How to Create an Amazing Direct Mail Piece to Generate Holiday Sales

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The right business holiday card can be a great way to connect with your customers and drive sales. Don't miss these pointers.

For many people, the crisper and cooler temperatures mean sweaters, lattés, and hot apple cider.

To the small business owner, the change in seasons means it is time to start thinking about holiday marketing strategies.

What is your business going to do to cash in on the holiday buying season? One great way to generate holiday sales is through direct mail marketing, especially for business-to-business marketing.

Here’s what you need to know make sure your business has a great direct mail marketing campaign this holiday season.

 Related Article: Forget the Hype: Direct Mail Is Not Dead

Statistics Don’t Lie: Why Direct Mail Should Be Part of Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

With the rise of digital marketing, you may feel your marketing dollars are better spent on email or social media marketing. Although those types of marketing can certainly be effective, there are some good reasons to include direct mail in your B2B holiday marketing mix (for more info for B2C businesses, check out this guide from Fit Small Business). Here’s why:

It is more effective than many other forms of marketing - For example, according to the Direct Marketing Association, targeted B2B direct mail has a response rate of 4.4 percent, nearly 37 times the response rate of B2B marketing emails (.12 percent).

Direct Mail Marketing Response Rates Are Actually Growing, For Both Young and Old - Many have this kind of general feeling that direct mail marketing is passé and is going out of style. But, the opposite is true. Since 2004, according to Digital Marketing Ramblings, direct mail response rates have increased by 14 percent while email marketing response rates have dropped by 57 percent. Also, direct mail is no longer just a Baby Boomer game. Between 2012 and 2013, direct mail response rates soared 8.3 percent for 18 to 21-year-olds, according to research by the Eleventy Marketing Group. It does not look like the direct mail train is leaving anytime soon.

The Number of Businesses that Use Direct Mail Marketing is Decreasing, Meaning Less Competition for You - To many, direct mail marketing seems to be outdated, which is why only 50 percent of those surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association say they are planning on using Direct Mail Marketing this year. But their loss is your gain. The fact that fewer businesses are using direct mail marketing means less competition for your holiday direct mail.

Direct Mail Generates Sales - According to the DMR again, for every $167 spent on direct mail, U.S. marketers sell $2,095 in goods. That’s hard to beat.

Direct Mail Means your Business Will Have a Physical Presence in Your Customer’s Offices and Homes - One in every two customers that receive your card will keep it for future use (DMR), meaning that your business’s logo, picture, and address will be sitting in prominent places in your customers’ homes and offices. Score.

The Four Keys to Creating a Successful Direct Mail Piece

Direct mail pieces are not created equal. To create an effective and successful direct mail piece, there are four key things you need to do. We break down each component below:

1. Select the Right Kind of Direct Mail Piece (Just Send a Holiday Card)

When it comes to direct mail pieces, businesses sometimes take the old adage “Go big or go home” a little too seriously. Sending a fruit basket, sports tickets, or a self-modeled bobblehead can be unique and impressive, but it is not necessarily the best choice. In fact, impressive or quirky gifts can often hijack the whole purpose of sending the card in the first place, completely obscuring your sales pitch. Also, those kinds of gifts = big-time cost.

In most cases, a well-designed holiday card will be your best bet. Including postage, these should run around $2 per card, which is pretty good considering the potential return. This isn’t only inexpensive: the simplicity will highlight your business’ logo, picture, and pitch or message. Those are the things you want to be front and center, not a delicious peach, two tickets to the big game, or, well, a bobblehead of your face, all of which can make even the best of us forget about business (some for better reasons than others). The more business owners that read and focus on your pitch, the more chance of your direct mail piece generating holiday sales.

Go with a Postcard Size Piece. A postcard is one of the most handy of direct mail pieces, both for you and your customer. For you the business owner, it is cheaper to buy and send. For your customer, it is compact and handy, making it easier for them to understand your message and put it on their desk or refrigerator. In a 2014 USPS study, respondents felt postcards were nearly twice as useful as letter-sized envelope direct mail pieces (50.9 percent vs. 26.8 percent).

2. Keep Your Design Simple But Classy

The design is a critical part of any holiday direct mail piece. But remember, the point of good design is to highlight your pitch and make it attractive and effective. If you have a great design but the business owner you sent the card to is not even sure what you are trying to say, the card is pointless.

Here are some design tips to make your holiday card a success:

  • Your Design Should Highlight Your Text or Pitch - For example, let’s say you are a heating and air company offering a holiday furnace tune up special. Make sure that your design is constructed in such a way that your customer’s eye is drawn first to your one sentence pitch, i.e., “Get 20% off a Furnace Tune-Up” (See example below at end of section)
  • Use High-Quality Images that Make Sense - Crappy images = crappy business. Take the time to get a good picture, even if it is going to cost a little more. Also, make sure your picture makes sense and is personal. If you are a heating and air company advertising a holiday furnace tune-up, do not use a picture of you fixing an air conditioner from last summer. Try to avoid stock photography whenever possible. You are a local business, make sure your picture emphasizes that and reinforces your pitch.
  • Don’t Try to Do Too Much - Keep your design, colors, and font simple. Your card has one goal: to deliver your pitch without getting in the way.
  • Make Sure The Overall Design Communicates Something About Your Business - For example, in the card below, your client can take one look and know that it is from some service or repair business, because of the wrench. It’s reinforcing who you are and what you do.
  • Leave Blank Space for a Personal Message on Inside or Back of Card - See point 4, “Make it Personal,” below.

