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Authors Note: Attention DrivingSales members, you are about to benefit from a presentation I recently saw that suggests the key to success is to create as much value as possible without expectation of anything in return. I take that to mean I should give away my best ideas for free, so here you go. The post that follows is going to lay out some key points for using direct mail that (if you put them into use) will put money in your account almost immediately. (And keep putting money in your account as long as you’d like…)
“I’d like to get a vending machine that sells vending machines… It’d have to be real f***in’ big.” --Mitch Hedberg
So what do I mean when I say we’re going to build a floor traffic vending machine?
Well it’s simple really, when you go to get a bag of chips from a vending machine you put your money in, push the button and the chips come out. It’s predictable and reliable and pretty straight forward. Is your marketing as predictable and reliable as a vending machine? I would guess that in most cases our marketing is more like a slot machine… You put your money in, push the button and hold your breath, hoping some money comes out.
Wouldn’t you like to know that when you put let’s say $20 into an envelope a qualified customer shows up in your showroom?
(No, I’m not saying we are going to mail out money, and I don’t know what your actual cost will be, but when you get it dialed in you will be able to spend a set amount of money and have a predictable number of customers show up.)
Welcome to The World of Direct Mail
I understand that you have done mailouts in the past that haven’t worked. I also understand that “snail mail” is totally outdated and boring and lame compared to all of the cool online stuff that’s available. But if you just keep reading I will tell you why your previous mailouts haven’t worked, and while I might not be able to make the idea of “mail” seem as cool as video chat, SEO, SEM, and STD’s, I will show you how the advantages of getting a physical product into a prospect’s hands can more than make up for the lack of technology involved. (and even compliment your online strategy)
7 Steps to Making Money With Direct Mail
Target the right list.
Get your letter opened.
Get your letter read.
Present a COMPELLING offer.
Present a clear call to action.
Have a solid deadline.
Have multiple steps in the campaign.
How to target the right list:
The narrower and more focused you can make your list the easier you will find it to “speak” directly to the prospect and the better the response you will get. Plus, you will be mailing each piece to less people, which will cost less to actually mail, and that is more money you can spend on getting their attention or making the offer. When large mail order companies rent a mailing list, they will segment by all sorts of criteria such as people of a certain income level, who have a credit card, subscribe to a certain magazine and have previously bought something through direct mail… In our industry we don’t need to get too carried away segmenting, and we probably don’t need to rent a list because most of us have large numbers of previously sold customers and other leads that we haven’t done much with. We still need to narrow it down a bit to tailor the message to the prospect, but we don’t need to go crazy. For example, a list of recently sold customers would be a good choice for a referral generating or service campaign, but you would offend the majority of them if you sent them something that said “you should buy something, the prices are the lowest they’ve ever been…”
How to get your letter opened:
The best way to think about this is to imagine yourself opening your own mail. What do you take your time to open and look at, what gets a glance, and what do you toss immediately in the garbage? Chances are you open envelopes that are hand addressed to you personally and look like personal correspondence, so that would be something worth trying. It gets a little murky when it comes to things like teaser copy on the outside of the envelope. Yes it identifies the letter as a sales message, but if huge direct mail operations like Publishers Clearinghouse keep doing it you know it is working for them. My absolute favorite way to get a letter opened is to include something in the envelope to make it “lumpy”. It gets the letter noticed, you can’t easily pile other mail on top of it without having it slide off, and it arouses our curiosity. We can’t help but open it. So what kinds of things can you include? How about a pen to sign your new deal with, since our deals are so good you might have to bring your own pen… Anything that you can explain in the copy can be used. You can Google “3D mail “ for more information. (But do it later, right now you should stay here and keep reading...)
How to get your letter read
Once your letter gets opened, they have to actually read it to get your message. It starts with a good headline, but you can’t just have a headline and then a solid blob of lame copy. Make the copy engaging and interesting to the person reading it, write the way you talk, tell a story, make it funny, whatever you can think of. Contrary to popular belief, your letter doesn’t have to be really short to get read. There is no such thing as too long, there is only too boring. If you break up the copy with interesting sub-headlines and bullets so that the prospect can just skim the letter and get the gist of it you have created what is called a dual readership path. (That is a good thing.) Write a P.S. or three that restates the offer being made and the deadline and you have got a pretty good chance of getting your point across.
