8 Steps to Successful Direct Mail

Direct mail can be a powerful marketing tool, but incorporating it into omni-channel efforts can seem daunting—especially if you’re running a small- or medium-sized business. In this comprehensive white paper, we show you how to create a highly actionable campaign, helping you decide whom to target, what kind of message to send and how to measure overall effectiveness.

How Local Marketing and Direct Mail Can Help Your Business Grow

As a business owner, you might find yourself overwhelmed by marketing options. Sometimes the answer in our mobile-first, always-on digital world is to consider the tried-and-true basics. In a world where consumers are inundated with advertising, it’s important to consider all marketing channels, including traditional direct mail.

Direct mail offers a strong response rate and comparable customer acquisition cost (CAC) to other marketing channels, making it a popular tactic for many businesses.1 Additionally, direct mail boasts a strong return on investment, on par with social media.2

“CAC can be calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring customers by the number of customers acquired3.”

Reaching new customers while measuring and managing CAC can help your business succeed. Discover how to use direct mail to improve your local marketing efforts.

Leveraging Location-Based Targeting

Location-based targeting is a marketing technique that allows you to reach an audience by its geographic area. This is particularly well-suited for businesses like:4

  • Retail Stores
  • Restaurants
  • Medical Professionals
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Gyms
  • Home Services
  • Non-profit Organizations
  • Contractors
  • Realtors
  • Auto Sales and Services
  • Movers
  • Nurseries and Landscaping
  • Churches
  • Political Campaigns
  • Coffee Shops
  • Legal and Financial Services
  • Galleries

With location-based targeting, you can increase your rate of customer acquisition by building community awareness and finding potential customers near your business.5 Moreover, you can likely improve customer retention by targeting current customers in your geographic area with promotions, events and more.

Target Marketing Magazine found 58% of businesses surveyed use direct mail as part of their customer acquisition efforts in 2016.6

Popular Local Marketing Methods

There is a wide variety of local marketing tactics that businesses can employ via direct mail.

If you are looking for an easy and cost-effective method, consider Every Door Direct Mail® Service (EDDM® Service) from USPS. EDDM® allows businesses to target a ZIP Code™ without having to buy a list of addresses. Owners can either do it themselves and set-up mailings using available self-service tools or work with USPS® affiliates that specialize in creating memorable EDDM® campaigns.

If you are working with a substantial budget, you might consider working with a marketing agency or print shop to handle the creation and distribution of direct mail marketing materials. Though it may cost more, working with marketing professionals is likely to yield strong results.

Some organizations have also found success in partnering with complementary companies in their areas to reach consumers. For example, a specialty grocer might work with a cookware store to offer discounts to each other’s customers. Another frequently used approach is sponsoring local events, schools or worthy causes.7

In Summary

Finding the right marketing mix takes time and experience. Locally-targeted direct mail can be a key to unlocking your company’s success. By using this insider knowledge, you may help your small or medium-sized business grow and succeed.

Considerations for Picking Inventory Management Software

Growing businesses have growing pains. As you ramp up your shipping operations, it’s important to keep a firm grasp on your inventory; poor inventory control can negatively affect your customer experience—and your sales. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by manual inventory management, using a spreadsheet or pen and paper, or you’ve outgrown an old system or software, it’s time to consider a new solution. Using inventory management software (IMS), you can streamline multiple processes with a single software program. We’ve created this checklist to help you find the perfect software for your company.

Set a Budget

Like any business decision, choosing an IMS will have a financial impact on your company. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • Research the top IMS for your industry to gauge a price range.
  • Determine how much money an IMS could save your company.
  • Set a limit on how much you’re willing to spend.
  • Create a list of 5-10 IMS in your price range.

Pick Software Tailored to Your Needs

There are countless IMS on the market, many of which are industry-specific. An e-commerce IMS, for example, will have different features from a retail IMS. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • List the problems you’re trying to solve. Possible examples include overstocking/understocking, incorrect inventory levels, disorganized reporting and using incompatible platforms.
  • Schedule a call with the IMS vendors on your list and request a one-on-one demo of their software.
  • Ask the vendors about features that will help you address your biggest issues. Possible issues include: monitoring current stock levels, running restocking and sales reports, allowing multiple users to access the IMS, establishing a barcode system, creating invoices and sales orders, integrating multiple platforms, etc.

Find Software That Will Grow with Your Business

When vetting your IMS options, it’s crucial to find a system that can scale. Why spend the money on an expensive software, if it won’t be able to service your needs as your business expands? Consider the following when talking to your vendors:

  • Ask if the software allows you to add new store locations, product lines and new sales channels, like e-commerce.
  • Ask them about the limitations of their IMS and what features they’re working to add in the future.
  • Narrow your list to three IMS vendors that would suit your business for years to come.

Decide on a Level of Customizability

Some IMS have a static number of features, while others are configurable and can be fit to your company’s needs. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • List the modules and features each IMS comes with. Note how configurable each IMS is and whether you can add any modules at a later time.
  • Rank your three top vendors by configurability, i.e., which IMS offers the most flexibility when creating your inventory reports, invoices and more.

Establish Compatibility

Many businesses use different kinds of software programs for their packaging, accounting, returns and logistics needs. Make your job easier by choosing a system that can sync with these programs and work in unison. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • Ask your vendors to list which software programs and devices they can integrate with their IMS.
  • List all the programs and devices you use, then cross-check which IMS can integrate with some or all of them.
  • If you’re having difficulty deciding on one IMS over another, take customer service into account. Not all companies are created equally.

