If a small business focuses its entire attention on Internet marketing, it could be making a big mistake. Traditional marketing like direct mail can still be highly effective, despite email, despite social media, despite mobile apps and despite all the rest. Here are a few specific examples of how direct mail marketing can boost a small company’s ability to generate leads and retain customers:
- When you have a product that lends itself to sampling.
If you sell a product that people like to touch or use, direct mail is an excellent option. You can’t smell a fragrance, evaluate mulch, or taste a condiment on a computer screen. On the other hand, a direct mail piece that includes a free sample arouses curiosity, speeds the selling cycle and exposes your product (and your brand) to a large audience. This type of mailing will be even more effective if it’s followed up with a telephone or email follow-up. (This is an important side note: Direct mail need not be a standalone campaign; often, it’s more effective to use online campaigns as a complement.)
- When you’re selling to a younger audience.
It may seem counterintuitive, but often, younger customers prefer traditional mail to Internet marketing. For starters, “snail mail” is a real novelty for digital natives, so there’s a curiosity factor working in your favor that will never come from older people who have been conditioned to view all mail as junk mail or bills. In addition, younger people spend a lot of time online, and actively look for ways to do things offline. Digital overload is viewed as a substantive quality of life issue by more and more people, perhaps setting the stage for renewed interest in direct mail. It’s certainly worth a test to see what kind of response you get.
- When you’re selling something new and/or complicated.
Online attention spans are low. Most experts agree that a Web page must capture the attention of a user within a few seconds; otherwise, the person will move on to a competitor’s website or lose interest altogether. With this in mind, direct mail is a great option for complicated or new-to-the-market products and services. If you have a powerful value proposition with which to kick off your direct mailing, you may inspire more people to read it in letter form, instead of having potential customers wade through Web-page content.
- When you’re selling locally.
If you have a local business, there is an element of familiarity that isn’t present for a company that sells nationally or globally. For instance, people in your community might be curious about your new restaurant or dry cleaning service, and inclined to open a letter or read a postcard describing it. If your restaurant or dry cleaning service is already established, even better; recipients may be quite motivated to get a mailing with coupons or other promotional offers.
- When your focus is on loyalty building.
Sometimes the most effective direct mail campaigns focus on loyalty building rather than lead generation. Customers already doing business with you are far more likely to read your direct mail message than a complete unknown. Consider direct mail for communicating special offers, reporting on loyalty program status, delivering gift cards or coupons, and introducing new products and services.
- When your online marketing campaigns aren’t getting results.
Because digital marketing is so pervasive, small businesses can easily fall into the trap of doing it because everyone else is. However, digital marketing can be very expensive, very labor intensive, and very hard to stand out from the crowd. Small businesses in particular are easily overshadowed by larger competitors online, whereas with direct mail, the playing field may be surprisingly level.
- When you’re targeting a specific audience.
When targeting a specific audience, life stage marketing campaigns can be extremely effective because you’re targeting your audience at the exact time they’re ready and willing to buy. Whether you’re targeting college students, new movers, engaged couples or another group, timing makes the difference in a direct mail campaign. You reach the customer when they want your product, so you’ll generate more leads and increase your customer base.
If you’re not sure direct mail can work for you, run a solid test campaign. With the right strategy, offer and mailing list, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish.