10 Profitable Uses for Good Old Fashioned Direct Mail
by Dean Rieck
Remember when fax technology was supposed to kill mail? It didn't. And remember all the promises of e-mail and the Web making mail obsolete? Didn't happen.
If I had a dollar for every time some technoweeny wrote a breathless obituary for direct mail, I could retire quite comfortably. Actually, I will retire quite comfortably one of these days in large part because direct mail continues to be such a powerful medium.
That's because it's the one and only medium that lets you put an offer for your products and services into the hands of virtually anyone, anywhere. No other medium has its reach, flexibility, or reliability.
So just in case you've been on the cutting edge for too long, let me remind you about what you can do with our good old fashioned friend direct mail.
- Send direct mail offers. You can sell just about anything with direct mail. However, products and services that are lower in cost are ideal candidates for direct sales. And products that your customers are familiar with through other channels can also be offered in this way as a convenience or at a savings. Direct mail is also a good medium for upgrading and cross-selling established customers.
- Generate inquiries and leads. If your products are a bit more expensive or too complex to explain and sell directly, try a multi-step sale. First, offer free information, such as a catalog, brochure, or demo, then follow up on the inquiries with one or more special offers to close the deal. If you have a sales staff, you can do the same thing, but you'll fulfill requests and give leads to your sales department to close sales. An inquiry or lead mailing can be as simple as a letter and a reply card. You can also use postcards, self-mailers, and other items as long as they have a simple, clear offer for information.
- Announce new products and services. You don't have to wait for your new catalog to come out. Just send a flyer or product sheet with a quick overview of your new wares. Or you can post the information on your Web site and send an announcement with an address for that specific page.
- Promote a conference or Webinar. Both are ideal for starting and maintaining valuable customer relationships. Webinars are particularly popular because they let you deliver your information to a much wider audience who may not have travel time available. E-mail may seem to be the logical choice to announce such an event, but direct mail lists are generally more complete and accurate. Or you can use both.
- Offer demos and samples. No matter what you say about your products and services, nothing will be more convincing than allowing prospects to "see it" or "try it" for themselves. Demonstrations, presentations, samples, and scaled down versions of products are all perfect ways to overcome objections, erase doubts, and allow people to become familiar and comfortable with what you have to offer.
- Solicit newsletter subscribers. It's hard to beat a newsletter for sharing information, building relationships, and staying in touch. Once you have your newsletter up and running, simply mail an offer for a free subscription. This works whether your newsletter is printed, e-mailed, or posted on a Web site.
- Conduct surveys and research. Mail is a simple way to collect data on trends, opinions, methods, benchmarks, and other issues. You can mail the survey directly or send a short invitation to participate in an online survey for a small reward. Again, e-mail can easily be used for this, though your coverage may not be as broad as with direct mail.
- Distribute catalogs and sales literature. Depending on the size of your market, you may want to send your primary literature to everyone even if they don't formally request it. This is especially useful if you have a stable product line or if your sales cycle is especially long. Many companies include how-to articles, checklists, background information, research results, and other useful materials along with a product listing.
- Increase trade show booth traffic. Invitations and prizes are popular but generally overused. A more practical approach is to schedule personal demonstrations at particular times or offer valuable information that can only be acquired by redeeming a voucher mailed to your target audience. Just remember that attendees get large volumes of mail prior to most trade shows, so your announcement or offer must stand out.
- Educate customers and prospects. With new or complicated products, technologies, and issues, it is often helpful to provide information that increases understanding and user skill. A series of self-mailers focusing on specific product features, postcards sharing tips and hints, and invitations for online tutorials and learning programs are just a few of the endless educational possibilities you have available.
Yup. Good old fashioned direct mail. Using it won't make you hip or trendy. It won't give you lots of new buzzwords to impress your friends at dinner parties. In fact, from a technological perspective, it can be downright boring. But who cares? It still works. And in the end, that's all that really counts.
Copyright © 2003 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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