Used properly Direct Mail Advertising is one of the most lucrative and cost effective forms of advertising small business services. Many forms of online and offline marketing methods have serious drawbacks, they lack the ability to properly measure and track conversions and response rates. When done right Direct Mail Marketing campaigns are highly measurable and very cost effective. With the advent of the online market place, the explosive growth of e-commerce and the multitude of avenues for businesses to launch their services and gain market exposure a lot of attention has been diverted away from solid fundamental business growth practices that are still highly effective to this day. Below I have listed 10 steps to consider when doing Direct Mailing: Step 1: Identify your target audience as well as their needs. Business is very similar to a personal relationship, in order to be successful for the long term one must have good communication skills, learn to identify needs, acknowledge problems and provide a valuable benefit. Is there a specific type of business you wish to appeal to? Have you properly researched their industry? How much do you know about a Dentist and his business model? Understanding how a medical practice works you will inevitably be able to better service your clientele and provide them with what they are looking for and this will cause you to stand out amongst the rest of your competitors. Once you have identified your target market, CPA's, Lawyer, Doctor, Restaurants, Lawn Care businesses etc...You should harvest mailing addresses in your target region. I am using the United States as an example: You want to mail to Lawyers in Beverly Hills California to market your new "Legal Website and CRM system". You would then search for Law Firms and lawyers in zipcodes such as 90210. The best place to find these addresses is to go to a list broker services like InfoUSA, Dunn & Bradstreet or other smaller list sellers that provide good and up to date data. When purchasing these lists you can specify how many addresses you would like, what postal codes you desire, size of company (number of employees), annual revenues and years in business. Another major benefit to using list services is that you can make sure the National Change of Address system (NCOA) has been updated and that all the addresses on your list are fresh and valid. This prevent money from being wasted mailing to companies who have moved or are no longer in business. Step 2: How many pieces should I mail? Often times Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns fail due to insufficient material being sent out (you are not reaching out to enough customers). The Law of Averages is a science that has been around for a very long time and trust me it still works and always will. The more people you solicit the more sales you will get. I recommend no less than 500 pieces be mailed in order to give yourself the maximum possibility of success. When doing a direct mail campaign with my company we never do less than 5,000 pieces in one mailing. I realize that for some of you this may not be within your budget at the moment and it is fine to start on a smaller scale. If you choose to start off smaller in the beginning there are other methods you can employ to help ensure you maximize your potential conversion and pump up your ROI. I will discuss them later in Section 10 Below. Step 3: Know Thy Competition (study fellow marketers). If you live in the USA you most certainly receive large amounts of direct mail marketing pieces in your mailbox each month, you can probably even think of a few advertisements you have responded to and bought services and goods because of coupons or ads you received. Once you begin to realize the true power of Direct Mail you will begin to look at inbox advertisements as invaluable "Intelligence Research Material". I love all the "Junk Mail" I receive as I am always looking for new and innovative ways for us to market our company. Start collecting Direct Mail pieces sent to you and study their formats, how they are designed, the size of the piece, paper quality and coatings as well as content. If you have old pieces laying around that "Converted You" into a customer pay close attention to those particular campaigns as they clearly work. After all, they got your money didn't they? Step 4: Track your leads and cost per conversion. There is little difference between Direct Mail and Pay-Per-Click marketing when it comes to these metrics. By tracking your cost per conversion and your response rates you will be able to better fine tune your marketing campaigns and forever tweak and evolve them to maximize your profits. One of the easiest methods is to do "Split mailings", this is the exact same principle as "Split Campaigns" in adwords. By mailing to one zone with a specific call to action or offer and mailing to another zone with a different phone number, a different email or landing page you will easily be able to see which of the two works best. The best part of doing a split testing method is that once you have identified which campaign is working best for you and you can do a REPEAT MAILING to the first list that had little response with your new and improved ad copy. Step 5: Headlines, the single most important thing in Direct Mailing. With so many different mediums of advertising out there today all vying for the attention of your customers you have to stand out above the rest. It is a good practice to write down multiple headlines (I suggest a minimum of 50) before choosing the correct one as your "Anchor Text" for your advertising campaign. If you have business partners or even friends and family this can be a fun and exciting way to come up with your message, let them help and make suggestions. Remember, all your friends and family are also consumers and they "Know" what sells them. Step 6: Finding the right printers and direct mail partners. Unless you have an overactive set of saliva glands, licking envelopes and postage stamps all day is not a very appealing proposition (not to mention the cost of retail postage is a deal killer). There are many printers in the USA that can assist you both in finding your direct mail leads lists as well as printing, ink jetting and sorting (putting the addresses on the printed pieces in the US Postal Service Format required for direct mail postage rates). I for example am one of those types of printers, however you can use whomever you like that will provide the best price and make you feel the most comfortable to work with. Step 7: Call To Action. Your Direct Mail Campaign will never have a snowball's chance in Hell of success unless you have an excellent "Call To Action" (CTA). This is where you are going to drive home the message to your customers, this is your chance to show them why you deserve their business and not to hire your competition. When choosing a good CTA you must take a few things into account: A catchy headline that communicates a fantastic deal or offer. What your customers need, what you can provide, and at what value. Your Cost to render services or produce product (you want to offer a great deal but you also can't give such a good deal that you lose a lot of money). What are your other customers offering as incentive to do business with them? Step 8: Prompt Response / Customer Service. Before you decide to embark into a Direct Mail Advertising campaign it is extremely important that you have a CRM system in place or some other form of tracking your customers calls and responses. The worst thing that could possibly happen both for your corporate image as well as your ROI is to have customers interested, responding to your advertisement and then no one is there to answer the phone! This will not only damage your potential earnings but it will also cause you to have improper tracking data when you look at Cost Per Conversions and Response Rates. Step 9: Demand vs. Supply. This is often time the Death Nail for small business when starting a marketing campaign. Sometimes you can be "Too Good" at what you do and if your response rate is too high initially you can end up with a much higher Demand for your product or services than you can Supply. When this happens it can cause you to lose business as you appear to be unreliable and not a good vendor due to the fact you can't keep up with the growth rate of your customer base. How many times have you ordered something online, it was "Back Ordered" and you got pissed off? You know we all have had this happen to us at some point. Step 10: If First you Don't Succeed. Some of the higher quality list brokers can provide you with many valuable metrics such as email addresses and telephone numbers along with the mailing addresses of companies. This service comes at a bit of a premium price however it can be an absolute Gold Mine, especially for small mailing campaigns as mentioned above. If you only have the budget to do 500 pieces then I believe it would be highly valuable for you to harvest the contact telephone numbers of these potential customers as well. Once you have done your mailer and have a good idea of when your piece "Landed" (hit their mailboxes), if you do not start to receive the response rate you expected you can start calling the clients and saying "We recently contacted you with a mailing piece about our company and I wanted to follow-up to ensure you received it and see if you had any questions". This should double your chance of success on a small campaign because some customers may have seen the mailer, intended to call, got busy and then just forgot. This method also makes them feel that working with you will provide much more personal service because you not only mailed but you called as well. They will believe you sincerely want their business and are willing to work extra hard. I hope you have found this tutorial useful and if you have any questions or comments feel free to ask. Also if anyone has interests in other areas of Offline Marketing and would like for me to write more tutorials feel free to ask.