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A few exceptions for those 5 direct mail mistakes

Our discussion from a couple of days ago (yes, the last 2 days were insane!) about direct mail mistakes was far from complete. We could discuss tools, techniques, strategies and such about direct mail for days, maybe longer.

None of us have time to do that, but I do feel obligated to elaborate on the five direct mail mistakes and discuss some additional issues on these topics.

Stamps vs. Indicia

While I don’t recommend the use of indicia, if you carefully plan your use of indicia, you can get away with it.

For example, if you’ve already established a relationship with a client and you’re sending a monthly newsletter, using bulk mail indicia makes financial sense IF you’ve cleaned your list using CASS software (or a service) or if you’ve mailed to that list in the last 2-3 months using a stamp.

I recommend to clients that if they want to use bulk mail indicia, they should do so on a quarterly rotation for a monthly newsletter. IE: first month, use a stamp. In months 2 and 3, indicia will be OK as long as they are updating their list with the return/change info that comes back on returned mail from month 1.

A different type of mailing might require a different plan, so don’t assume that my newsletter mailing postage rotation schedule is perfect for every kind of mailing. It isn’t.

Deliverability is still a concern, so again, make sure that this mailing isn’t something that’s going to assure your ability to make payroll this week:)

Sending the same mail to everyone

The only exceptions to this that I can come up with are things like “Hey, I’ve sold the company and I’m moving to Costa Rica” letters. I’ll be testing this in the future:)

Measuring Response

I really can’t imagine a day when I wouldn’t mention this. Except for the Costa Rica letter. That’s one that I wouldn’t care about measuring. But…the buyer should.

Follow-up

One of the things I didn’t have room/time to mention in the 5 mistakes post that it is CRITICAL to make sure that you don’t look like a putz by sending the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th mail pieces in your mailing sequence to a person who responded to the FIRST mailing.

It sends such a message that you aren’t paying attention and that the mail isnt…personal. Put things in place so that you can avoid doing this – it’ll pay for itself in postage and printing saved, much less in aggravated clients and your reputation among them.

Response percentage vs ROI

Russ took me to task – a little bit – about my assertion that response percentages are meaningless, noting that “response rates indicate how well your campaign is working“.

It depends. If you get a 20% response, but you lose money on the campaign, did it work?

On the other hand, he noted that “All responses count, even the â??take me off your mailing listâ? requests (data that shows how to increase the quality of your mailing list!).” which I completely agree with.

All in all, we agree but from perhaps different perspectives.

First, you have to keep in mind that a mailing’s goal might not be directly financial – ie: it might not be a sales piece. In that case, your ROI is measured by asking yourself: “For this customer, did the mailing piece accomplish its goal?”

And in that case, the response percentage might prove to be of the same usefulness as the ROI.

In fact, I made that comment about response rates being meaningless in hopes that someone would challenge me on it (thanks Russ).

ROI *is* still most important, but response percentages are one of the things that you simply have to sweat. You have to test (that goes back to the measuring issue) carefully so that you can determine what improves response.

For example, you might test to see what the difference in response is between a letter with a printed, barcoded label and one with a hand-written address, for example. Assumptions are cheap. Testing is accurate.

And then there’s conversion – but that’s another whole set of discussions on its own:)

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakesPart2.mp3]
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Do you make these 5 direct mail mistakes?

It’s easy to burn through a lot of money mailing the wrong way. Here are five common mistakes that businesses make when sending sales materials through the mail. Don’t make them:)

You don’t use real stamps

Your direct mail pieces – of any kind – should be using regular first class stamps most of the time.

While I will admit that I use CASS bulk mail postage for some newsletter mailings (at client request to save postage), this happens ONLY after having sent at least one mailing using a real first class stamp.

Why? 3 reasons: Deliverability, address service and speed

If this excerpt from “Privatizing will improve mail service posthaste” doesn’t help, I’ll clear it up in a minute.

As journalist Jonathan Franzen recounted in a detailed portrait of Chicago’s postal crisis in the New Yorker last year, a letter carrier helping a coworker start his truck in a post office parking lot stumbled onto 100 sacks of undelivered mail in the rear cargo area. Chicago police in 1994 found 200 pounds of relatively recent mail burning beneath a viaduct and 20,000 pieces of vintage mail (some pieces dating to 1979) in garbage cans behind the house of a retired mail carrier. Last May, Chicago firefighters found 5,670 pieces of flat mail and 364 pounds of bulk mail in the attic of postal carrier Robert K. Beverly. And in October, Washington firefighters discovered four truckloads of mail in the apartment of postal carrier Robert W. Boggs

Other than because of postal workers like this guy and because of post offices like the Chicago one described above, a first class stamp in conjunction with a valid return address (sort of) guarantees you a returned mail piece with a corrected current address, or an indication that you should remove that name from your mailing list.

