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Tips For a Successful Direct Mail Campaign

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Advertising can be a great way to drive business, but the key is finding the right vehicle to spread your message.

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As the former co-owner of the largest chain of Goodyear dealerships in Texas, I tried an assortment of advertising approaches to raise awareness of my shops. What I found is that most forms of advertising didn’t provide the return on investment I was expecting.

Radio and television ads can provide good exposure, but the audience is too broad. In a city full of tire shops, why would someone bypass their local dealership to buy from a shop located 10 miles away? Sending out coupons via Val-Pak and other mass mailing services allowed me to target by neighborhood, but after some initial success, I realized my offers were getting lost in the shuffle.

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What I really wanted was a compelling way to reach the highest-caliber customers located closest to my shops. Direct mail allowed me to achieve that goal. I was able to target higher-income households within two miles of my shop. Direct mail also enabled me to separate myself from the pack with a stand-alone offer that was interesting enough to draw customers.

Of course, like everything, employing direct mail effectively proved to be a learning process. I cringe when I think about the first postcards I sent out and how unsophisticated they were. It also took a while to determine which offers were most likely to resonate with customers.  

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If you’re considering using direct mail, here are some tips based on the lessons I’ve learned:

• Pick a direct mail company that specializes in your industry or at least has experience serving other businesses in your sector. A mailing service that caters to everyone (from auto repair chains to pizza parlors) is more likely to recommend offers that won’t resonate with your customers. They also may not understand how to help you better target the right customers for your business.

• Ask for references. You want to ensure that the company you choose has a successful track record in your industry.

• Ask for samples. Don’t get fooled by deals on low-cost postcards. Oftentimes, the quality and size of those postcards is why the price is so low. Seeing is believing.

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• Look for a direct mail service that doesn’t require a contract. You’re bound to experience some trial and error in your direct mail campaign. But getting locked into a long-term contract requiring a large number of mailings each month doesn’t offer you a lot of flexibility. You need to decide minimum number that makes sense for you and find a company willing to accommodate your specifications.

• Deliver what you advertise. Don’t offer four brand name tires for $350 just to get customers in the door. They’ll leave when they realize those tires don’t exist at that price. Instead, feature offers that you’re able to provide, such as $50 off any four tires.

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• Don’t give up. Direct mail takes time. If you do it one month and then take a break, you’ll never build momentum. You need to decide to make this a permanent part of your marketing efforts. You also need to measure results over the long term. When evaluating your direct mail campaign, compare sales results from one month with the same month for previous years. Comparing month to month is too difficult because of seasonal variations.  

Greg Sands is the CEO and founder of Mudlick Mail based in Acworth, Ga. He also owns and operates 20 repair shops across the country and has more than 18 years of automotive industry experience.

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