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The basics of direct mail

First, why direct mail? What's your marketing goal?


Begin by identifying what your goals are, what do want to get from your efforts? Do you want to generate leads? Increase sales? Encourage a new purchase by a repeat customer? Build your brand? Solicit volunteers or donations? Setting a clear goal will can not only help you improve your creative, offer and list strategies, it will also help you size your mailing based on expected response rates.

Here are some good examples of direct mail campaign goals:

  • Receive 50 inbound calls to make a sale or set up a meeting.
  • Generate 75 qualified sales leads over the next 30 days.
  • Increase website traffic by 50%.
  • Get 100 customers to use a coupon in your store next week.
  • Convince 25 dormant, prior customers to revisit your store and make a purchase.

Who are you trying to reach?

The better you understand your customers, the more successfully you can target them.

What do your customers have in common? Where are they located? The more precisely you can answer those questions, the more success you will have with direct mail.

Begin by creating a profile of your current and/or ideal customers. Try to visualize the traits and interests they share. Define the geographic profile. Think of it this way: Every qualifier you can add should be designed to improve the targeting, to increase the response rate, to reduce the number of pieces you need to mail to achieve the goals you outlined above.

Some examples of questions to answer (not all may be relevant to your situation):

  • Where do your customers live?
  • How far would someone travel to purchase from you?
  • Who will see the most benefit from what you offer?
  • What is the typical income range of your customer?
  • What age is the user of your product? The buyer of your product if it's designed for a child or the elderly?
  • How would you describe your customers' purchasing habits?
  • What industry can use your product?
  • What is your sweet spot in terms of organization size and how do you measure it (sales, employees, other metrics)?
  • Who in business makes the purchase decision, whether it be job titles, seniority level, or other way you might describe them?

At Visions, Inc., we have a team of mailing specialists who can brainstorm with you to answer these questions and help you define a list strategy to reach them.

Direct mail creative

Your mail piece needs to stand out, and that means using all of the best that print has to offer in its design. Consider carefully how you can incorporate color, die cuts, sizes and shapes into your piece. Great creative makes your piece memorable, demands it be opened, leads to more action when it comes to your call to action. Check out this example by a UK hairdresser: a simple piece that immediately conveys the benefits of a quick visit to the salon to take care of roots. Easy to understand and brilliant.

great direct mail creative

The Offer

The offer, or the call to action, is the one next step you want the recipient to take. It might be something of value, like a time-sensitive savings. It could be a white paper or similar tool designed to inform. It could be the opportunity for a free gift. The offer should be designed to put the recipient into your sales funnel, to get them to take the first step that ends with a purchase, a donation, or whatever outcome you eventually want from the recipient.

The List

Visions, Inc. can help you make sure your piece reaches the right audience. Here are the ways we work with you to optimize your list strategy:

  • Mail to your list
  • Mail to an acquired (rented or purchased) list
  • Mail to your list combined with an acquired list

Ways to get it in the mail

Depending upon who you want to target, here are some of the strategies we might recommend for your direct mail piece:

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). With EDDM, your piece reaches every residence and/or business in one or more zip code routes. It's a simplified address and no purchase is necessary. EDDM is intended for flats, like postcards, newsletters, etc. Mail-pieces need to be larger than 6 1/8" x 11", smaller than 12" x 15" and lighter than 3.3 ounces. An often-sited example of an EDDM user is a pizza shop: With its relatively low price point and its near universally agreed-upon yumminess, pizza is a great product to market with a tool like EDDM, which allows the joint to saturate the local neighborhood with a menu or a postcard.

Carrier Route Saturation. With saturation mailing there are fewer limitations, so you can mail brochures, flyers, letters, catalogs, etc. Postage cost will depend on your mail piece's size and weight.

By default, saturation lists are not addressed to a specific person. They come with the generic "Resident" in place of a person's name. Saturation lists do, however, have an option to include "names where available" at an additional cost. When using this option, the list will come with either the household's primary name or Resident if no name is available.

Consumer or Business Lists. Consumer or business lists can be used to target prospects more selectively. With consumer or business lists, we can help you select from many demographic options including age, gender, household income, home value, presence, age and gender of children, etc. A good example might be a child care center. It want to reach every household that has young children in a specific geographic area. In this example, we'd identify the locales you want to target, and then select based on specific traits, for example, age of children in the household and household income.

There are myriad ways you can target potential customers, donors, whoever you want to reach. A high end car dealership might target household income, a boat dealer might select based on proximity to a body of water as well as income, a private school might target based on the age of children in the household, a boys or girls school might add a gender select. You can also target based on magazine lists, and with the existence of a magazine for just about every topic, you can imagine the potential.

Custom Mapping. With custom mapping, you can target some or all addresses within an area specified on a map. A good example of this might be a communications company with geographical limitations on where it can market.

Radius List. A radius list draws a circle around a given address at whatever radius you choose. A private school might combine a radius list with additional selects, such as school-age children and household income, as an example. We can help you create a resident list by either distance (5 miles, for example) or quantity (i.e. closest 10,000 residents).

Advanced Profiling. If your list is large enough, you can use it to target similar customers based on computer algorithms that analyze your list and look at hundreds of traits you may never have thought of. We call this profiling and can use it to help you acquire an incredibly well-targeted list that's sure to get you the highest response rate possible.

List mechanics

Visions, Inc. is a full-service mail house. We can mail to your list, help you acquire a list, and merge/de-dupe both internal and acquired lists to ensure you mail just one piece per household. We will also run your list through CASS, NCOA, and then presort and print the list addresses right onto the mail piece. We will do all of the USPS paperwork, drop at the appropriate USPS location, do whatever is necessary to get the appropriate delivery timing at the best postage price possible.

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Direct mail marketing remains a highly effective way for you to grow your organization. To maximize this marketing investment, we can work with you to help you define your goals, develop your targets and a corresponding list strategy, print your piece beautifully and handle all the mechanics of getting it in the mail. Give your salesperson a call to begin harnessing the power of direct mail to reach your objectives.


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