Thursday, May 28, 2009

Direct Marketing On A Shoestring

Alan Rosenspan gave a presentation at the DMA Annual Conference last year called "Better, Cheaper, Faster."

In his presentation he stressed that the single best way to make something cheaper was to make it better!

Here are some of the "Shoestring Thinking Techniques" he shared:

1. Test a postcard. Although postcards will rarely pull as well as a direct mail package, they are an ideal way to test an idea, as well as measure the effectiveness of your mailing.
I did a campaign for a high-technology telephone answering service called Wildfire. The client decided that the mailing piece was too expensive. So I recommended we split the list and mail half of them a postcard with the same offer. The result was a significant reduction in costs. Plus the postcard won in terms of cost per response. In addition, first class postcards are also an inexpensive way to clean your list.

2. Use card decks. When available to your target market, card decks can be used as a "secret weapon" for direct marketers. They're very cheap to buy and inexpensive to produce. Most card decks also allow you to split run their deck, so you can test 2 or more different offers. Once you measure the comparative results, you can then decide to invest in a more expensive program.

3. Try a "cluster bomb." Here your goal is to get more than one response per mailer. You can do a sophisticated program where you ask people to recommend others in their company. Or you can simply include an additional reply card. I did this for a mailing for Interleaf and increased response by almost 20% -- for pennies.

4. Develop a fulfillment "wrapper." A software company I worked with had high fulfillment costs. Every time they changed their product or their price, received a favorable product review, or gained a big new customer, they had to reprint their brochure. I created a simple "wrapper" folder for them, and a set of independent elements including a price sheet, product specs, and case-histories. When something changed, they merely replaced that single element. Plus they could add new elements as they went along.

5. Be creative about buying and using lists. You don't have to mail to the entire purchased list. You can mail half and then decide if it pays to mail again. You can also negotiate multiple use. For example, many list companies will sell you unlimited use for one year for about double the cost of a one-time use. However, if it's a good list, you will want to mail to it several times over the next 12 months. Swapping lists is also a money-saver. Try to find a company that makes a complimentary product or shares your target market. You might even decide to run a co-promotion. The software and the hardware companies do it all the time.

6. Use clip art or stock photos. There is a lot of free clip art available as well as inexpensive stock photography. Try to negotiate a fee for "testing." You can then agree to pay more if you decide to roll out your program.

7. Lose the brochure. If you have to cut out any part of your direct marketing package, this is it -- particularly in business-to-business. A powerful letter and an effective reply device can sometimes pull just as well, at greatly reduced costs.

8. Think of your customers first. It is 5 times cheaper to get a sale from an existing customer than to find a new one. (It can cost 100 times as much to win them back). One of the most important shoestring techniques is to keep your customers satisfied.

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