06/08/07

By Nick Frazer

To draw in new customers or drum up business with established ones, small businesses can’t afford to overlook direct-mail marketing. It’s affordable, highly targeted, and fairly easy to do. A successful mailing must reach the right person, be read by that person, and persuade that person to buy something either now or at some stage in the future.

Direct Mail is an art not a science – but there are some fundamental mistakes that are made time and time again, even by the more experienced players!

Nick Frazer looks at the biggest DM mistakes people make.

• Don’t PLAN your DM campaign in advance.

• Use DM even when it’s not the most appropriate medium for your particular message or audience.

• Fail to use up-to-date or accurate data and don’t check information before it goes out. Two-thirds of B2B mailings, for example, contain some kind of error which recipients find intensely annoying. Incorrect name or address details — no matter how small — are a massive turn-off for mail recipients. Such mistakes reflect badly on the image of the sender and the recipient is unlikely to bother opening the envelope.

• Target the wrong audience with the wrong message. Any DM campaign is only as good, and as accurate, as the information on which it is based. It is, therefore, crucial that you understand who you are trying to reach, use the best data to help reach them and tailor and personalise your message or offer accordingly.

• Focus solely on the creative, not the content of the message that will appeal to the target audience.

• Fail to provide a good brief to any external companies who are providing design, data, copywriting etc.

• Don’t personalise or target the actual individual behind the business. Targeting the correct businesses is obviously fundamental to the whole B2B marketing process, but it’s individuals who make the final buying decision. The creative campaign and the offer need to appeal to the individual recipient as much as the company they own or work for.

• Don’t comply with regulations, including MPS and CTPS — it is now a legal requirement to ensure that you do not make unsolicited calls or send mailings to companies that are registered with The Mailing Preference Service and/or The Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS. Whilst you may think your product is spot on or them they have asked NOT to contacted and are likely to take action if this happens.

• Don’t test or adapt campaigns to the appropriate audience in order to get the best results, i.e., creative, copy length, message or frequency.

• Have no call to action and make it difficult for recipients to respond, i.e., don’t have a link to your company’s website.

• Don’t agree budget in advance and invest money without understanding how to measure the success of the DM campaign, including the return on investment.

• Don’t do integrated communications or follow up on DM with other offline or online channels or even follow-up responses that come through.

• Send DM that isn’t relevant/interesting to recipients so that they bin the mailing, switch off, complain or ensure that they are no longer receptive to any future DM.

• Put in too much content or not enough

• Don’t undertake best practice checks on providers of data. When choosing a data supplier, data users should always question how the data vendor collects its information, how frequently information is updated, what are the goneaway rates and the level of guarantee they offer for the quality of their data. Data providers are now two a penny and the quality differs considerbly.

• Don’t evaluate the success of the campaign or learn from mistakes.

Crucially, in order to make the most of any DM campaign, you need to plan. By planning out what you want to achieve, who you want to reach and why, you are in a much better place to access whether DM is the right tool to help you reach these goals. With this information at your disposal at the start of the campaign planning process, you can ensure that you are able to target the right audience with the right message. The result will be better response rates and a greater return on investment.

If you’re new to DM, why not do a test run to see what works and what DM can do for your business. By doing this on a much smaller scale you can get an indication of the real business benefits it could deliver in terms of increased profitability, targeting and understanding of your customer base. At the end of the day, results do matter. In order to justify any marketing spend, you need to deliver cost effective, measurable campaigns. You can only do this if you truly understand your target market. Without this understanding, how can the DM channel, campaign or creative be determined? Any campaign that doesn’t identify or understand its true target audience is doomed to failure — no matter how creative the campaign is.

Top Tips for Successful DM campaigns

1. Always plan and agree what your objectives are and how you will measure whether or not the DM was effective.

2. Know your audience — who are they, what they are interested in, how you find them, what your message is. Are you talking to new prospects or existing customers?

3. Tailor your message, creative, frequency, tone, format and offer appropriately.

4.Use the best and most up-to-date data for your DM campaign.

5. Agree your budget.

6. Determine your call to action.

7. Stay within the law, keep data up-to-date and accurate.

8.Check your campaign before it goes out.

9. Implement.

10.Evaluate, follow-up and learn from mistakes.

11.Keep it up!

Nick Frazer is Director of Experian’s B2B Marketing division

www.experianbi.co.uk/prescreen

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