Friday, April 23, 2010

6 Key Components to Successful Direct Mail

by Jennifer Spitzer

Earlier this week I spoke to a prospective client about developing a targeted direct mail campaign to an audience proven to be in the market for the items they sell. Regardless of the years of research and actual response analysis data available to back up the strategy, the marketing director said, “We tried that kind of program once and it didn’t work so we’re not doing it again.”

If your business utilizes direct mail and you’re testing a “no-brainer” strategy but it isn’t working, you’ve probably made a critical mistake in your execution. To me, there are six key components of every direct mail program and you need all of them working together to have a successful campaign.

DATA. I’ve always thought that data is the most important component of any campaign. Every successful strategy starts with good data. You can have beautiful creative and a fantastic offer but if you put it in front of the wrong audience, it’s going to fail.

TIMING. In a recent study by Q Interactive, 88% of the 1,800 women they surveyed said they wished brands they trusted would send more tailored offers. When presented with a targeted ad, their response was “Cool! How did they know I wanted this?”

The timing of when you target someone is more important now than ever before. Consumers don’t have time to spend on things that are not relevant to the needs they have right now. The challenge we all have as marketers is to figure out the precise timing for when our prospects will be ready to buy our product and then hit them with a great offer right at that moment.

OFFER. It’s okay if you don’t know what offer is going to work... that's what testing is for. Just make sure it's compelling.

CREATIVE. Copywriters are going to hate me for saying this, but I am convinced that no one reads advertising copy anymore. That doesn’t mean you can have sloppy copy… I’m just saying I think copy isn't its own category. Creatively, when someone sees your direct mail piece, they should be able to figure out what you’re trying to sell and what the offer is – immediately. No one is going to take the time to read through all of your beautiful copy to figure out what you’re trying to offer.

ANALYSIS. This is where most businesses fall down. If you’re not measuring your programs, how do you know whether or not they’re really working? Every single campaign you do must have a plan for measurement in place before you even execute it. Without skillful analysis, you’re doomed to repeat mistakes and you miss out on opportunities to refine your campaign.

COMMITMENT TO DIRECT MAIL. No one ever talks about this, but it’s really important. I once had a client say to me, “I’ll mail 1,000 pieces one time and if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to continue.”

If you’re stepping up to bat for the first time, it’s not likely you’re going to hit a home run. Some of your programs aren’t going to perform the way you had hoped. Assuming the strategy is solid, be prepared to take what you learn from the campaign and refine it.

What about the client mentioned above? I ended up telling him he should invest the money somewhere else because it would be a waste to pursue a strategy in this manner.


Over the next few weeks I’m going to take each of the first five categories and provide some additional insight and case study information, as well as resources and some ideas you can use to make your next campaign more successful. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Plan Properly and the 2011 Postal Increase Won't Be So Painful

By Jennifer Spitzer

This morning I’m reading an article in MailPro, the USPS’s newsletter for mailing professionals, about the postal service’s 10-year plan to avoid a cumulative $238 billion shortfall over the next decade. Some of the changes are already well-publicized, like the proposed adjustment of delivery days which will eliminate Saturday delivery. The USPS will also restructure retiree health benefit payments and work toward providing consumers more modernized access. Before you know it, you’ll be able to buy a cup of joe at Starbucks, eat a burger and mail a package – all while you’re shopping at Target.

As I’m reading, I see the second-to-last bullet point of the plan, “A modest exigent price increase will be proposed, effective in 2011.” Apparently my vocabulary is too limited for me to know exactly what this means, so I looked up the word “exigent”.

Ex-i-gent [ek-si-juhnt]- adjective. 1. Requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing. 2. Requiring a great deal, or more than is reasonable.

To me, using “modest exigent” to describe an imminent postage increase is a contradiction of terms. To achieve an immediate increase for 2011, the USPS will have to propose new pricing to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) before the end of the year. I’m willing to bet what the USPS defines as a reasonable increase and what marketers are able to bear are two different things. So the question is will it truly be modest or are we looking at something a little more exigent?

It’s not all gloom-and-doom for businesses that use direct mail as a means of increasing business from new and existing customers. You just need to plan properly. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

1. Once it’s announced, pay attention to when the increase is going to take effect and plan your mailings accordingly. If you’re planning a large mailing, mail before the increase and you’ll save a lot of money.

2. Challenge your marketing agency to review their delivery logistics. You may be eligible for additional postal discounts just by adjusting where you enter your mail.

3. Keep a clean database! Make sure you’re not wasting postage by mailing to addresses that have no chance of being delivered.

4. Finally, and most importantly… be targeted.

Now more than ever, your direct mail needs to move away from mass distribution and toward more targeted solutions. You’ll mail less, but enjoy a better return on your investment. Find consumers who want or need your product at the exact moment your message hits their mailbox and you’ll find that a modest exigent postal increase isn’t so painful after all.