What is Direct Mail Marketing and Why Should I Use It to Promote My Small Business?
Most small business owners have heard of direct mail marketing, but may not really know what it is. And there's good reason to consider direct mail to promote your small business.
It's versatile, effective and affordable. It allows you to give prospects one-to-one direct attention, and it allows you more control over growth than almost any other type of promotion.
Direct mail marketing is one of several types of direct response copywriting. I suppose it's somewhat confusing, but most tend to think of the two terms as interchangeable. There is however, a minority difference.
Direct mail marketing can be defined as one-to-one communication sent by mail directly to potential clients with the goal of specific action by the recipient. Direct response copywriting is basically the same thing, but is not limited to snail mail delivery.
Direct Mail Marketing is Versatile
Direct response is one of the most versatile forms of small business promotion there is. You are in fact, really only limited by your imagination. Some of the more common types of direct response are:
- Direct mail letters
- Direct post cards
- "Lumpy" mail
- Business letters of introduction
- Direct response brochures
- Direct fax
- Direct email
- Bulletin board letters
Of the eight different types listed above, only the last three would not have considered direct mail marketing, but would instead be considered a different type of direct response copywriting.
Most of them are self-explanatory, but you may not have heard of "lumpy" mail. Lumpy mail is simply direct mail with the addition of something related to your message in the envelope just just a letter. It could be as simple as a stubby pencil, a sample-sized bar of soap, or even a child's toy. It might cost a bit more, but it often leads to a surprisingly big increase in response rates.
And although you have not heard of bulletin board letters. Technically, they're not a form of direct response, since they're not sent directly to a particular recipient, but rather are posted on a community bulletin board where anyone in the local area can find them.
Community bulletin board letters can be approximately as effective as a direct mail letter, but have the added advantages of lower costs and reaching a larger audience. They're most often hand-delivered, stapled to bulletin boards in towns, in storefront windows, or anywhere else you feel they'd be seen.
Direct Mail is Affordable
Whatever the mode of delivery, dollar for dollar, direct response copywriting is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your small business. On average, a direct mail letter costs less than $ 1 per recipient. That's including paper, envelopes, printing and postage stamps.
A direct postcard can cost even less because it costs less to mail – total cost is around 70 cents. However, higher paper costs could even out the cost difference.
Direct Mail is Effective
With average response rates between 1 and 3%, it's one of the most effective ways to promote your small business as well.
Unfortunately, most amateur copywriters (and many professionals as well) do not have response rates near that high. They're soon discouraged, giving up on direct mail marketing when their first efforts show a poor, or no response.
One of the reasons might be that they've chosen the wrong goal. Keeping in mind that it takes an average of 5 to 7 contacts before a potential client actually buys something from you, your goal should seldom be a sale.
Most of your contacts will need to get to know you before they spend their hard-earned dollars on your product or service. Do not expect a sale. Rather, consider any purchases from introductory direct mail a pleasant bonus.
A much better goal might be to consider direct response as lead generation instead of sales generation. For example, you might want your recipient to visit your web site, contact you for a free report, or call you for more information. Those types of requests are more likely to result in the type of response you're looking for.
Direct Mail Allows You to Speak Directly to Your Recipient
What other form of small business promotion allows you to speak directly to your recipient? Not television, radio, billboards, or your web site. Beside, with the exception of a web site, TV, radio and billboards cost way too much for most small business owners to consider.
Addressing your recipient personally, as in Dear Joe or Dear Mrs. Smith rather than using Dear Colleague or Dear Homeowner increments response rates dramatically. And it improves the opportunities that your recipient will actually open the envelope instead of throwing it away unopened. (So does using an actual stamp instead of a postage meter by the way).
Direct Mail Gives You Control Over Your Growth Rate
Growing your small business too fast is almost as dangerous as not growing fast enough! What would you do if you suddenly grow way past your company's capacity? It's a danger you might think you'd welcome, but there is such a thing as too much growth.
With direct mail, you control your growth as simply as controlling the number of direct mail letters you decide to send. If your goal is one new lead a month, knowing the average response rate is 1 to 3%, you can send between 33 and 100 letters for one response
No matter how you're promoting your small business right now, I hope you're convinced to add direct mail marketing as one of your strategies. If done well, it certainly is one of the most effective marketing strategies available to small business owners.