The Internet notwithstanding, direct mail remains one of the most effective tools for growing your business, and you'll find no shortage of software and services to help you design, generate and deliver a direct marketing campaign.
These tools can help in many ways, such as ensuring that your mailing qualifies for US Postal Service bulk discounts. Still, it's not so much the mailing that matters -- it's the list. Tools for building and maintaining the right mailing list for your growing business are the key to making direct mail pay off. You need a list that's:
- Targeted: A targeted list keeps you from wasting postage and printing to reach poor prospects.
- Clean: A clean list has up-to-date names, addresses and other customer/prospect data, and is free of duplicates and dead ends.
- Compliant: A compliant list obeys USPS rules to qualify for bulk rates, and observes laws in some states requiring you to filter out names and addresses of those who do not want to be contacted.
Keep it SimpleIf your needs are modest and you already have exactly the customer list you want, generating the mailing can be a snap.
Build your in-house listFor more extensive direct-marketing campaigns, start by developing a detailed database of your current customers.
Expand your list with third-party dataYou can buy a bigger list from a list broker, or better yet, use a list enhancement service to add detail to your own.
Keep it cleanAny mailing list software, list broker or list enhancement company can supply list "hygiene" services such as eliminating duplicate entries. Cleanup should be an ongoing and frequent task to ensure that you're not wasting paper and postage.
Consider CASSMost list software and services promise to generate and print addresses in ways that comply with the best bulk rates. One way to achieve that is by being certified by the USPS's Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). Any CASS-certified software adds Zip+4 codes, barcodes, and anything else required to get CASS rates on your mailing.
- List prices are usually tied to the number of records, so avoid buying more list than you need. If you're looking for 100 new customers, don't buy a list with a million records.
- Consider expanding your list by trading with other companies targeting similar customers but not carrying similar products. Don't trade or sell your list to anyone unless you can ensure that it can't make its way to a competitor.
- Along with CASS, keep an eye out for DPV (Delivery Point Validation), a related standard that helps ensure that addresses are correct and verifiable down to apartment/suite number.