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How to Target a Direct Mail Campaign

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Why is Targeting Important?

Targeting is all about identifying those people who are most likely to respond to your mailing. That way you can avoid wasting money sending mail to those people who won’t respond.

In general there are four reasons why someone may not respond to a mailing:

  • Recipients may not want your product or service – vegetarians are not going to respond to a two for the price of one burger promotion.
  • The timing may be wrong – the recipient may have just put in that new kitchen.
  • The data may have been inaccurate, in which case your mail may never have arrived.
  • Some people dislike direct mail and as a result throw it away immediately when received.

According to research commissioned by QAS the average large business in the UK wastes more than £100k per year on direct mail due to data being out of date. Businesses receive over 350 items of direct mail each year that is intended for people who have since left the country.

Targeting before carrying out your first direct mail campaign will help to remove no responses due to people not wanting your product or service, and due to inaccurate data.

Once your first campaign has been carried out you can then look to identify and remove those people who dislike direct mail through analysing non-responses and returns. This is often overlooked by businesses but is an essential aspect of direct mail marketing, as explained by Rebecca Clayton, director of marketing, QAS:

“Because so few businesses monitor the amount of mail they send out, or the cost of returned mail, they have no real insight into how much money they are wasting or the potential damage to their company or brand reputation. It also means they aren’t getting a true view of the success of their communications.”

Identifying your Customers

This is all about gaining an understanding of who your customers are, where they live, what they do, what they like and dislike, and so on. It’s known as profiling.

For consumer mailings typical characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Geographical Location
  • Type of Home
  • Special Interests

For business mailings typical characteristics are:

  • Industry Classification
  • Turnover
  • Number of Employees
  • Geographical Location
  • Technology Used
  • Machinery Used

If you have a list of customers with limited data you can often obtain a more complete view through cross-referencing it with data from lifestyle database companies. This cross-referencing can prove to be extremely illuminating and companies often discover that they appeal to a set of people that they were previously unaware of.

Sourcing the Mailing Lists

There are however many companies without a sufficient in-house mailing list, and newly formed companies don’t have an existing customer base. Therefore to effectively target their direct mail campaign lists must be rented or purchased.

Mailing lists can be purchased from a number of sources, including list brokers, list owners and list managers. Always keep your customer profile in mind – the mailing lists that you source must match this profile as closely as possible.

Once you’ve identified a suitable list you can rent or buy an initial sample. 5,000 is often considered a good initial amount. Send out your mailing, test the response and decide whether it’s worth going on to purchase or rent the whole list.

Remember that with experience wastage can be reduced and response rates improved so your initial mailing doesn’t have to be profitable the first time.

Tracking the Results

Always track the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign, including which customers responded and what products they purchased. Profile the customers that responded to build up a picture of your ideal customer. Also track the effectiveness of different promotions such as “20% off” or “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” and what is the best day to send out your mailing.

Huge savings can be made through effectively tracking your direct mail campaigns and it’s often possible to end up being able to rank customers based on their likelihood to respond.

Larger companies often take this a step further by segmenting their customer base into groups based on average spend. That way they can concentrate on targeting those who are likely to buy high value goods or services.

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