Mailing, Mailing – Industry Trend or Event

Bonny L. Georgia

Six steps to a simple and successful direct-mail campaign

WHY USE DIRECT MAIL WHEN THERE ARE SO many other marketing techniques available? In a word, control. Direct mailing lets you send messages and promotions to people likely to act on them. Being able to choose who gets your message makes direct mail a powerful tool. Direct mail is also great for generating leads or to encourage repeat business. By placing an inconspicuous code on coupons and reply cards, you can measure the success of your mailing.

But the postage and printing costs can make it an expensive marketing option. Misfire and you’ve tossed hundreds or thousands of dollars out the window. Hit the mark, however, and laugh all the way to the bank. Here are six steps to make your marketing mailing a smash.

STEP 1 Identify Your Audience

There’s little point to direct mail if you can’t identify the people you wish to reach. Creating a demographic profile will paint a clearer picture of your best customers and the size of your market.

For some businesses, details such as age, sex, and marital status are important, while education, ethnicity, or income level might have a bigger impact on purchasing behavior for others. Consider lifestyle characteristics or hobbies that your customers have in common, as well. A residential cleaning service, for example, might identify its best customers as working mothers who live in upscale neighborhoods.

Although it’s possible to purchase CD-ROMs filled with such demographic information, up-to-date, personalized reports can also be generated on the Web. Claritas Connect (800-234-5973, www. offers several free market analyses, as well as a subscription-based tool ($195 annually, plus as little as $30 per report) for targeting customers by area code, zip code, or neighborhood., shown here (800-599-5030,, also offers free and fee-based market data. Using its MarketTarget tool, you can find out how many women aged 25 to 34 in Cleveland are frequent business travelers, or how many tech-savvy movie buffs live in Baltimore. Prices for custom reports start at around $125.

STEP 2 Pinpoint Your Hot Zone

Where do the geographic boundaries of your target market fall? For many home-based businesses, the majority of customers are located within a particular city, county, region, or zip code. One way to visualize where your customers are located (and where you might be missing out) is with a paper wall map filled with pushpins; but a more effective solution is to use mapping software, such as Microsoft MapPoint 2000, shown here ($109; 800-426-9400, www. or ESRI’s BusinessMap Pro 2.0 ($130; 800-970-0033, MapPoint 2000 lets you generate custom street maps and plot specific demographics of an area against your own customer data.

STEP 3 Make a (Mailing) List

Shop around for public and private mailing lists that closely match the demographic profile you need. Start by getting qualified leads from a list broker. List rental fees are usually on a cost-per-thousand basis, and vary with the quantity and quality of the leads, the age and buying history of the list members, and whether you get just addresses or titles and phone numbers as well.

For mailings to fewer than 1,000 people, the cost of renting a small list may be prohibitive. Fortunately, online brokers are open to selling small mailing lists. lets you initiate an order online for a hard copy or floppy disk of names that fit a variety of lifestyle, geographic, and demographic criteria. ( sells leads for 10 cents per record and above, depending on the amount of contact information purchased. (www.thinkdirectmarketing. com) provides unlimited searches and downloads of up to 250,000 names for $195. Although you can’t select by demographics such as age or income, you can choose by zip code, Standard Industrial Code, or geographic radius of a quarter-mile to 25 miles around any address you choose.

STEP 4 Create a Killer Message

Once you know whom you want to mail, make them an offer they can’t refuse. Perhaps you can get your point across on a postcard, or maybe you need a more powerful personalized letter and coupon to pique their interest.

In either case, if your copy is not compelling–with a clear call to action and a means to respond–you’re wasting your time and money sending it. Check out two excellent articles that address the process of developing an effective piece of direct mail:

* Jay Conrad Levinson’s “Solutions to 10 Most Pressing Direct Mail Problems” (

* Direct Marketing Worlds “Anatomy of a Direct Mail Letter” (

STEP 5 Design and Print Your Materials

For do-it-yourself flyers, coupons, postcards, and brochures, it’s hard to beat the templates in Microsoft Publisher 2000 ($100; 800-426-9400, com/office/publisher). Add your text, logo, and scanned artwork to a basic layout (like the postcard wizard seen here) and copy it onto plain or colored paper to keep costs down. A searchable index of Publisher Service Provider copy shops and service bureaus is avail able at the Publisher home page.

Alternatively, you can create your direct-mail items on the Web at the online print shop (www. Not only can you order custom-designed postcards, letterhead, and flyers, you can also get your logo imprinted on promotional items, such as mousepads.

STEP 6 Serve It Up

Once the print job is finished, you’re ready to lick, stuff, and address. Postal meters and folding machines available at the office supply store or for lease through companies like Pitney Bowes ( and Neopost ( will make this job go faster. (For more, see this month’s Software Buyer’s Guide.)

If the mailing is too large or time is too short, ask your local print shop to stuff envelopes for you, or use an online service instead. Pitney Bowes DirectNet ( merges up to four mailing lists; offers templates for designing letters, or accepts existing Word and Publisher files; and lets you request an estimate for your job online. Once you’ve approved document proofs, the mailing goes out within three business days.

Eletter (, shown here) offers similar printing and mailing options. Costs vary with the size of your mailing, type of paper, and colors used.

COPYRIGHT 2000 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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