When you have a small business, you know that one of the most important aspects of your business plan is advertising. You probably already have a Web site and a Twitter account, but what about doing direct mail? Is direct mail a thing of the past or is it still useful today?
Direct mail can be anything from a simple postcard advertising your company to a catalog that contains your entire inventory. In the past, companies would send direct mail advertisements to almost everyone in town, now direct mail usage is more targeted, especially for small companies.
If you already have a customer address list, you have a direct path to sending targeted direct mail to people who have a proven buying history. If you do not already have a customer address base, it's time to start one. Begin by collecting addresses each time a sale is made and have your Web site program log all address data that is collected there into one file. Each address should be entered into contact software, such as an address book, so that you can print out hundreds of addresses at the push of a button.
What to Send
Once you have your address list set up, you may be wondering what kind of advertisement you should send by direct mail. Since most retail businesses already have a Web site set up with a catalog of products, it would be cost prohibitive to send an entire color catalog through the mail. The kind of direct mailers to send out are postcards that offer a new product or promotion. This type of advertising will bring in customers who are already buyers and are interested in what you have to offer.
When to Send
Never abuse your customers by bombarding them with direct mail offers. You should not send more than one offer per month, or you may have customers who wish to be removed from your mailing list. Send out direct mail advertisements sparingly. If you are having a slow month in profits, you might want to consider a special promotion that is applicable only to those on your mailing list. Sending out a postcard that has a 20 percent discount offer is a great way to pick up a few new sales and let those on your customer mailing list know they are appreciated.
Test Your Offers
A good way to determine what type of advertising works best with your customers is to test your offers. Send out one type of offer, such as a percent-off discount to one portion of your list and another offer, such as a buy-one-get-one-free offer to others. When customers come in with their postcards, you will be able to determine which offer got the most responses and make a small change to your marketing plan.
Buying a Mailing List
If you have a brand-new company with no customer base, you might want to consider purchasing an address list. Lists can cost up to $300 per thousand names. Check the terms of the agreement before making a purchase, though, because most lists are not bought — only rented for a one-time mailing.
Once you have a list of customer addresses, you can begin to use direct mailing as part of your company advertising. If you do it the right way, you can save money on your advertising budget and increase your profits.