4 Lessons Big Direct Marketers Can Learn from Small Mailers

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4 Lessons Big Direct Marketers Can Learn from Small Mailers

The marketing budget for a local, service-based business is a tiny fraction of what a global company spends on marketing. Yet small marketers with limited resources sometimes outshine the big guys when it comes to marketing effectiveness, especially in direct mail.

Here’s how a regional painting business in Cleveland, Ohio nailed a prospect direct mail campaign with a simple postcard, while Dell, a huge business-to-business marketer, committed several cardinal sins of direct marketing in a B2B direct mail promotion.

A Simple Message, Driven by Simple Data

Curb Appeal Painting does interior and exterior commercial and residential painting. To get new residential business in Northeast Ohio, the company mails postcards to neighborhoods near its painting projects.

curb-appeal-dm-blurlg-300x225This little mailing works for several reasons. The postcard invites prospects to “come by and see the quality” of a project the company is about to start at a neighbor’s house. The jobsite address is prominently displayed. The call to action is big and bold. The company’s credentials – Better Business Bureau approved, Angie’s List, etc. – help build trust.

The reverse side of the postcard has a photo of a home they’ve painted and their website. The message is short and sweet, and it’s personalized with information relevant to the prospect.

Dell Delivers a Direct Mail Dud

Dell, on the other hand, needs to reboot its B2B direct marketing.

dell-dm-300x200Our marketing agency recently received three identical mailings from Dell on the same day, addressed to three different people. One addressee was our former office manager, who left eight years ago. Another was addressed to a vice president of our firm, but with the wrong suite number. The third mailing was sent to “Geane Gianfagna,” whom I’m assuming is me.

Most of our office PCs are Dells. We are Dell customers. But Dell clearly doesn’t know who we are, or indicate we’re receiving any special treatment as valued business clients, which might be a natural expectation on our part.

The offer is weak and vague. The teaser copy promises “savings inside,” but all you see inside is pricing. Are these discount prices?  It’s hard to tell, because there are no comparisons to the regular prices.

Worst of all, this “savings” offer is for a limited time – and the expiration date expired two weeks before we received the mailings.

4 Lessons for Direct Mailers

What can direct marketers learn from these examples? Four lessons:

  1. Address your mail correctly. This rule is so basic, but it’s absolutely essential to get the addressee’s information right and de-dupe your lists before you mail. When a customer gets multiple copies of the same direct mail campaign with multiple addressing errors, it’s highly likely that all the mail will be discarded and the marketer’s investment will be wasted.
  2. Simple formats can make a big impact. Direct mail postcards can be highly effective in delivering a marketer’s message, especially if the marketer can boil the copy down to a few key points and use graphics to get attention. Granted, selling a business PC isn’t as simple as selling painting services, but if the goal of a mailing is to generate web traffic and calls, direct marketers should avoid the temptation to over-complicate the mailing and test simple formats.
  3. Use data to deliver a relevant message.  Use your prospect data to personalize the message to prospects’ interests. The painting company has two types of simple data: the location of its painting jobs and rented name and address files of nearby residents. They used this data to highlight the local job with closest proximity to the prospect, creating a personal, “in your neighborhood” feeling.  Meanwhile, Dell, which must have years’ worth of rich customer data on our company’s IT purchases, used none of it to deliver a message targeted to us.
  4. Get time-sensitive deadlines right. There’s no excuse for mailing a time-sensitive offer with a due date that occurs BEFORE the mailing lands. Deadlines are great for incenting action, but plan your production schedule to give the respondent time to respond.

More Direct Mail Recommendations

As a marketing consultant who often recommends direct mail, I might suggest a few tweaks to the painter’s direct mail campaign. The postal bar code obscures their website on the address panel. Their free estimate offer could be more attention-getting. And the offer and the phone number should be on both sides of the mailing.

But all in all, especially compared to Dell, this little guy showed the big guys how to use direct mail effectively in a smart marketing strategy.

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