MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Get better at direct marketing

It's not subtle, but it can be effective. Here are ten ways to make sure direct marketing has the desired effect.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Most people don't have a high opinion of direct marketing. We all get so much unsolicited mail, email and sales calls, both at home and at work, that it tends to wash over us. But the fact remains that if you use it right, it can be a cost-effective way of raising awareness and generating new sales leads. MT asked Les Wilcock of marketing agency Opening Doors how firms can beat spam fatigue and run a good direct marketing campaign.

1. Check your database
It’s all in the detail... According to Royal Mail, data erodes by about 20% every 3 months. So if your database is 6 months old, potentially 40% of your money is being wasted. Make sure the database is up to date, and that you've removed those registered with Telephone or Mail Preference Screening.

2. Send it to someone
Too often mail is sent out to ‘Office manager’ or ‘Managing Director’. If you can’t be bothered to find out who is responsible for purchasing your products or services, don’t expect your mailshot or email to be opened. Find out who is responsible, including their full contact details, and inform them that you will be writing them a letter introducing your company. This gets your company name known to them, and you have found out already whether they buy services or products similar to yours.

3. Keep it short
Keep any letter or email short, to-the-point and benefit-oriented. You need to ensure that you write it from the customer’s viewpoint, as mailers often go on and on about how wonderful their company/product/service is – and usually customers don’t care. All they want to know is how you are going to solve their problem/need.

4. Include a call to action
Direct marketing is often criticised but it’s not the tool that’s at fault.  More often than not it’s because there is no call to action. Give them a telephone number or email address at the very least.

5. Follow up    
How many times do you get an email or mailshot and never get a follow-up phone call? Always call the list you have mailed to. It’s a courtesy call to see if they are interested, and it keeps the dialogue going.

6. Follow up again
Follow up again in 6 months. Prospects will sometimes keep your information on file for use when a project or need arises. Make a note to remind yourself to call them back in 3-6 months.

7. Test different approaches    
Measure the response rate, test different messages, refine and repeat the campaign. If you are doing a mail-out of 1,000, split it into batches of 250 or 500 and have a different message for each batch. That way you can see which batch has the best return.

8. Get your timing right
Timing is vital. Running business-to-business direct marketing campaigns in the months of July, August or mid-December will invariably produce lower returns, as these are holiday periods.

9. Don't rely on one medium
Consider a multi-layered approach. It often works far better with each component supporting and reinforcing the campaign messages, for example a direct mail shot supported by an email broadcast and an outbound telephone call-out.

10. Make sure you have enough resource
Will you be able to cope with the enquiries that you receive? If you have insufficient resources to follow up enquiries, it will damage your brand. And by the time you get round to answering them, the potential customer may have gone elsewhere. Plan your marketing campaign around controlled batches; for example, send out in sets of 500 direct marketing items at a time. That way the follow-up phone call will occur when they have just received your letter.

Got any better ideas? If so please add below...

Les Wilcock is a director at NW-based marketing agency Opening Doors. For more information visit or call 01260 285 815.

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