I’ve gotten a lot of emails over the years and many of them ask about ways to use direct mail. Postcards, flyers, magazines, all come into our mailboxes every day. In today’s blog I want to talk about the two main challenges that many small business owners face when beginning a direct mail campaign. Fortunately there has never been a better, cheaper time in history to get your message out.

Two Challenges

To begin we need to cover what you’re going to mail. You have two challenges. You first challenge is building the brand name of your new business. The second is how to position that brand name away from your competition. You must address these two issues before you put a stamp on anything.

Your Brand Name

Let’s start with the brand name. To begin, list the top five most profitable products, types of products, or groups of products or services you plan to offer. These are the things your brand will be known for, and over time, will build a strong, profitable customer base that pays the bills.

These five things are what those people who refer you will mention most often. When you do your mailing or any other marketing technique, these products or services are the “hooks” that will make the phone ring. People buy benefits, not products or services. They will buy time saving, convenience, guarantees, avoidance of worry, and self-preservation to name a few.

How Do You Make Them Feel

I will assume that your competitors will also offer similar products and services. So what will make yours better or more desirable than your competitors? Most customers are not going to make a change for a few dollars. Your mail message is going to have to not only attract their attention, but also compel them to pick up the phone. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

What are they really looking for? Is there any need that’s not being filled? Or can you fill it better, cheaper, faster, or longer? Your mail message should talk to a single individual, not a crowd of customers. Make it personal. Advertising has one undeniable rule; when emotion and logic come in conflict, emotion always wins. Your customers will buy because of how you make them feel.

Mailing Lists

Next, let’s discuss your mailing list. The more people that know what you’re doing, the more referrals you can expect. First, list all the contacts you know in the business. Next, list all the potential customers in the yellow pages, chamber of commerce memberships, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and associations.

Some associations sell their mailing lists. Visit each companies web site to determine if they are valid customers who really need what you offer. Do these businesses have a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page? If so, you can save a ton of money contacting them online instead of a mailing.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

For effective use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) go to Social Media Examiner (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com) More and more major businesses are using social media as an effective and very economical marketing tool. Help people find your business for free on Google Places.

For email marketing you can pay for Constant Contact or you can use Mail Chimp for free.

As far as a guideline to business startup, the best one I can recommend is SCORE’s how-to section.

Some Final Thoughts

Most newspapers have a free business announcement section where you can announce your new business. Your web site address is on your answering machine or voicemail. Phone numbers on the back of all vehicles. Phone number, email, all of your contact info at the top of every page of your web site.

If you are working out of your home then your business phone forwards to your cell after a few rings. You should never miss a call when out making calls. Contact at least five people every day in some way. Email, letter, phone call, reply on Facebook etc.

Never do things in the light you should be doing in the dark. No estimates, proposals, etc. during business hours. Those are restricted to finding customers and building your business. You don’t have to do that forever but while building your business you don’t have that luxury.

Spend 20 minutes every day reading something about your business or industry. When magazines come in tear out articles rather than stack the magazines. Grab one to read during lunch or while waiting for a client. Do that and in a year you’ll know more about your business than 75% of the people in it.

See my articles on mailing, positioning and understanding why people buy.
Look at your mailer. Does it speak to just one person — Your best customer one-on-one? If not, then it’s back to the drawing board. Keep working until the message and the offering are clear.