What do you need to know about direct mail campaigns? Still a viable option to convert potential leads into customers, direct mail provides challenges and campaign structure. In this three part article, we will teach you the best practices for developing and managing your mailing list, designing your content for direct mail, and the planning and execution needed to succeed in such a campaign.
Benefits of Direct Mail Campaigns
Next to a promising mailing list and a hard-hitting, effective direct mail package, rapid, timely execution and diligent oversight are the two most important factors in any direct mail project. By their nature, direct mailings require the coordinated effort of several members of your marketing team—your ad agency (or direct mail marketing consultant), and your mailing list broker, printer, and lettershop. After the mailing is sent out, you will need the cooperation of your company’s sales reps, customer service, and administrative staff to follow up, track, and respond to prospect inquiries from these mailings.
While the direct mail package is being produced and printed, mailing lists must be researched, selected, ordered, and then forwarded to your lettershop, where they will be processed for personalized output. Several suppliers may be involved in the execution of your direct mail projects, and your mailing projects will require certain key steps to be performed at critical times during the project.
Each of these critical tasks relies on successful and timely completion of the previous step, so it, in turn, can be handed off to the next vendor. Close communication and coordination between the members of your direct mail marketing team—agency, printer, list broker, and lettershop—is the vital element that keeps a mailing project on schedule, a marketing program on track, and, ultimately, your company’s sales growing at a steady rate.
In your role as a marketing manager, you may not have direct, hands-on involvement in the direct mail execution steps described here. In most cases, your ad agency or direct mail consultant will be responsible for ordering mailing lists, producing the direct mail package for the mailing project, and day-to-day execution of the mailing. However, the most successful marketing managers in direct mail projects are those who stay closely engaged to the process.
However, you must be familiar enough with each of the steps involved to know how each task is executed, and you must know why a particular task must be executed at a specific point in the project. The engaged, hands-on marketing manager who has a basic working knowledge of the process knows enough to anticipate problems in direct mail projects before they occur, and if necessary, will step in and take action to correct these problems before they lead to delays in execution.
Step 1: Mailing List Selection (Estimated Execution Time: 1- 2 Weeks)
All direct mail projects begin with a mailing list. Always decide on the mailing lists you’re going to use before deciding on any other aspect of your mailing project. The mailing list you select influences the other key elements of your mailing, such as how to shape and focus your sales message to the individuals targeted by the list, how to develop the content and makeup of the mailing piece sent to the list, and how to create the sales promotion used in this mailing piece for this list. If possible, try to order or develop your mailing lists before you begin work on the direct mail package, so your lettershop will have sufficient time to prepare those lists and have them ready by the time your direct mail package arrives at their shop.
A mailing list may also be the catalyst which initiates a direct mail opportunity. For example, your company may form a joint business venture with a strategic partner who provides your company with a valuable new mailing list of its customers and prospects, for which a direct mail package must be developed. In other cases, you’ll have to execute a mailing to your own company’s internal customer and sales prospects lists for a new sales promotion, or for a new product launch. And, of course, you will also be researching, selecting, and renting outside mailing lists for your company’s ongoing sales lead and inquiry-generation direct mail programs.
Mailing lists for any direct mail project come from either an internal source, such as your company’s own customer, prospect, and inquiry databases, or from external sources, such as rented lists from publications or mailing list brokers.
Developing an Internal Direct Mailing List
The process of selecting mailing lists from internal sources, such as your company’s own customer and prospect lists, is mostly one of thoughtful selection and competent database processing. Most mailing list processing tasks involving any single mailing list database having up to 50, 000 names (this encompasses all types of business direct mail projects) can be readily managed, processed, and output from any desktop PC, using common database programs, such as Microsoft Excel or FileMaker Pro.
If you are in charge of marketing in a small to mid-sized company, and are responsible for maintaining your company’s mailing lists, it’s a good idea to develop some basic database processing skills, by learning to use programs like Microsoft Excel, or, better yet—a dedicated database program like FileMaker Pro.