Speed. Bulk mail is not guaranteed to reach your destination anytime soon, if ever. In fact, isn’t guaranteed at all.

One last aspect of this: Choose your stamps wisely. Mailing to women? Use stamps most women would like.

Mailing to NASCAR viewers? Use stamps that fit their profile. Patriotic? Cars? Think about it.

Not making sure that mail only goes to the right people

Sending the same letter to the entire population of the United States: Bad idea.

Sending the same letter to your entire client list: Bad idea.

Are all doctors the same? You know… chiropractors (yes, that was intentional), heart surgeons, thoracic surgeons, dermatologists, general practitioners, podiatrists, sexologists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, and so on. They all need malpractice insurance, medical office software, furniture, etc.

Are all mechanics the same? Is a diesel mechanic the same as a HVAC mechanic? Ditto for single engine airplane mechanics, heavy equipment hydraulics mechanics, boat mechanics, jet engine mechanics, or …

Are all painters the same? Home painters vs automobile painters, detailed “pimp my ride” paint artists, industrial painters, high rise building/tower painters, and so on.

If you were trying to sell each member of these groups accounting services, a website, tools, furniture or rubber bands, would you have the same conversation with them?

Not likely.

Is it more work to create different sales materials for different groups of people? Sure.

Is it more profitable? Almost always.

“Almost?” – What kind of comment is that? The kind that leads to our next mistake…

Leaving out a way to measure response

If you can’t measure it, you’d better not mail it. Otherwise, how will you recognize what works and what doesn’t?

Failing to send another mailing to the same person for the same thing

Yes, I mean follow up.

But how many times should I mail stuff to my mailing list? When do I know to stop?

WHEN A NEWLY ADDED STEP LOSES MONEY.

Getting a 1% response to a mailing is your goal

You’ve undoubtedly heard that 1% is an average response for direct mail.

Or maybe you heard 2% is what it takes to make a profit (h*mm, like $0.01?).

Or you’ve heard some other number.

Forget them all. Percentages mean nothing. Return on investment is what you care about.

If you spend $100,000 a month to mail 100,000 pieces of mail (yes, per month) and you get 1 sale, that’s a response rate of 0.00000000001% for each mailing.

If you’re selling $2500 custom trailer hitches for big expensive RVs, you have a big problem. You’re spending $100,000 a month. Even if you sell every lead, you’re spending $100,000 to get $2500. Unless there’s a pretty successful upsell process, or very large lifetime customer value, this just isn’t wise.

On the other hand, using the same numbers, if you sell boats – especially boats like these – then selling 1 of the 56′ boats per month is a ROI of somewhere in the neighborhood 13 times your investment. In other words, if you average 1 boat sale a month from your mailing, you’re spending $100k to get $1.3MM. Seems like a good idea.

In both examples, 1 response was the result of your mailing that month. The response RATE in both was the same. A terrible 0.00000000001% per month. Yet the ROI for the boat example was 13 times the investment.

A loss of $100,000 or a gain of $1.2MM cost $100,000, despite one response.

This happened despite both mailings having the same response rate. Don’t fall for the 1% trap. Or even the 2% trap.

Those are the common direct mail mistakes that come to mind for me… What other direct mail mistakes always jump out at you?

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakes.mp3]
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President proof your business #2: Drizzle on the absolute best

Even though President-Elect Obama’s staff has started to take shape (and the hand-wringing has begun), you shouldn’t think of “President-Proofing” your business as something specific to him.

Sure, some things will be different in an Obama administration than in a McCain one, but the things you have the ability to exert control over are largely insensitive to the personality sitting behind the Resolute desk.

One way of President proofing your business is to simply do more business. Obviously, we talk about a number of additional ways to attract (as opposed to chase) new clients, but one we haven’t ever discussed is that of the ripest fruit.

The ripest fruit might not be the best term for it, but bear with me. I’m talking about the clients you would simply LOVE to have. Surely there’s a list in your head of 1, 2, half a dozen or 100 of them.

You might not have 100 on the tip of your tongue, so let’s talk about the process.

If you were asked to choose the absolute best group of people (if you run a consumer-oriented business) or absolute best businesses (if you run a business that serves other businesses) that you don’t currently have as a client, but would be thrilled to have as new clients, who would be on your list?

Yes, I’m suggesting you make a list and that you expand your thinking a bit. There are all kinds of ways to qualify for this list.

Will they be a high-profit or long-term repeat client?

Will they be a client who will result in other people flocking to your business, simply because you can say they are your client?

Will they push your business into a new market for the products and services you already sell?