How to present a compelling offer:
First of all, keep in mind that your offer has to be compelling to the prospect, not to you. In order to do this you have to be able to think like your prospect. (This needs to be done with all of your marketing.) It can help to imagine you are creating the offer for a person in your life who doesn't understand the car business. What are they afraid of? What are they frustrated with? What are they looking for? What would get them excited to take the action you are asking them to? Since you want them to believe you, it's a good idea to have a reason to be making the offer. I've seen “Save my Marriage” sales, I've seen “Unexpected Bill Showed up, Need Quick Cash” sales... It doesn't really matter what it is, it's just really important to have a story to go along with the offer. (Even the old “help make room for new inventory” can work even though it's boring.) Also, keep in mind the goal of the mailing. For example, if you are doing a lead generation campaign, your goal is to generate leads. You will not sell a vehicle through the mail, so don’t try to sell them one, just sell them on the next step (pick up the phone etc...).
How to present a clear call to action:
A great letter without a clear call to action is like finding the perfect vehicle for a customer that loves you, doing an amazing presentation/demonstration, and then not asking for the sale or attempting to close in any way. Will you still get a few deals? Yes, but you wont get anywhere near as many. Don't leave room for the awkward pause and “Thanks, I'll go think about it and get back to you...” If you want your prospect to do something, tell them, you can even tell them in excruciating detail. “Now, before it's too late go and grab a pair of scissors, and cut out this coupon along the dotted line. Once you've done that you need to grab your keys, get in your car and drive to this address immediately. Don't forget your coupon...” It doesn't really matter what it is. Go to this website, call this number, get in the trunk... The key is to know what you want them to do and then tell them to do it. If they are excited by your offer they'll be excited to follow your instructions.
How to have a solid deadline:
This one probably doesn't need much explanation to people in the car business. How often do you get crazy busy on the last day of the month when the programs are ending? Even if they've had 3 months to come in, people will wait until the last minute. Why not set your own deadlines and have “last minutes” more often? When setting your deadline, make it close enough that people don't forget about it, but far enough out that you'll have time to mail all of your planned pieces. But remember that once you give a deadline you need to stick to it or you will lose credibility and no one will pay attention to you anymore. (Just like with kids...)
How to run a multi-step direct mail sequence:
Plan, plan, plan. It's not too much more complicated than that. If you have a good story for why you are making the offer (or even a bad story) plan out 3 or more letters that follow that theme, and then follow that plan. Don't forget the offer, the call to action, and the deadline, but make sure you leave time for printing and delivery and response.
Steal This Example And Make Money…
Now, in the spirit of sharing my best ideas I am going to give you what I consider to be the ABSOLUTE BEST idea for a direct mail campaign that I have ever thought of. Originally I was going to write the letters and the whole package for you and make it available for download, but that's a hell of a lot of work. Plus, I didn't want to do all of that work and then have everyone treating it with the same regard you would give free relationship advice from your thrice divorced cousin just because it's free... What I will do is give you the idea, and if anyone would like to, we can use the comments section as a “mini-workshop” and create the package together.
Does this mean that I'm going back on my word to give stuff away?
No. In fact it's probably more valuable to work on this together because you'll be learning how to do it. I don't know if any of you have experience paying professional copywriters but I can assure you that a half decent professional direct response copywriter would charge in the neighborhood of $2500-$5000 plus a royalty on every piece mailed for a completed package like this.
Anyways here you go…
Order a bunch of promotional lip balms and containers of breath mints with your logo on them. (For testing purposes you can just go to the store and buy normal ones...) These will be our “lumpy” attention grabbers that will get the envelope opened.
Decide what you want to promote. (I've always pictured an invitation only private sale.)
Write a letter with a headline such as “The Prices at Our Invitation Only VIP Sale Will be so Good You'll Want to Kiss us...” and a lead in along the lines of “When I told the first few people about my plan to reward our very favourite customers with a special invitation only sale/party I was showered with spontaneous kisses. While that sounds like a great thing, I was concerned by how dry many of the lips were. That is why I've included a lip balm with this letter today...”
Go on to give details about the sale, call to action, deadline.
Use the mints in a similar fashion with the second letter (sent only to the people who didn't respond to the first letter) and dial up the urgency a bit. Something like “I noticed you haven't yet R.S.V.P.'d to our invitation sale. I can only assume that means you were concerned about the kissing part... Since your lips are now soft thanks to the lip balm we included with the last invitation, I'm guessing that it must be something else. That's why we have included these breath mints. Now you'll have no reason not to enjoy all of these wonderful deals...”
Well, there you have it. The very best idea I have never shared with anyone before. Enjoy and make money.