How to make the most of direct mail

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There are many ways to develop the fortunes of a business, but few can have the range of results a mailshot generates.

Known in marketing jargon as direct mail, consumers view such initiatives as meaning they have more junk mail to throw in the bin or, depending on their green credentials, to recycle.

However this sort of scatter gun approach is viewed, two things are certain: it is a relatively cheap way to market a companys services or product and it has the ability to reach a large and diverse audience comparatively quickly. Consumers in this scenario are to be seen as somewhat passive, with advertisers not relying on them to tune into a particular television channel or open a specific newspaper to view products and services on offer.

Although there are upsides to using such a marketing tool, there are the inevitable downsides too. These include, but are not limited to, database information being out of date, running the risk of the wrong audience being targeted resulting in wasted efforts.

Falling foul of the Data Protection Act is another consideration those using mailshots to promote their wares need to be acutely of. Legislation has helped consumers tremendously over recent years to ward off the attention of unwanted mail. Therefore it must remain a high priority for those managing direct mailing databases to check information held on a regular basis.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing says it is essential that companies using direct mail as a marketing tool do so responsibly and ensure the data upon which their mailings are based is as up to date as possible.

So, what of the aftermath of the mailing, after the product or service information has been printed, envelopes stuffed and sealed and the precious cargo handed across to the mailing service.

Whatever the time lapse between the mailing commencing and consumers calling in for more information and hopefully being turned into customers, it is vital that companies monitor the success of a mailing campaign on an ongoing basis.
Success of a direct mail campaign means different things to different companies. It can depend, to a point, on the product or service being promoted in terms of its immediacy. A finite time limit may be placed on a financial services package being promoted, for example, due to a preset amount of funds being allocated to it, as with a fixed rate mortgage.

However, success should not be measured only in terms of immediate sales, because one activity of a mailshot is to broadly generate enquiries. This in turn provides opportunities a company to find out more about its potential customers and to develop relationships with those who may already buy its products.

By focusing on the longer term rather than looking for short term objectives, businesses investing in mailing campaigns can use this technique to multiple affect in the future to grow sales and develop the business.

Another way of measuring success is in respect of the response rate to a mailing campaign. According to Royal Mail, typically seven per cent of recipients respond to direct mailshots. While this number may appear on the low side, the advantage is that these people are interested, to some extent or another, in the products on offer.
This means information gathered is highly specific and, when planning a future mailing campaign, will mean that customers being targeted are more likely to buy.

The final piece of the jigsaw in the aftermath of any mailing campaign is ensuring the data collected is thoroughly analysed and properly recorded. Questions that need to be asked should include: is it new customers who have responded or old ones; what parts of the offer have they responded to; who has spent what?

This increased customer knowledge will help on a number of fronts. Database segmentation involving building customer profiles and targeting specific groups of customers is much more likely to produce a higher response rate than not using information gleaned from previous campaigns. This in turn will mean that future direct mail initiatives will become even more cost-effective, ultimately contributing to that all-important bottom line.