The 5 Steps of Smarter Direct Mail Planning

Just like many other marketing aspects of your business, there needs to be a plan behind your direct mail. After all, you’re investing your hard-earned money, and you hope to get a return on your investment. Whether you’ve used direct mail in the past, or you’re looking into it for the first time, consider the following questions when planning your next campaign.

Determine the goal of your campaign.

“What do I plan to accomplish?”– it’s a sensible question. It may be as simple as bringing in enough new customers that the campaign pays for itself, or more aggressive – like growing your new customer base by 50 percent. Whatever the case may be, set a goal that you feel is attainable and tailor the message of your campaign to this goal.

Identify the target market.

The products/services that you provide simply aren’t going to appeal to everyone. That being said, target prospects that you believe have a high probability of becoming your customers. To identify who your future customers are, look at who you’re currently doing business with. Look for recurring demographics, such as age, profession, distance from your office/shop, income, interests, etc. and use that as a basis to target additional prospects.

Include an enticing offer.

You have to give to get – this couldn’t be more true today. Your prospects want to know what’s in it for them if they choose to do business with you. What are you willing to give your prospects? Whatever the offer may be, make it both enticing and easy to act on. This may be a discount on products, a free consultation, a sweepstakes/giveaway or a QR code that drives them to a website for more information. One thing is for certain: leaving an offer or incentive out of your campaign can have crippling effects on its success.

Track results to measure success.

Tracking the results of your direct mail campaign is integral to determining its success. Put a practical results-tracking system in place before launching your campaign. This may be as simple as documenting the number incoming calls, emails or website visits that may come in response to the campaign, or the orders and sales that come after. Take your results tracking system a step further by calling/emailing prospects to make them aware of your direct mail piece before receiving it, or to collect their feedback afterwards.

Determine your budget.

Figuring out if your campaign is going to work within the constraints of your budget involves asking yourself several questions, including “What am I willing to pay to convert a prospect into a customer?”; “How much revenue is associated with a new customer?”; and “How many new customers do I need for the campaign to pay for itself?” Start with evaluating the projected costs for prospects’ data, printing, design and postage for each piece mailed. If you see the costs outweighing the potential return on your investment, consider ways to keep your costs down.

While there are no guarantees when it comes to direct mail, the above are examples of just a few steps you can take to increase the chances of your direct mail campaign’s success. Have direct mail successes or other insight to share? Leave a comment below!

Second Life: The Environmental Design Tool of the 21st Century

A Second Life view of the Dow Chemical Company's customer hospitality and business center at the '09 NPE tradeshow created by The Scott & Miller Group.

Recently, the Dow Chemical Company worked with The Scott & Miller Group, a business to business marketing communications firm with an award-winning reputation and a 45 year history of work to help the company both plan and design a customer hospitality and business center at the ’09 International Plastics Exposition Tradeshow, held in Chicago last June.

To address the needs of their client, the Scott & Miller Group implemented Second Life, the internet’s largest online 3D virtual world, to help design the center. Working within the software, the agency built a virtual replica of the 36,000 square foot Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place, complete with furnishings, meeting rooms, workstations, kiosks, dining areas, a lounge and bar. They then invited Dow Chemical Company clients to login to Second Life and explore the customer center themselves using avatars (icons representing people) to evaluate the center’s layout and design on their own.

According to Greg Baldwin, communications manager of Dow Basic Plastics, the virtual 3D ballroom was an invaluable tool used for evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed layout and design of the customer center, which ended up drawing over 1,100 customers during the week the event took place.

“When you’re working in such a large space, it’s difficult to predict every nuance that will impact the look, feel and functionality of the room – color choices, deciding where graphics are needed and where they aren’t, or even arrangement of dining tables. I was able to login to the virtual customer center any time and feel confident about the final decision.”

Working within the Second Life universe to accomplish such tasks has its advantages. For starters, the ability to bring multiple parties and locations together in one identifiable virtual space not only saves time, money and resources, but the sustainability of a virtual space as a means of both presenting and communicating an idea is immeasurable. According to Tom Leinberger, owner and president of The Scott & Miller Group, this idea of implementing virtual worlds into event and program planning is growing increasingly in popularity.

“When you have access to a dynamic medium like Second Life which combines social and visual components and can help achieve resource and cost efficiencies, it’s reasonable to assume many more companies will be incorporating virtual world activities into their integrated marketing communications strategies.”