Direct Mail Marketing: Right on Target

One of the reasons that direct mail is the ultimate form of marketing is that it’s targeted marketing. You’re using a rifle, not a shotgun. When you advertise in papers, magazines, or on TV or radio, you’re “shotgunning” your offer out to all sorts of people, most of whom will have no interest in your service or products. Direct mail lets you zero in on exactly the type of people you want to reach.

That customization makes all the difference. You can spend your money to reach the people who are most likely to do business with you, not waste it on the general public. You learn what worked best and where they learned about your offer, unlike television, radio, magazine, or newspaper ads, so you save money. Your sales message can be confidential, personal, and one-on-one-and that’s very powerful.

With direct mail, there are no limitations. You have total flexibility and control over the length and format of your sales message. Other forms of advertising make you conform to their rules; not direct mail. You have the power to make your sales message say what you want it to, and to ask for the offer in a direct way. When you mail 10,000 pieces of mail, it’s like having 10,000 salespeople in an envelope. Don’t get me wrong-I realize that if you had a sales force making calls, they’d probably have a better ratio of orders per people called than direct mail. In fact, it would be very unusual if they didn’t.

But how many people can a salesperson reach in a day? Ten? Twenty? They’re limited by how many businesses or consumers they can call or call on. With direct mail you can mail as many pieces as you like. They may not have the impact of the face-to-face salesperson, but they’ll do a better job because you’ll get more orders. Salesmanship is great, but few of us can afford to send a big sales team out to call on our prospects.

Direct mail is the ultimate marketing research tool, too. It’s the ultimate way to reach new customers, and it’s relatively cheap, because you can test-mail. You can make small mailings to start with; and then, when you see results, you can double, triple or quadruple the number of mailings you make.

I believe direct mail has proven itself to be a powerful communication tool, even in this age of electronic marketing. It’s tailor-made for two-step marketing, and you can use it for any business. Some people think that if they have a store, they can’t really use direct mail because all of their sales happen in the store-but that’s not true, because it can bring people in the door who might never have come otherwise. It can make you a great deal of money-and you should get involved with it as soon as you can.

You know how a shotgun works; it sends out a spray of shot that hits everything within a certain distance. If you’re using a shotgun approach to marketing, your message scatters in all directions. Mostly it hits the wrong targets. Radio ads, television ads, billboards, newspaper and magazine ads-all those are shotgun approaches. You message is wasted on most people. That’s just the nature of a shotgun.

On the other hand, you’ve probably heard about sniper rifles, and how a really good sniper can hit a target hundreds or thousands of yards away. Rifles offer extreme accuracy. When you extend this analogy to your marketing, you’re talking about precision and control, putting your sales message exactly where you want it for maximum impact. There’s very little in the way of wasted resources. While you won’t hit everyone, at least your mailing is reaching only people you already know are interested in the types of products and services you sell, whether you’re a local reaching out to specific people in the community or a nationwide mail-order firm. Your list may consist of your own customers-people you’ve sold similar things to before-or a rented list of those who’ve bought similar things from other people.

The fact that a direct mail package is basically a sales rep in an envelope is particularly effective. You can present your entire sales presentation in an envelope thousands or millions of times, and never have to worry about your sales reps getting temperamental, tired, or depressed-and they never ask for a raise. When people open your envelope, you make them a big promise and a guarantee of what they’re going to receive when they do business with you. If you use two-step marketing, you invite them to ask for more information. If you’re a local business, you can invite them to come into your store for a sale or special event.

Direct mail is salesmanship. It’s about taking the very best qualities you see in an entire sales presentation and reducing it to one package. It answers all the major objections a prospect buyer will have. It makes all of the benefits come to life and creates a great sense of urgency to get them to respond now. Your strategy can and should include lots of follow up. Recently, I handled a two-step campaign where we follow up with a 44-page sales letter. During those 44 pages, we reveal everything. It gets people fired up, excited, and ready to go.

You can start small with direct mail, and grow it as your business expands. That’s another aspect of total control; the scale is up to you. You can go as big as you can afford, or advance slowly. I love this aspect of control, as I believe any entrepreneur would. Control feels good. You’re not giving your money to some magazine, paper, radio station, or TV station. You don’t even have to give your money to a mailing house. You can do it all yourself if you want.