Tips to improve your direct mail results

With a gazillion cable channels and the ability to record and fast forward through the ads, satellite radio and personal music players, the increasing replacement of the Yellow Pages by the Internet, and the decline of newspapers, many traditional marketing methods are falling by the wayside. One, however, remains. It's direct mail. Plumbers often complain about direct mail. It's no wonder — most plumber direct mail stinks. Here are 10 tips to improve your direct mail results.

With a gazillion cable channels and the ability to record and fast forward through the ads, satellite radio and personal music players, the increasing replacement of the Yellow Pages by the Internet, and the decline of newspapers, many traditional marketing methods are falling by the wayside. One, however, remains. It's direct mail. Plumbers often complain about direct mail. It's no wonder — most plumber direct mail stinks. Here are 10 tips to improve your direct mail results.

  1. Buy quality lists: No matter how brilliant your mail piece, it will be ineffective if sent to a bad list filled with bad addresses and the wrong demographic. Find a good list broker and spend a little money to buy a better list. You want one that's fresh and matches your target demographic (e.g., homeowners, age 35 and over, with household incomes greater than $75,000). Buy lists for multiple use too. Effectiveness increases with repeat mailings. Of course, your best, highest quality list is your “house list” of existing customers. These are people who have already proven their worth by buying from you in the past.

  2. Focus: Don't try to convey everything you do in every letter or post card. Focus on one or two points. If you're mailing a letter about tankless water heaters, don't stray off topic by mentioning reverse osmosis systems. Keep the focus on the benefits of tankless water heaters.

  3. Write good headlines: Five times as many people read the headline as the copy, so spend five times as much effort perfecting the headline. A good headline compels people to read more and does it in three to five seconds. Speak directly to the prospect. Talk about solutions to problems, news of the day, new products and services, sales and savings, guarantees, bargains, etc. Market reverse osmosis systems, for example, with the headline “I get bottled water so cheap, I give it to my dog. You can too!”

  4. Have a conversation: Write conversationally. Talk with the prospect. Imagine what he's saying in response to your statements and the questions he might ask. You might be saying to yourself, “How can I do that?” The answer is the same way I just did.

  5. Tell a story: We read stories. We like them. We remember them. This is the reason we remember Aesop's Fables, Christ's Parables and Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales.

    For example, you can sell high-performance low-flow toilets by telling a story about a guest at a Christmas party who stopped a poorly performing low-flow toilet and the embarrassing consequences.

  6. Call to action: Incredibly, many plumbing direct mail pieces fail to include a good call to action. Tell the prospect exactly what you want him to do and when. For example, say, “Pick up the phone and call by December 1 to get your home plumbing system winterized for just $59.”

  7. Use graphics: The old school of direct mail consists of the big headline, followed by lots of copy. It was effective and still is, but its effectiveness is diminishing.

    Anyone under the age of 45 grew up with MTV. Their world is more visual. You will increase effectiveness by including supporting imagery that reinforces the message and stimulates an emotional connection.

  8. Don't forget the envelope: If your prospects fail to open your envelope in the first place, you've lost. For this reason, you might consider hand addressing the envelopes using a font that looks like handwriting, using blank No. 10 envelopes with a return address, but nothing to identify the company, and stamps rather than metered mail. For greater attention, use lots of small denomination stamps. Avoid envelopes that scream “junk.”

    While it adds a little to the cost, you can practically guarantee mail will be opened if you put a lump in the envelope. Think about it. Can you resist opening an envelope with a lump? The lump could be an imprinted pen or a piece of candy. If it's critical to get the mail opened, buy special “Priority Mail” envelopes from envelopes.com. These look like overnight mail, but are suitable for regular mail. Make sure the message matches the envelope.

  9. Designate a proofreader: Usually, someone in your office is pretty good at proofreading. If not, pay someone to proofread. Make sure all letters are proofread before mailing. This gives you one last chance to catch typos, grammatical errors, and embarrassing mistakes or unintentional meaning.

  10. Test: The only way to learn what works and doesn't work in your market is to test it. Split your run by making one change (e.g., different headline, different offer, different graphic, different envelope, etc.). Mail half to one zip code and half to another, or mail half to the even numbered addresses and half to the odd numbered addresses. Measure the results and tweak your next mailing accordingly.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, www.ServiceRoundtable.com, the industry's largest contractor business alliance. To learn more about the Service Roundtable call Liz Patrick toll free at 877.262.334. Or, e-mail Liz at Liz@ServiceRoundtable.com. To reach Matt, call the same number or his mobile at 214.995.8889 or e-mail him at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com. For more of Matt's marketing tips, visit www.ComancheMarketing.com.