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Making Direct Mail Your Smart Marketing Channel


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Cam Lay is a director of marketing who works in the marketing department of one of the leading local online advertising companies. According to him, sending postcards or letters via good old fashioned snail mail can be very effective in helping you get more customers for your local business.

While there are a lot of “direct mail haters” out there who scoff at DM as being an antiquated and ineffective form of advertising, I believe that direct mail works.

I know this because in my own marketing career I’ve done lots of direct mail and – when done properly and in the right situations - I’ve seen it work to great effect time and time again. Sure, the questions are what is “properly” and what are the “right situations?”. Here, let’s discuss about this.

Push and Pull Marketing

Depending on how they interact with consumers, marketing types often categorize marketing efforts as either “push” or “pull”. “Push” marketing is largely about informing consumers about a product or service by directly reaching out to them via some medium. Television, radio, and direct mail are all forms of push marketing. “Pull” marketing on the other hand is marketing that attempts to fulfill and take advantage of existing consumer demand. Both search marketing as well as the Yellow Pages are both types of pull marketing.

For example, you’re a plumber who specializes in emergency 24 hour services: in this case your whole business model is based on fulfilling existing consumer demand. When someone’s toilet is exploding they aren’t going to think about the plumber postcard they received three months ago, but are instead going to turn to the Yellow Pages or the Internet to find what they need. So they enter pull marketing.

On the other hand, if that same plumber is instead really trying to focus on their tankless water heater business, they may want to consider using direct mail as part of their marketing mix (for instance to send a postcard to their existing clients explaining the energy saving benefits of tankless water heaters and offering a discount for an installation). Therefore, whether or not direct mail is a smart channel to use is highly contextual and depends on whether you are trying to create new demand (push) or take advantage of existing demand (pull).

Effective Targeting

If you have gotten both types of marketing figured out, let’s talk about how to execute a direct mail campaign the right way. A lot of people say that direct mail is expensive, and while one could argue that something can really only be “expensive” in relation to its own ROI, when you compare the cost of direct mail (the printing, the postage, the letter shop) to something like email, then even I have to admit that the critics at least have a point.

For this reason, effective targeting for direct mail is so crucial. Basically, the more precise your targeting, the greater chance you have of getting a strong return. You can’t just mail out to everyone in your potential market; instead, you should filter your potential mailing list down by demographic (gender, income, zip code, age) and/or behavioral characteristics (you can often rent lists of people who have purchased from certain businesses or who subscribe to particular publications) that make sense for your business.

Calls to Action

If you want your potential customers to call you to get a free quote, then tell them to do it. If you want them to go to your website to see your daily deals, then tell them to do it. The point is, as is the case with internet marketing, you need to tell your prospects what to do – otherwise they aren’t going to do it. And don’t be shy about it either – just like with your website, your “calls to action” should be big, bold, and in your face.

Remember, whether or not a push marketing tactic like direct mail is effective for your local business is largely dependent on the product or service you’re trying to promote. I’ve heard some small business owners claim that direct mail actually helps online traffic and performance… Anyhow, have a try!

Yodle is a leading provider of local online advertising that provides businesses with a simple and affordable way to get more phone calls - and new customers. Follow


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