a) Phone, b) Online portal, c) email. Give prospects options to respond, but ask for the response.
  2. To retain exactly as the onliners do. They use direct mail to, “Thank, induce future purchases, and seek referrals,” according to online entertainment giant Netflix. Done as a quarterly newsletter that includes specials for repurchases and referrals, this is the next natural step to Step 1 from above. You’re paying to get them in the door, it only makes sense to keep them for pennies more.

After you’ve chosen a strategy for direct mail (contact your coach here if you’re stuck), the next most important issue is the message. This is the entire point of spending money on direct mail. The stuff you see offered by “bulk mailers” is NOT focused on your image or results, they’re focused on bulk, period.

For leads, you’ll use direct response messages that, of all things, ask for a sale. I believe the online retailers have learned this one already.

Simply think of your direct mail letter as sending out thousands of salespeople with a clear message of benefit. Like a salesperson, let it speak in friendly, exacting, and beneficial terms that respect a customer’s time and value. If you do this, you can have a sales letter that pulls leads automatically, and use it whenever you need a boost in leads and sales.

Final Note
Do a break-even analysis with any offer. Take the cost of the promotion, divide by the profit per item offered. That’s how many sales it will take you to break even. Using your closing ratio, you can see exactly how many leads you’ll need to make your promotion pay off.

Adams Hudson

Posted In: Building Performance, Sales & Marketing

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