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Direct Mail is Dead. Long Live Direct Mail!

Have you noticed lately that your mailbox is not quite as full these days? That so-called junk mail which you love to hate seems to be peaking, right? Fewer catalogues, fewer pieces of advertising mail, and if you shout into the mailbox you may hear a faint echo returning. Many people complain to the Post Office when they have no mail. Have you noticed how you feel when you check your mailbox and you have no mail? Have you noticed what you open first when you do have a stack of mail? Itís either going to be that bill from the IRS, the envelope with really good teaser copy, or perhaps the one with handwritten addressing and a First-Class stamp.

My point is that direct mail remains a very powerful marketing tool, with the right strategy and implementation for your customers and prospects. A recent Marketing Sherpa report shows that direct mail stands out in the crowd of marketing channels, and in this complex world of digital marketing, a good old fashioned letter or postcard still had a role in drumming up business. Direct mail marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, so get off the sidelines and get into the direct mail marketing game. A well written sales letter or postcard can reinvigorate your business and you defy this slow economy.

A friend of mine counseled me recently to inform me that direct mail marketing was dead and that my clients should be focused on blogging, Google +, and all things social. I nodded politely, and I mailed him a thank you note a few days later, along with some proof points about direct mail marketing. Donít get me wrong, a smart inbound digital marketing plan is essential, no matter your business, but that doesnít mean you ignore proven direct marketing strategies that are still being used in virtually every industry. Mailing a letter is not the glamorous fun that playing all day with social media may be, but the Millennial in charge of your marketing programs ought to be tasked with restoring direct mail back into the mix.

We all call it junk mail, but a well crafted piece that "speaks to us" is usually welcomed. The truth is that direct mail, specifically a well tested sales letter or a postcard, can play a strategic role in building your business. An empty mailbox and a slow mailroom in the business world yield an opportunity for your message to stand out and stimulate a response. Your direct mail can generate a lead, reactivate a customer, make a direct sale, lead them to an on-line offer, educate a prospective buyer and strengthen the relationship with your best customers.

Direct mail marketing is not cheap, but when it is done properly (direct response marketing) it generates high value customers who will Ďstay, pay, and refer.í Even at forty five cents a letter, itís a low cost for delivering a well planned sales call. When marketers tell me they cannot afford direct mail, I urge them to examine results from their other marketing programs and to take a close look at their pricing model. Your pricing should factor in the cost of marketing to your customers and prospects.

If you understand the lifetime value of a customer you can easily justify the cost of mailing to them throughout the year. A combination of letters, postcards, and (yes) a printed newsletter to your best customers and prospects establishes top-of-mind awareness and reminds them of your unique, perceived value. A sales letter is a great way to cross-sell to existing customers, too!

In a nutshell, your direct response marketing programs must consider several factors. The quality of your list, the purpose of the mailing and the call to action, and the strength of your offer all influence response. Depending on your business, the customersí buying cycle, the price points, and the education required in order to make an informed buying decision, your direct mail program may lead a prospect to a landing page to request a white paper about your technology, or to a free report that educates them, or to register for a live event or a webinar.

My point is this: as I have always said, the best marketer wins. The best marketers include direct mail marketing in their mix. Sure, itís not as sexy as social media, and its more work than sending an email to a list, or making a blog post. And, yes, itís an outbound marketing strategy in what appears to be an inbound marketing world.

Here are six easy ways to use direct mail to heat up your marketing success, each dependent upon your business:

  • Give prospects a good front-end offer that starts the relationship at a low risk. Make it easy and safe to say yes to your initial offer and take the long view and look at future sales revenue.
  • Use a postcard or sales letter to offer a white paper or case study to educate prospective buyers. Lead them to a website landing page to claim their report and start an on-line relationship.
  • Mail them a third party gift certificate for them to hand to a friend.
  • Extend an irresistible private offer to your best customers, as a reward, for a product or service they do not buy today. Extend a different offer to prospects.
  • Send a handwritten note to customers, either annually, or on a transaction basis. Heck, after buying a $35,000 SUV, youíd think the dealerís sales guy would drop a thank you note in the mail. Duh? Are you taking customers for granted? Hard to ask for referrals when you treat them this way.
  • Ask customers to write an on-line review at Google, Yahoo, Bing, or their favorite search engine. A chiropractor mails a letter to happy patients with a small reward for those who take the time to post their comments. Easy, and important.
I have prepared a free report for readers: 34 Reasons to Write A Letter To Your Existing Customers. Yours for the asking. Simply send an email with the words "sales letter" in the subject line. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the holidays, and remember to buckle up and stay off the phone while driving.

Bob Martel is a marketing consultant, direct marketing copywriter, and author of the book "How to Create All of the Business You Can Handle." Subscribe to his monthly newsletter: Marketing With Ease. Reach him at (508) 481-8383 or by email at bobmartel@jmbmarketing.com to request your free copy of 34 Reasons to Write A Sales Letter to Your Best Customers.