Here’s an example I made using Vistaprint that incorporates the above design elements. The wrench emphasizes the fact that you are a repair/service business. The pitch is the biggest thing on the card and the first thing you look at. The design is simple, classy, and gets your point across. The images are high quality, professional, and make sense. And the overall design is compelling, interesting, and emphasizes your pitch. That’s what you want.

Holiday Card Example

Related Article: How to Integrate Direct Mail Marketing in the Digital Era

3. Decide What You Want Your Holiday Card to Accomplish and Craft Your Text and Pitch Accordingly

You want to keep your text and pitch focused and specific to what you want your card to accomplish. That’s why you need to decide beforehand what your goal is for the card. Is it to drive direct sales? Is it to drive referral sales? Is it to get previous customers buying from the business again?

Here are some common holiday card goals and the corresponding pitches that might work on a holiday card for a company like Rueger’s Heating and Air. Obviously, you will have to tweak these some to make the pitches unique for your business. Don’t forget, keep the pitch short, generally 1-2 sentences.

Direct Sales

  • Use this card to get a 20% discount off your next Rueger’s Heating and Air commercial appointment
  • Save $25 on any commercial furnace or air tune-up or repair of $100 or more from Rueger’s Heating and Air

Referral Sales

  • Get 10% off your next heating or air purchase for every business owner that you get to sign up for our mailing list (See rules on back)
  • Bring another business owner into our store and you can both get 15% off a holiday furnace tune-up from Rueger’s Heating and Air

Previous Customers

  • Thank you for choosing Rueger’s Heating and Air for your business HVAC needs this year! Need a furnace tune-up for the holidays? Get $30 off a regular tune-up when you show this card to one of our service techs (see details on back)

4. Make it Personal

This one is pretty straightforward. You are going to know the majority of business owners you are sending cards to. Whenever possible, include a personal message on the back (postcard) or inside (traditional) of your holiday direct mail card.

Here are some ideas of personal messages:

  • Product/Service related - “Jim, I appreciate you getting you trusting enough to purchase your commercial air conditioner from us earlier this summer. I hope it has served you and your customers well.”
  • Local Relationship - “Jim, it was great to see and catch up a bit with you the other day at IGA. Thanks for supporting us here at Rueger’s Heating and Air. It means a lot.”
  • “We need to catch up sometime” - Jim, I have not seen you around in awhile. Hope we get a chance to catch up soon. Thanks for trusting Rueger’s Heating and Air with your commercial HVAC needs!

Additional Tips and Tricks to Make Sure Your Direct Mail Card Is a Success

Once you have the essentials in place, there are some additional things to be aware of, to make your holiday card as effective as possible. We have included the biggies below: 

  • Include Donation In Customer’s Name - Tap into the holiday spirit and make a donation in another business owner’s name to a local charity. It will make them much more likely to support your business moving forward, and it is a great garnish to a holiday card.
  • Avoid Religious Symbolism - Holiday cards should not be offensive. Odds are, you do not know the religious (or non-religious) leanings of every business owner you are sending a card to. So, better to play it safe and keep your cards religion neutral.
  • Try Sending Standard Post - Oddly enough, according to USPS’ Household Diary Study, respondents were 1% more likely to answer ads sent standard post then ones that were sent first class (and over 19% answered that they “maybe” would respond to standard post vs. only 13% for first class).
  • Test Out Several Different Kinds of Cards (different designs, pitches, etc.) - Carefully track response rates for each and see which is most effective. Next year, you will know which kind of card is most likely to get you the best response rate instead of settling for a design or pitch that is not as effective.

Related Article: 3 New Rules for Direct Mail in a Digital World

Quick Guide to Making a Holiday Post Card

It’s easy to design a holiday card online. We’ll use Vistaprint’s service as an example. Here’s how to make a business holiday postcard using Vistaprint’s pre-made templates.

1. Start at their business holiday card page.

2. Click on the “Shop Business Holiday Cards” to see their designs. 

  3. Once the page has loaded, narrow down your option by selecting the “business” category and your number of photos (you do not have to include photos, but they are generally a good idea). 

 4. Scroll through and select a template that has the designation “flat” on it, which means it is a postcard style card.

5. Customize the template as needed. You can edit text, background color, opacity, logo, image(s), the position of things on the page, and much more till you get your desired result. Here is the original template for the card shown earlier in this piece and the finished result, for comparison.

Original

 Customized Card

 

 

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