ICS Magazine

Executing Your Direct Mail Campaign

November 11, 2011

This month we’ll talk a bit more on the actual execution of what it takes to get your targeted direct mail campaign mailed out to best effect.



Last month we talked about ideas and benefits of using direct mail to target neighborhoods. This month we’ll talk a bit more on the actual execution of what it takes to get your targeted direct mail campaign mailed out to best effect.

Here are some often asked questions about neighborhood mailings:

What Criteria Should I Use to Pick the Best Neighborhood?

This depends on your community and your ideal target prospect. To target a high-end neighborhood, you will want to pick a list based on home value, household income and ZIP code. For instance, a criterion of “homes valued at over $250,000 with a household income of over $85,000 in the 33308 ZIP code” may do well for high-end homes in that particular zip code.

Where Can I Buy a Mailing List for a Neighborhood?

A few well-known sources to purchase your neighborhood list are Infousa.com, database101.com, and melissadata.com. 

Should I Send Via Bulk Mail or First Class?

Typically first class mail will get the best response. Why?  First class looks more like personal mail. Would Aunt Martha send you a letter via bulk mail?  Of course not!  So normally send letters via first class mail. And since first class will get returned if the address is bad, you’ll be able to clean up your mailing list.

For oversized postcards (of which I happen to be a fan), you can often save at least $.20 per mail piece by mailing bulk mail. With a postcard, you reveal your identity as soon as the prospect takes a glance at your mail piece. So bulk mail is typically fine to use with postcards. Also, realize that your mailing list must be correct, as bulk mail usually does not get returned to you.

How Do I Get a Bulk Mail Permit?

Contact your local post office. In the United States, the cost is normally $150 for a yearly permit to send bulk mail at a discounted price. You will be required to mail at least 200 pieces at a time. On each mail piece, you’ll need to print your bulk mail permit number in place of a stamp or you can choose to place a bulk mail stamp on your mail piece. If you send more than 1,000 bulk mail pieces per year, it should be worth it.

What Goes On the Address Portion of the Envelope?

Good question. This is a critical area of concern. Remember that your prospect is eager to throw away anything that looks like junk mail.

One idea is to place your name, instead of your company name, in the return address. After all, the letter is coming from you as a representative of your company, right?  In the “to” address, place their first and last name along with their address. Leave out the Mr. or Mrs. and surely leave out their middle initial. Personal letters don’t include such things.

When sending postcards it is often acceptable to place “Or Current Resident” under the homeowner’s name. This will mean that your mailer will get delivered to whoever is living in the house. Without words like “Or Current Resident,” your letter will only get delivered if the recipient’s name is on the letter. You can use this phrase with letters too, but then you’d be giving a signal that junk mail is enclosed inside the envelope. It’s best to save this phrase for postcards or mailers with your identity exposed on the outside.

What's a "Good" Response Rate?

Mostly you’ll want to look at your return on investment. You should look for at least a 3-to-1 return. In other words, if you spend $200 on mailings, you want to see at least a $600 return in cleaning jobs.

What's the Minimum Number of Pieces I Should Send?

You can send as many or as little as you want. However, you’ll want to test your list, offer and mail piece before starting a huge campaign. A good test would be 500-1,000 mail pieces.

I Just Sent Out a Mailing But Got No Response. Now What?

Send another mail piece to the same exact prospects!  It takes repetition to get recognized. Now, perhaps you should re-evaluate your offer or the manner in which your mailing was sent. Learn from your mistakes and do it a little wiser the next time. The fact of the matter is you are testing. Find out what may have gone wrong and fix it.

Should I Print My Postcards Myself, or Use a Professional Printer?

Either will work, but I’ve found you can get a much more professional postcard by having it printed professionally. As well, professional printing is often less expensive as color printing on a personal printer is very costly. It’s also wise to consider the amount of time it takes for you or your office assistant to print and cut postcards. If you are printing more than 200 postcards at a time, a professional printer is likely your best choice.

What Other Ways Can I Stand Out With My Campaign?

Last month, I insisted that you catch attention with your direct mail piece. This is perhaps the most important part of the entire campaign. If your mail piece doesn’t catch attention, it goes directly into the garbage.

In addition to the ideas I gave last month, you can catch attention by bulking up your letter. Try adding a small trinket that goes along with your theme.  When your prospect has your letter in her hand, she’ll feel that there’s something more in the envelope besides a letter. This arouses curiosity to get the envelope opened. For example, if your letter talks about how your company is the best in your city at spot removal, perhaps include a refrigerator magnet with emergency spot removal tips. Or perhaps include a small boomerang with a headline that says, “Your spots are guaranteed to never come back.”

Sure it’s a little corny, but it makes the point memorable and gets your letter opened.

Targeting specific neighborhoods with direct mail can be very profitable. Although it usually isn’t the cheapest form of advertising, it is the best way to hand pick clients in the best neighborhoods.

To sum it all up:  pick the homes you want to target, catch their attention with your mailer, give them an offer they can’t refuse, and repeat the process until you own the neighborhood.