If you own a retail store, maybe you do some wholesale or online selling as well, so don’t forget those. If you own a service business that primarily serves consumers, don’t forget that some businesses might need your help – sort of like an quick lube oil change shop might do all the vehicles for a city, a county, or a business with a fleet of cars and trucks.

This technique works better as a way to attract businesses than it does to attract a consumer type of client, but it will work for both if you put some thought into the next piece of the process.

Putting the list to use

Once you have this list, make it a part of your daily schedule to learn as much as you can about the businesses / people (be polite, please) on your list. Maybe you or your assistant spend 15 minutes a day researching the people on this list, but do it. Schedule it.

Even if we’re talking about attracting a business – there’s still a person you must attract. Businesses don’t buy stuff. People do.

Begin contacting them regularly – but not with a pile of sales stuff, no matter how good it is.

Create a system for researching, contacting and continuing to casually drizzle pertinent, helpful information on your prospect list.

Your system might include some of these steps – and might include ones I haven’t listed here:

  • Add them to your print newsletter mailing list. DO NOT start emailing them a bunch of stuff, even your email newsletter. Your print newsletter should refer to it so they can sign up if that is one of the ways they prefer to get info.
  • Every week or two, send them a hand-written note or card – NOT a sales pitch - that includes something important or meaningful to them. This might include an article in the paper or on the net about one of their staff, themselves, their business, one of their customers or a family member. It could be something as simple as a snipping of something out of a paper from across the state that talks about a cousin. It might be as simple as a web page about one of their customers, or about their industry, accompanied by a short note that says you thought they might be interested.
  • Maybe you don’t know their cousin, but you see a similar name from the same hometown as theirs in their hometown paper. Cut it out, send it to them with a note saying you were guessing they might be related and if so, hope they enjoy the snip from that local paper.

Expand on this as it makes sense for the type of person or business you are courting. DO NOT chase them. Simply “be present” with information helpful, interesting or pertinent to them.

You want to be seen as a valuable resource to them, not a pest – this is particularly true for consumers. If your marketing to this group of people was a rainstorm, it wouldn’t be a driving, windblown drencher, it’d be a fine drizzle.  

Add this as just one of the ways you attract new clients to your business. Why not go for the clients you’d really like to have? Someone has to serve them. Why not you?

Once they respond, then they should become a part of the funnel or process that your marketing system takes them through to guide them to being a client.

There’s no need to wait for the inauguration. You can start working on this today.

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The ladies really dig my shiny new membership card

Got a pre-election call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the other day. It’s that time of year – my phone has been ringing off the hook with election-related calls. Yep, it came on the famous 13 call day (15 as it turned out).

The call is made under the guise of checking how you’re going to vote, but the real reason for the call is to find new members.

Anyhow, I had some ulterior motives for letting him talk, so I gave the NRA guy a minute or so just to see what he had to say (usually the call center delay is all it takes to get me to hang up). After a bit of small talk to find out where I was on gun-related issues, he said something about joining and that “your benefits include a membership card…”

That’s what he STARTED with.

Now, if you’re trying to sell someone a membership to the NRA on a cold call, is that really how you want to start a call with me? Is that the best benefit they could come up with? I know better.

  • He didn’t ask if I hunt (I haven’t in probably 30 years – Ouch, that makes me OLD!). If the answer is yes, the natural follow would be to find out more about what I hunt for.
  • He didn’t ask if I target shoot (I do, occasionally).
  • He didn’t ask if I own any guns (I don’t, got rid of a .410 shotgun a few years ago cuz I wasn’t using it) and if so, what I own and what I use them for. This would easily allow the caller to extend the conversation with questions about the history of them, where I got them, how I like them etc. Why? To develop some rapport and common ground.
  • He didn’t ask what I knew about the NRA and proceed to figure out which benefits of being a member would be important and beneficial to me – and focus on them.

If you’re cold calling (and I hope you have other, far better ways to generate leads), you have to quickly develop some rapport. Of course, the first part of that cold call is no different than your situation in an elevator, a trade show booth or when someone asks “So, what do you do?” and you *know* they could benefit from what you do or sell.

Had he asked the right questions, he would have found that I was interested in blackpowder instructor courses – because the boys in my Scout troop want to start a blackpowder shooting program. That requires professionally trained leaders. He might also have found out that I might be interested in the other training and gun safety programs they have – and perhaps that I could use a few of their experts at Scouting events now and then.

But he was too interested in selling me that shiny new membership card.  On a day with 13+ electioneering calls, that isn’t going to get me excited about staying on the phone and whipping out my credit card.

No matter what started the conversation, develop rapport. Sell benefits that make sense based on what your rapport has taught you about your prospect.

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[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/DevelopRapportMembershipCard.mp3]