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Direct Mail for Retail

Direct mail can be a powerful marketing tool for retail businesses. In fact, direct mail offers benefits that are better suited to local-based, walk-in retailers than to other business types. With the assistance of a professional marketing firm, savvy retailers can easily run effective direct mail campaigns specifically geared to their primary marketing goal– bringing customers in the door.
In order to make a direct mail campaign as successful, useful and cost-effective as possible for a bricks-and-mortar business, certain strategic elements must be taken into account. Whereas a well-planned, properly-targeted direct mail campaign can keep the door swinging and the cash register ringing, a misguided direct mail campaign can be a burdensome and costly marketing mistake.
The first consideration should be to assess the “useful reach” of a direct mail campaign. One must determine how large of a geographical area– or particularly which geographical areas– should be targeted. One type of business may benefit most from reaching households only within the zip code in which the business exists, while another business may benefit from targeting an entire county.
Determining reach may also involve a consideration of recipient demographics-. In some cases, a mailing list comprised of individuals who have demonstrated interest in a certain product or service will prove to be more fruitful in a direct mail campaign. Renting a mailing list and paying for the subsequent postage can be costly, so bottom-line reach is an important consideration. Assessing reach and acquiring the proper lists can be a complicated process, and it is recommended to enlist the assistance of a direct mail professional.
Once reach has been determined, the next step is to carefully plan and prepare exactly what to send. Many factors require close attention, and will ultimately be influenced by the type of business, the recipient demographics, the goal of the campaign, and the campaign budget. An experienced marketing professional can be of great help in turning these points into tangible, high-quality mail-pieces within any budget range.
In determining what to send, the options are as boundless as the products and services advertised by direct mail. The history of direct mail marketing is colored with creative and often ridiculous attempts to get recipients to read and respond to what is sent. For a bricks-and-mortar, local-based retailer, the task is greatly simplified, and consequently the need for outlandish methods is nil. For the most part, retailers simply wish to attract paying customers (either new or returning) to their premises. When properly executed, this can be accomplished with a mail-piece as simple as a postcard.
A strongly proven means by which to attract customers is to offer a discount or premium by way of a coupon or voucher inherent to the mail-piece. This works particularly well for start-up businesses as well as established businesses aiming to revive their customer base or offer seasonal incentives. The mail-piece actually becomes the connection between the targeted list and the retail store, by giving the recipients a specific reason to visit-– a discounted opportunity to experience what the business has to offer.
The extent of the “special offer” must, of course, be within the range of what the business can afford to put forth, but should nonetheless constitute a value worth pursuing. A good strategy is to “put one’s best foot forward” when offering a premium. Whether offering a discount on a great product or service, or offering an incentive when a particular item is purchased, this invites a customer to experience the best of what a business provides. It need not (and likely should not) be the most expensive product or service offered, but should be something of quality and value.
A common mistake of retailers is to use direct mail coupons to clear overstock that sold poorly originally. Most customers are aware of this and will be unresponsive, or disappointed when they do respond. They will be equally unresponsive to or disappointed with low-quality “free gift” incentives. When a business sticks with what it does best, people are more likely to visit, and will be impressed when they do.
Another benefit to offering a coupon to draw customers to a store is that the coupon provides a means for tracking the success of the campaign. The count of returned coupons will give a strong sense of the response rate to the campaign. Additionally, if a split-mailing involving several different mail-piece formats has been used, the return rate from the various formats can give the retailer valuable data to use for added success during the next mail campaign. Moreover, if the coupon or voucher is configured strategically, the customers mailing address can be available upon remittance. With their permission, their information can be added to a customer list or database, to be used for targeted promotions.
As a result of thorough tracking, a business develops a means by which communication with customers is streamlined. The future cost of effectively reaching the proper market goes down, while the rate of paying customer visits increases.

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