In Summary

Finding the right IMS takes time but the pay-off, financially and operationally, can be significant. Do your due diligence when searching for the perfect system. Keep an eye on your shipping needs, today and in the future, and use our checklist to guide you through the process.


5 Ways to Improve Your Reverse Logistics Process

A weak returns process can cause chaos. Warehouses get flooded with products waiting to be sorted. Packages sit in limbo whether intact, damaged or expired all together. All the while, customers grow frustrated waiting for their returns to be processed and accounts to be credited.

An inefficient system not only slows operations, it can also cost a company money, by allowing products to depreciate, or perish, in the case of food products. Building a robust reverse logistics flow takes time, but with a few simple steps, any retailer can introduce efficiency into their operations. Here we outline five ways to optimize your returns.

  1. 1

    Include a merchandise return label with your shipments.

    Make your return experience more convenient by adding a return label to every outgoing package. This can help boost customer satisfaction without breaking the bank, as many return labels do not incur shipping costs until they are used.

  2. 2

    Dedicate a space for returns in your warehouse and implement a three-bin system.

    Return to supplier. Restock. Discard. By using these three sorting bins for returned merchandise, your warehouse can begin routing the packages in the right direction.

  3. 3

    Integrate items from the “Restock” bin back into the stocking process.

    Merchandise that can be sold again should enter your forward-moving flow as quickly as possible. Check your bins frequently to ensure that items ready to be restocked are scanned back into the system and made available for purchase.

  4. 4

    Keep high-priority and fast-selling items in a buffer zone.

    Designate a space for high-priority return items. That way, you won’t spend time moving them to their original storage location, allowing them to be picked for resale more quickly.

  5. 5

    Ensure your packaging is sturdy enough to travel back safely.

    Poor packaging leads to damage and even loss of merchandise. If you intend for your customers to use the original packaging when returning their purchase, make sure it can handle the wear. Invest in thicker cardboard boxes and tear-proof poly mailers to prevent issues down the line.

In Conclusion

Every returns process presents opportunities for improvement. By keeping an eye on your processes’ pain points and introducing new strategies for efficiency, your company can streamline its operations and improve its outbound flow.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Mail Service Provider

As retail businesses grow, so too must their marketing efforts. Mail service providers, or MSPs, help businesses expand operations in advertising and communications. These third-party companies provide a host of services including designing, printing, sorting, transporting mailers and more.

MSP 101

There are thousands of MSPs in the Unites States. Some only provide specific services from the list outlined below, while others offer a wider range. Services include:

  • Printing Only – printing a company’s mail with the necessary bar codes.
  • Printing and Mailing – printing, presorting and submitting mail. Some MSPs offer additional drop-shipment discounts.
  • List Mailing – similar to printing and mailing, except MSP does not print the mailing components and instead picks up existing mail from its customers.
  • Presort and/or Comingling – taking letter-sized mail from one or more customers and presorting and comingling the mail to potentially qualify for presort discounts.
  • Consolidating – consolidating mail already prepared into trays or bundles with other mail to achieve deeper discounts.1

Deciding what MSP to partner with takes careful deliberation. Below, we map out the most important questions you should consider when choosing an MSP.

Considering Your Needs

Before contacting MSPs in your area, consider what help you need. Are you looking for printing or discounted mail services? How much are you willing to spend? What end goal do you have in mind? What type of customer service do you expect? Once you’ve mapped out your answers, make a list of MSPs in your area and start your search.

Deciding on Services

When contacting each MSP, it’s important to get a grasp of their capabilities. To narrow down the list, companies should determine the answers to the following questions:

  • Does the MSP offer the services you’re looking for?
  • Are they close enough to your business to make frequent pickups?
  • Can they tailor pickup times to your business needs?
  • Do their tracking systems collect step-by-step delivery information?

Choosing a Budget

Picking the right mix of services at the right price will have a pronounced effect on your bottom line. Once you’ve decided what you need from an MSP, have each company give you a detailed estimate. Below, we list a few important questions to keep in mind:

  • How are the services priced? Are they fixed or volume-related?
  • What are the thresholds for bulk discounts?
  • Are there discounts for continuously using a service?
  • Which companies have the lowest price points?
  • What’s the maximum workshare2 discount an MSP can offer?
  • How much could your company save with each MSP?

Looking at Their Track Record

Before deciding on an MSP, you should also look at each company’s track record. For those seeking out design services, it is especially important to find a service provider with an aesthetic that falls in line with your brand. Consider the following:

  • Does the MSP have a portfolio of prior work?
  • Does their portfolio meet the standards you’re looking for?
  • Does the MSP have case studies that showcase past direct marketing success?
  • What creative ideas do they have in mind for your company?

Assessing Their Customer Service

Good relationships are the cornerstone of a successful business. Before committing to an MSP, you should gauge the level of attention you’ll be getting.

  • Who will be your point person at the MSP?
  • How often can you contact them?
  • Can the MSP provide a contact for reference?
  • What external reviews does the company have? Are they positive?
  • What was their biggest customer service complaint in the past? How was it solved?

Negotiating the Contract

Finally, once you have picked an MSP, it’ll be time to sign the paperwork. Work slowly through the contract to be sure all your needs are met. Think about the following questions during the final stage:

  • How many creative revisions does the contract include?
  • Are any professional services included in the deal? Will employees be trained in the MSP’s systems?
  • Are all of your business needs covered down to the very last detail, including services, pickup times and price points?

Deciding on one MSP can be challenging. If you’re looking for different kinds of help, it may be in your best interest to work with two or more service providers. Be sure to ask as many questions as possible to make the final, all-important decision. The right decision could spell out success in any number of arenas – processing and shipping efficiency, discounts and, ultimately, happy customers.