4 Building Blocks to Direct Mail Done Right
The linchpin to direct mail success is having a solid strategy in place. You can’t just come up with a design and send it out blindly. You have to think about what you’re sending, who your audience is, why you’re communicating with it and what your objectives are.
Sometimes, marketers skip steps along the way. Here, Melissa Anunson, senior marketing specialist at the Wisconsin Business School’s Marketing Services Department, shares her keys to a successful direct mail campaign.
• Do the front-end work. “You really have to know your strategy and objectives, and you have to know your target audience. You have to take the time to really do the front-end work,” says Anunson. “It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s a lot of work. The boss doesn’t think you’re working on anything because he’s not seeing results, but in order to get those end results, you have to do the work up front.”
It seems, according to Anunson, that many people skip the strategy and objectives and go right to the tactics — e.g., “We’re going to mail 50,000. We’re going to do the cool book.” That’s short-sighted, she notes. Marketers must understand their positioning, asking themselves what differentiates their products or brands from other companies. Then the mailer must take those facts into consideration, convey them and do it all in a way that is most relevant to the audience in order to achieve the goals set forth.
• Know the USPS requirements. There’s a disconnect between USPS standards and many direct mail designers, says Anunson. “Have the post office reps get to the front of the line—not be the guy with the shovel behind the horse in the parade cleaning up someone else’s mess because they didn’t adhere to letter size, etc.,” she advises. “Make sure everyone down the line from the director of marketing to the designer to the circ planner, they all know the regulations that are going to save them money or cost them if they don’t follow [the rules]. It can’t be one person’s job; it has to be everyone’s job to keep track of the weight of the piece, keep track of the size of the piece, so they can really take advantage of some of those postal discounts. Everything’s there for someone to improve on it, they just have to have the awareness that it does have an impact.”
• Segment, segment, segment. “I really drill down to the very niche of our targets, and I really segment out because I want the customer to be happy. And if it’s the wrong customer, they are not going to be happy, so I try not even to mail to those customers,” shares Anunson. “I really need my circulation to match all the way back up to my strategy. That’s a big disconnect from the CMO to the circ planner. Everyone needs to be onboard. Everyone needs a strategic direction. … Every time you put the quarter in the machine, you have treat it like your last quarter.”
• Get educated. “If people are struggling with what to do or why to do it, get educated. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your career,” says Anunson. There are "many, many, many opportunities, but sometimes just taking a break and sharpening the saw, meeting new people, getting new ideas [helps improve your efforts]. What else is someone else doing? Have you ever tried …? How did it work? Having those conversations, checking industry standards, checking in with standards outside your industry, sometimes those are the most aha moments," she explains.
“There is no silver bullet. It does not exist. In order to be in the right place at the right time, you need to be in a lot of places. You have to get the knowledge and get the education, however it’s right for you. Don’t quit feeding the machine. Be proactive about it,” she concludes.