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Direct mail made easy online

01 Jul 2010

In this age of the Web, it can be easy for businesses to overlook the joys of the ‘humble envelope’, but direct mail can be an invaluable component of a successful marketing campaign.

It can be an essential tool for acquiring new customers and retaining and building a relationship with those you already have. These days, direct mail is easier and more affordable than ever, with loads of easy-to-use online tools to help you achieve great results.

Start small If you haven’t done anything in the direct mail space before, start small and test your ideas on a small sample of your customer database to be sure of the results before committing to a full-blown campaign. One of the easiest ways to get started is with MailBase, a web-based one-stop DIY direct mail service from New Zealand Post.

MailBase allows you to create your direct mail campaign online, with easy-to-use templates, images and mailing lists. The step-by-step process guides you through everything from uploading your own mailing list or creating a new list using the MailBase mapping tool, through to designing eye-catching designs for flyers, postcards or personalised envelopes, while New Zealand Post looks after the printing and posting for you.

Don’t underestimate the power of data

Your customer database can be a hugely useful resource, so if you don’t have one, get one. If you do have a customer database, make sure you’re making the most of it by keeping it up to date and consistent.

Around 60% of a direct mail campaign’s success depends on accurate data, so every list should be checked for things like changes of address, name double-ups and people who have requested not to receive direct mail. You can obtain accurate database lists from New Zealand Post. It also offers support in all areas of database ‘cleansing’ to help you maintain the accuracy of your own mailing lists to ensure your direct mail always reaches the right people. 

Cut your cloth to suit your customers When you’re talking to people who actually want the information you’re giving them, the cut-through of your campaign will increase dramatically. So get to know your customers – their profile, age, demography, interests, lifestyle, media consumption, why they like your products – and ensure your campaign is relevant to them.

For example, if you’re offering a great deal on home-delivered nappies, it is likely to be well received by people with young kids – but it won’t be of any interest to those who don’t have children. The newly-launched Data Hub is a free and easy-to-use interactive web tool developed to help businesses with targeting.

It provides top-line information from some of New Zealand Post’s datasets, including the New Zealand Lifestyle Survey, New Movers, Rural and PO Box Direct lists. Users can generate their own numbers to get numerical insights into Kiwis’ lifestyle and purchasing behaviour. For instance, if you want to find out how many households in New Zealand are thinking of purchasing a new car in the next year, you can head to the Data Hub’s Lifestyle Survey tab to find out (37,117 households at last count if you’re interested).

If you want to reach more dairy farmers in the Waikato, the Rural list can offer statistics on how many households you can reach. Develop a great call to action The most effective direct mail campaigns compel recipients to act on what they’ve received.

This action could be going to your website, redeeming a voucher or taking advantage of a special offer. A new way to encourage people to interact with your direct mail campaign is via the online service Send a Card, which allows Kiwis to create and send high-quality personalised greeting cards and postcards – direct from their desktop.

Users can upload their own images and personalise the text however they’d like. Already a hit with consumers, businesses now can get in on the action through sponsoring cards. This can take many forms – for instance, you could sponsor a card that can be sent for free by consumers, which could include your company’s imagery or logo.

Alternatively you could include a redeemable voucher or product code embedded in the card or envelope; or include a link on the card to send the recipient to your website, where they can redeem a special offer online. Learn and measure

Alas, there’s no handy online tool to make this bit easy, but it’s a must-do step.

One of the best things about direct mail is that it’s so easy to track and measure; important in this day and age when return on investment (ROI) matters more than ever. It’s vital to learn from each campaign you undertake, to see what worked and what didn’t, and apply this knowledge to your business for next time round. Keep digging deeper, using targeting, profiling and other smart tools to help you understand what makes your customers tick and what they want to receive from you.