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Direct Mail Marketing: Don’t Call It Junk Mail

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You might think of it as junk mail, but direct mail is a powerful advertising tool that delivers real, measurable, cost-effective results, marketing expert and copywriter Jim Ackerman said Saturday evening at The SMART Show.

You might think of it as junk mail, but direct mail is a powerful advertising tool that delivers real, measurable, cost-effective results, marketing expert and copywriter Jim Ackerman said Saturday evening at The SMART Show.

Direct mail is the most flexible advertising medium — you can send anything through the mail, even video (on a DVD); you can’t send a package through the Internet. It’s also predictable, scalable, highly targetable, measurable, and adjustable. And where, say, a TV campaign might cost you $120 for each transaction it brings in, for that same amount you could budget $2 a month per customer and market to them for 60 consecutive months — five years — with direct mail. And odds are, you’ll get far more transactions out of them over that five years.

Here are some points Ackerman suggests keeping in mind as you plan your direct mail marketing efforts:

  • Your in-house mailing list of known customers is the best list available to you. Use it before you pay to use a mailing list from another party.
  • You should be direct-mailing your customers a minimum of six times a year. Does that seem like a lot? Direct mail giants like Lands’ End and L.L. Bean send catalogs to their best customers 15 times a year, because research has shown that number works. Don’t worry about whether you’re pestering customers — some will be. The question is whether you’re improving sales over time.
  • Surprisingly, given all the talk about people’s short attention spans these days, longer messages tend to sell better than shorter messages. They don’t necessarily get read more, but what do you care about: readership or sales?
  • Be real. Your direct mail message shouldn’t sound like you’re trying to sell to your customers; it should sound like you’re talking to them.

Ackerman recommends spending 30 minutes a day building your store’s marketing systems. “Marketing is buying customers,” he said. “That’s all it is. We spend money to buy the customer, but the customer will bring us more than what we spent to get him over time.”

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