Comment: Does direct mail work?


Direct mail can still be a valuable marketing tool for brokers

Question: I’m part of a small group of health insurance intermediaries looking at ways to gain a younger client base. My business is situated in a university town and I’m keen to look at ways to reach this relatively untapped market. I’ve been advised to put together a direct mail campaign. What kind of things do i need to consider?

P Richards, health insurance intermediary, Liverpool

Answer: As email marketing picked up over the past decade, direct mail has fallen out of favour. However, there are times when getting a piece of paper in front of people makes more sense than reaching them by email. Think carefully about your target audience though before embarking upon one or the other.

Direct mail combines both marketing and advertising so it can be a good tool for the small business arsenal. It’s a tried and tested technique that could help to drive business your way. What’s more, it’s a very cost effective and efficient way of reaching a large audience quickly. That said, you don’t want it to wind up as just another piece of junk mail so there are a number of things to consider.

Before you send out anything, develop a good mailing list. List brokers and direct mail agencies do exist; but if you go down this route, be careful to choose reputable ones because the best direct mail piece will fail if it doesn’t reach the mailboxes of the properly targeted recipients. On this note, bear in mind that if you are targeting students their regular home addresses may be somewhere quite different to their temporary student addresses.

Because successful response to a direct mail campaign may fall somewhere in the 0.05% to 1% range, it’s important to use a large enough base of recipients to produce worthwhile results. The more personalised your recipient list (ie addressed to a specific person rather than “occupant”) the better your chances of drawing in those clients.

Once your mailing list is sorted out, you can get down to the business of deciding what you’ll actually mail; it could be a postcard, a flier, a letter or a brochure. Have a think about promotions you’ve received in the past and take note of why some appeal more than others. Look to those ideas when you embark on your own direct mail campaign.

In general, the most cost-effective piece to mail for many small business budgets is a two-sided colour postcard. You can design standard pieces of marketing material yourself based on existing direct mail templates provided by numerous companies, or you may prefer to hire someone to design something more creative for your business. Online print companies as well as local firms can usually do bulk quantities quickly at reasonable prices.

Regardless of what format you select, every direct mail piece should include a specific offer and call to action that must be conveyed in a simple, straightforward and easy-to-understand manner. Be hyper-specific on your direct mail piece, and don’t be afraid to reiterate the offer. Before you finalise it, share it with an independent third party (preferably young!) for feedback. Is it something you’d be interested in? How can it be more clear, exciting, or provocative?

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