Are Program Mailings for You?

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When clients ask for direct mail advice, we often hear that they planned to produce regular mailings but never got around to it for a host of reasons. Things got hectic. They got busy. Business was good, and they thought they didn't need direct mail. More important things got in the way. There wasn't enough time. There wasn't enough money, etc., etc.

Because so many businesses perceive direct mail as a cost center rather than a revenue generator, it often takes a back seat to the company's other marketing. But, done correctly, systematically and in a timely fashion, a well-thought-out campaign almost always boosts revenue and fires up other efforts to market your products and services.

How can you avoid letting your direct mail fall through the cracks? Establish a "program" mailing and let someone else handle the nuts and bolts. You've already said you get too busy and your staff gets tied up doing other things.

What do I mean by a program mailing? I mean mailings that are not major strategic undertakings every time you want or need to send them. Once established, a program mailing pretty much runs on autopilot. It is not time consuming or painful. With a little bit of effort, you can put a program mailing in place and forget about it.

Comprising a coordinated series of mailings, set up and implemented over a given time period, a program mailing is designed to keep your company in front of customers, recruit prospects, boost sales and provide new information about your products/services. Typical mailings include newsletters set up on templates that allow for replacement of articles or other information without recreating the wheel each time; birthday and anniversary card mailings to clients; seasonal or holiday offers; and introductory offers to prospects.

Direct mail is a relationship builder, a personal conversation with current and potential customers. Like all relationships, it takes more than one contact a year to develop trust, solidify and prove worthwhile.

A program mailing is not rocket science, but it is a process - not a one-time event. Your input is critical at the inception of any marketing program. At the outset, you need to spend time with a direct mail marketing specialist to decide: What is your objective? Who is your audience? What do you want recipients to do? How will you motivate them to respond to your call for action? Do the mailers have the right look and feel for your company? Is the message or information consistent with what prospects and clients expect from your company? Do the offers have a shelf life beyond the first mailing?

But once the basics are in place, your oversight will be needed only to approve, tweak and refine the efforts, which is far less time consuming than starting from scratch each time you want to contact your customers. Also, by letting others handle the program's execution, you relieve your staff of that responsibility and ensure that your schedule is met.

Many companies specialize in producing program mailings, and you should investigate them. Generally, however, they will produce and print your pieces along with millions of others, allowing only minimal personalization. Only you can decide whether this is appropriate or whether you need to use someone who can truly personalize your program and tie all the pieces together so you can focus your energy on running your business.

Regardless of how you choose to go, commit to the process. Your regular direct mail efforts will become eagerly anticipated by your target market. What's more, you will create a sense of stability in your organization and stimulate planning for the future by putting your staff on notice that a long-term program is in place.

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