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For years now, direct mail – those flyers, letters, postcards and packages that advertisers send to prospects and customers through the mail – has taken a beating because of its intrusiveness and often irrelevant messages.

But marketers need to stop bashing direct mail and realize that it's still a valuable tool for small businesses for two reasons.

For one, it allows them to very specifically target a prospect directly, and, for another, it provides a high return on investment because direct-mail campaigns are relatively inexpensive.

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For those two reasons, I still use direct mail and am still able to generate leads and warm up prospects.

If you're not closed-minded to integrating push tactics into your marketing mix and want to put direct mail back into your arsenal of weapons, here are five pieces of advice to follow to make the most of it.


Everyone has a different opinion on the best way to approach direct mail, but there really isn't one. The minute someone tells you one way is the best, I guarantee you another approach will outdo it consistently. I have seen it happen far too often.

For example, when it come to your packaging, which options do you choose? Handwritten or printed text? A white or a black envelope? Teaser copy or none? A large envelope or standard size? Postcard or letter? Black ink or blue?

The options are endless. The best way to find out what works best is to execute your own campaign and measure the effects.

Set a benchmark, test different options, run more campaigns and compare results.

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The purpose of a headline is to grab a prospect's attention and zero in on precisely who you want to reach.

The headline should be the first thing someone reads when he or she opens your mail.. It has to pique interest enough to keep reading the entire thing.

To create a great headline, be sure to include your target market in the headline. For example, if you sell a solution for arthritis sufferers, make sure to reference them in your headline to increase relevancy.

As well,, include your offer in the headline. You want to answer the question right up front of what value your solution brings to your customer.

In this example, your headline could read: "New cure discovered for arthritis sufferers. Ninety per cent in trial got relief."

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Sound dubious or corny? I once used just such a mailing, and it got results.


There are key elements that every direct mailer should include. Among them:

Problem statement : Emphasize the problem your target market has, and what it costs them.

Paint a picture: Create a vision of what life would be like without the problem and how your solution would help.

Solve the problem: Tell them how you can solve the problem. Use benefit-rich statements.

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Address likely objections: Doubt will always exist, so be sure to address known objections they might have.

Make the offer: Outline an offer that's easy to buy in to, whether a webinar series or a free sample.

Create a call to action: Tell them how to take advantage of your offer, and why they should act now.

Add a post-script: The P.S. is a crucial element of a direct mail piece because the eye quickly scans from top to bottom to decide whether what people are looking at is worth their time. Attention will be focused on the beginning – the headline – and the end, so make sure that your P.S. restatesyour offer and the call to action,


I'm never surprised when someone tells me a direct mail campaign failed when it only involved one or two mailings. The marketplace's attention span is short, so you have to communicate many times, from many angles and using many tools.

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It is extremely rare to get a response after one mailing. In fact, direct mail is not meant to stand on its own – it's meant to be coupled with a follow-up sales call, e-mail and further direct mailings.

Alternatively, you could approach direct mail with more frequency, for example, sending a dozen, one after another, over 12 straight weeks. other for 12 weeks straight. I have seen plenty of leads generated with this type of campaign,


One of the biggest reasons for failure: Most companies try to sell, not educate. Don't make that mistake.

As I've written before, educators understand a simple concept: It's never about them, it's always about the client. So information should not be self-serving but educational, informing clients about what's important and can be helpful to them. They are more likely to buy into someone or something from which they will derive benefits; it's up to you to share information and intrigue them with material they can use to their own advantage.

Getting customers to purchase takes time. Warm them up by demonstrating your credibility, sharing useful information, piquing interest and building a lasting impression. Then, when they're ready to buy, they'll think of you.

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In a world more and more dominated by inbound marketing, social media and the like, direct mail should not be left out of the mix. When used properly, it can be a very powerful tactic.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based growth strategist who works with companies in hyper-competitive marketplaces that want to increase leads and demand to fill their pipeline, that need help breaking into or taking control of already established markets when there's a need to create more revenue streams, or to become more influential in the marketplace.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues:

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