As you take a look around, there would appear to be an unlimited number of ways a small business can spread the word about their specific product or service. While these methods range from traditional to the unprecedented, one method that has been around longer than most yet has proven to be very effective is direct mail.
Now, even though most small businesses are aware of this method and many have used it as part of their marketing efforts, the sad reality is that the majority don't know how to make the most of this powerful marketing method. Because of this, the results experienced by most are less than stellar and usually lead to the false assumption that “direct mail doesn't work”.
While it can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal, there are several key steps that must be followed in order to maximize the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns. Without these, a majority of campaigns are destined to mediocre results at best and complete failure at worst.
Here are 5 keys that when followed will help you create super-successful direct mail campaigns that produce results.
1. The right message to the right market.
First and foremost you must create a powerful marketing message that seizes your prospect's attention, tells them why you're uniquely qualified to solve their problem or satisfy their need and what exactly they can expect as a result of using your service. Your goal with this message should be to stand out from the crowd.
Once you have this powerful message, you need to make sure it gets delivered to those prospects most qualified to receive it. So often, businesses are guilty of using ‘throw mud against the wall marketing,' which means they run around randomly throwing their message about just hoping it hits the right person. In most cases, it doesn't even come close.
To ensure maximum results from your carefully crafted marketing message, you want to meticulously select the market your message will be delivered to.
You can do this by either analyzing your current customer base (if you're happy with the type of customer you currently have) or by making a profile of your ideal customer. What common characteristics do they have? Are they all in a certain income bracket? Do they live in a specific type of neighborhood? Are they at a particular stage in life?
Once you've identified the ‘right' market, you can deliver your powerful message with the assurance that the majority of people that receive it will be receptive to your service.
2. Get your message read.
One of the biggest challenges with marketing in general is the fact that your message is competing against dozens, better yet hundreds of other businesses all trying to capture the attention of your prospects. Each day, people are flooded with competing sales messages and a vitally important ingredient of any successful direct mail campaign is actually getting your message read.
Unfortunately for most businesses, their carefully crafted sales message never even gets read. In order to ensure your message stands out from the crowd and gets read, it's important to keep a few things in mind.
First of all, don't make it look like a sales letter. If you're sending a letter, you might consider handwriting the address to make it look like a personal letter. You might also consider sending the letter without a return address. Another possibility would be to put your name on the return address instead of your company's name.
Another way to make your letter stand out from the crowd is to create curiosity on the envelope. Putting an attention grabbing benefit statement front and center will go a long way towards getting your letter at least opened.
Once you've figured out how to get your prospect to open your letter, your job isn't over. The next task is to get them to actually read your sales message. You can do this by starting off your letter with another powerful, attention grabbing, benefit laden headline. Right off the bat, paint a picture of the benefits they'll receive by reading the rest of your letter.
This takes us to the next key ingredient to successful direct mail campaigns.
3. Stress benefits, benefits, benefits, not features.
The one mistake I see more often than any other when it comes to marketing is talking about features instead of benefits. This mistake alone is enough to sabotage even the best of marketing campaigns.
So what exactly is the difference between a feature and a benefit?
Well, a feature is something tangible, factual, and verifiable. They're the boring statistics and bullet points that most companies put front and center on their marketing materials. Here's a list of possible features for a lawn care business:
Licensed and insured
20 years of experience
Hundreds of satisfied clients
A benefit is the intangible results of your features. These are the ‘warm fuzzies' that come as a result of the tangible aspects of your business. The benefits are what really sell your service because of the images and feelings they evoke in your prospects. These are the things you want to talk about in 99% of any marketing message.
Here's a list of possible benefits that would result from the features listed above:
A yard that always looks top notch
Peace of mind knowing you're dealing with a true professional
The assurance that any possible situation will be dealt with in the proper manner
Confidence that you will be completely satisfied with your lawn's care
People want to know what they'll receive as a result of selecting you and it's the benefits that will sell your lawn care service, not the features.
4. Use multi-step marketing.
This one truly is a ‘secret ingredient' of successful direct mail. Those businesses that understand this and use it properly, quite often go on to dominate their target markets in very short amounts of time.
So many times businesses try to move prospects from point A to point Z in one giant step. What they fail to realize is that it's much easier to move a prospect from point A to point B, and then point B to point C, and so on until they FINALLY reach point Z.
The goal of each step in this multi-step process should only be to get the prospect to the very next step. As it relates to a lawn care campaign, the goal of any letter sent should NOT be to get a new customer. Yes, that's the ultimate goal, but that would be the equivalent of point Z in the process. The goal of your direct mail campaign should be to get any interested prospects to identify themselves.
One way you could get them to identify themselves would be by responding to an offer for a free estimate. Now, because the goal of the letter is to give them a free estimate, keep your message consistent with this. Talk about all the benefits they would receive from your service, but don't mention anything about weekly visits, yearly contracts, year end service, etc. Paint them a picture of what their yard will look like and then tell them they could explore the possibility of making it a reality by requesting a free estimate. Nothing more, nothing less.
Of course once they've called to request their free estimate (step A), the next message you deliver would have the goal of moving them one step closer to the end goal of making them a paying customer.
5. Don't do ‘one-shot' mailings.
This is another key ingredient that when used properly is guaranteed to skyrocket the results of your direct mail efforts into the stratosphere. You see, people go through cycles in their lives. One minute they're busy, the next minute they're not. One minute they're thinking about one thing, the next it's something completely different.
As it relates to marketing your services, just because someone's not interested right now doesn't mean they won't be in another week or month. Or, just because they don't respond initially, doesn't mean they're not at all interested.
To combat these cycles, the best thing you could ever do is to do sequential mailings. Instead of sending just one letter to your list of targeted prospects, send another follow-up letter a few weeks later and then a third a few weeks after the second.
Follow the same steps you'd follow in creating your initial sales letter, but on these follow up letters, reference the previous messages you've sent. You might even consider making a time-sensitive offer right from the very beginning and then referencing this impending deadline in the subsequent mailings.
What you'll find is that you'll capture the attention of your targeted prospects even more and you'll double the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign. In fact, studies have shown that you'll get half of your responses from letters 2 and beyond!
Direct mail can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal IF done properly.
Even though there are many marketing mediums available to today's small business owner, direct mail has proven itself again and again to be a highly effective means for delivering your sales message to interested prospects. To ensure maximum effective from your direct mail campaigns, follow these simple guidelines and you'll quickly see why direct mail has proven to be such a powerful tool.
Chestin Salisbury is President of Lawn Care Marketing Magic, a direct response marketing consultancy located in Charlotte, NC that focuses on the lawncare and landscaping industry. He has been helping small businesses grow for 5+ years by creating marketing systems that use time-tested direct response marketing principles. Lawn Care Marketing Magic has access to 100+ years of experience and is capable of creating a marketing plan that grows YOUR business. Chestin is also the chief-editor of 'The Lawn Care Marketing Magic Minute', a weekly e-newsletter that focuses on helping your grow your business. To learn more about these lawn care direct marketing systems and to sign up for the weekly e-newsletter, visit http://www.LawnCareMarketingMagic.com.