March  2006      Vol. 15, No. 3  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Ten Questions to Ask about Your Direct Mail

Direct mail is exactly what it says – literature or a sales or promotional piece that is mailed directly to the home or business of a potential user. Like all effective marketing, a direct mail campaign must be carefully planned and targeted. This form of advertising usually requires a large mailing list of potential customers to get a reasonable number of sales. Before undertaking any direct mail campaign, the following questions may help you think through this option.

  1. Goal-setting: What do you hope to accomplish with this mailing? Why do you feel direct mail is your best advertising option?
  2. Financial Planning: What is your budget for this mailing? For follow up?
  3. Timeline: When do you need this mailing to reach targeted consumers? Is it seasonal, dated, price sensitive?
  4. Targeting the Consumer: Who is your target market? Is this an existing market for your product or a new niche you hope to create for your product?
  5. Consumer Appeal: Who will develop and produce your direct mail piece? How will your piece get noticed among all the “junk mail” people receive? Have you interviewed professionals who have a proven record in direct mailing? Direct mail is an expensive process and is not a place to provide family and friends with a “learning experience.”
  6. Distribution/Mailing: How do you plan to mail your promotional piece? Will you mail it first class or bulk? Do you have a permit? Will you use labels, handwritten addresses, laser printing? How much will it cost to mail each piece?
  7. Inventory/Services: Will you be able to “deliver the goods” you are promoting? Think carefully. The inability to deliver on promised goods or services will cause long-term damage to the reputation of your business.
  8. Measuring the Effectiveness of the Campaign: After you establish your goals (Step #1), you need to have some kind of measuring mechanism in place to determine whether you reach or exceed your goals.
  9. Evaluating the Results: When your promotional window is finished (this is the time from when the consumer receives your mailing to the time you have allowed for them to respond), you need to back up and take a hard, long look at your promotional efforts. You must review what worked, what didn’t, if you need to change or improve to achieve better or different results.
  10. Budget Review and Evaluation: Produce a report for every line item in your budget. It should show what you actually spent compared to what you planned to spend. After evaluating your efforts, review your budget/expenditures and variances with an eye toward what worked and how you may need to “juggle the budget” in the future. Was this direct mail campaign worth the money and effort? Are you happy with the results?

Source: Business Plan Basics NxLevel Guide for Micro-Entrepreneurs
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