You rarely hit a home run in small business marketing; small ball works best. A well defined marketing plan around a realistic number of differing tactics will run up the score nicely. But because of restrictive budgets (or sometimes attitudes) many small businesses try a tactic and when the home run doesn’t happen abandon it and move on to the next “idea of the week”.
This is certainly the case with direct mail. Before the onslaught of the internet, websites, e-mail marketing and social media the war was between newspaper advertising and direct mail. The savvy business person who was unafraid to invest the time and money to secure a well defined mailing list and manage it properly had a tool to better engage his intended audience. He/she controlled the message, the delivery and the timing.
But in my regular interviews with prospective small business clients, while reviewing their past marketing examples, I often hear “direct mail doesn’t work” or “direct mail is too expensive”. Is this because the execution was poor, the budget to scarce, or the campaign was lacking in repetition? Almost always one of these three tenants of direct mail marketing was not addressed properly.
But why bother with direct mail, because today we have digital marketing! We have digital brochures we call websites, we have e-mail marketing and we regularly share what we have done lately with our 97 subscribers, and we have social media like Facebook and Twitter, whatever that means.
And how exactly does that lead to new customers or clients? [insert the business owners best deer in the headlights stare here].
The genesis for this article is simple:
- Direct mail is perceived as old, tired, and ineffective
- Social media and e-mail marketing are all the buzz but people often don’t realize how much time it takes to reach critical mass
- Through their e-mail lists and largely through their social media efforts small business owners are speaking to their existing audiences. This is great for engagement, and can assist with referrals, but it provides very slow growth in regards to new business development.
Stop and consider the how an integrated approach to outbound marketing can generate new customers or clients. Blending the traditional direct mail tactic with the information and processes of digital marketing and you can stop hitting singles and begin hitting doubles and triples.
The Process is very straight forward:
- Use targeted direct mail – the data is the most crucial part so take the time to find a good source (be it a marketing firm or a list provider). Break it down to saliency and budget but have a really good plan for who you wish to speak to and build the list around it.
- Design a compelling piece – clearly define your offer or value proposition and drive the reader to a specific landing page. Good layout and visual is important to make it stand out amongst the other mail and to support you are credible. So don’t skimp on the design and (please!) don’t design it using a word processor. Clip art does not make your business look professional or credible. The right layout can and should be used over and over again, so your initial investment is extended and the repetition helps develop your brand top of mind awareness.
- Let the direct mail be your driver not your sales force – far too often we see postcards crammed full of verbiage. It is as though the post card is intended to be the sales force! Instead be clever with your copy, create interest rather than try to create demand, but always point the reader to a website landing page.
- A vanity URL is great but mobile use is growing exponentially so add a QR code. Make it easy for those of us on the run to visit your landing page and learn more.
- What is your call to action? Stop talking about you and give me a reason for me to act now.
- And how about a little risk reversal?
- Build unique landing pages – adding a landing page to an existing website is inexpensive. You should restate your direct mail message or value proposition and strong call to action. Here you have the room to add more content, like testimonials and images. There is that pesky risk reversal opportunity again. If we structured your landing page can be a complete source of information, offer risk aversion, and drive the intended action.
- Require something for your offer: get the reader to share their contact information, answer a question, fill out a survey or poll, etc.
- Be aware of best SEO practices when selecting a title tag and page name.
- Use a good analytic package to study traffic and keywords… or better yet just ask your marketing firm to provide this to you and focus on running your business.
- Adopt a well organized lead nurturing process. This is where you utilize an email marketing process to routinely drip relevant information to your new list of prospective clients.
- Share your blog. The impact on SEO and organic search is crucial so blog often, make it real, and then share it through your e-mail database and social media. And forget the newsletter- none of your prospects have the time to read all that anyway! Newsletters are for existing customers to reinforce the relationship.
- You can now stay connected, build top of mind awareness and continue to share content while developing credibility. Along the way you can also drum up interest in your social media outlets to get more followers, fans, etc.
When executed properly your direct mail investment will drive awareness in your business and allow you to shift your marketing to less costly e-mail and social media.
And if you reinvest the difference in investment into purchasing additional data, and then repeat the process, you can quickly develop your small business into a World Series winning team. And you are no longer relying on only one tactic to extend your business’s marketing reach!