In the online world, traditional still works

Even in an era of social media and the imperative online presence for your business, integrating some traditional forms of media is an excellent use of time and funds. The cost of creating a direct mailing can be overwhelming to small businesses that have a small advertising budget. Direct mailings can be extremely effective whenexecuted correctly, but they are also generally recognized as the most expensive form of advertising.

The keys to an effective direct mailing campaign are two-fold: ensuring that your mailing list is clean and full of quality names that are actually in your target market, and making sure your mailing is aesthetically pleasing so it will be opened and read.

We all know, and dread, junk mail in our mailboxes. As eco-responsible business managers we need confirm that our direct mails are targeted well and executed correctly so that we don’t participate in the extreme amount of trash that can be accumulated from this form of marketing.

There is a difference between the dreaded junk mail and a targeted direct mailing. If you are genuinely providing needed information to your target market, it is appreciated instead of thrown out. So, take a hard look at whom your target market is and then start creating a list.

I have had clients purchase lists, create their own lists using free databases, or even create a list using the phone book and online listings.

Purchasing lists is an industry all by itself. There are countless list brokers and the key to finding a solid list is to choose a broker that works with reputable companies that have seen results. The broker you use should guarantee your list up an agreed upon percentage for a certain amount of time. For example, they will guarantee that 90% of the names are deliverable and within your criteria for 3 months. Usually you purchase the list for a set number of mailings. Inside the purchased list is often a name or that is put there purely to ensure that you adhere to the contracted number of mailings.

The way that your name appears on lists is extensive. Have you ever filled out a warranty card, entered a contest, or signed up for a buyer’s reward card? Congratulations! Your information has been added into databases of information that is available for companies to tap into and purchase.

Today, there are printing companies that utilize digital presses that can actually merge your data list and print directly onto postcards, etc. using your prospect’s information. So, now it is not uncommon to receive a professionally designed and printed post card that is not only addressed to you, but also speaks directly to you and your needs. If my name appears on a list of dog owners, I could receive a mailing from a micro-chip company that says, “Dear Christy, What would you do if Lacey (my dog’s name) was lost?”

As a general rule of thumb if you can get the consumer to open your mailed piece then they will read at least the first few lines of text. Make it count. You only have a brief amount of time to catch and keep attention, do this using witty text or an intriguing graphic illustration.

Remember that sending a mailing to “resident” is not as effective as sending a mailing to a specific person. By addressing your prospect by name, you are showing that the mail is relevant and that you care enough to know their name.

Postcards are less expensive to mail and they can be effective when carried out well. I like to include a call to action (tell the consumer what you’d like them to do) as well as contact information on both sides of the printed piece. This ensures that no matter which side of the post card is faced up by the mail carrier the consumer will see the message and be able to contact you.

One of my biggest complaints with advertising is often the lack of attention put on the contact information and ensuring it is easily found in multiple places. If you want to be contacted, be sure it’s easy for your prospect to do so.

While I’m on the subject of adding contact information on your direct mailing piece, don’t just add the “Facebook” or “Twitter” logo to show that you’re available on those platforms, it doesn’t give the consumer an address to find you. Instead it just declares that you’re there, and frankly, that doesn’t help you find buyers. Use the URL associated with your account. Social networks all have shortened options. Sometimes you need to meet certain criteria to qualify for a “vanity tag” as they are called in the industry, but saying /yourpagenamehere gives an actual location to visit and makes much more sense from a marketing perspective.

I encourage you to investigate traditional methods of advertising to add into your marketing mix, just ensure that you follow a few simple rules to ensure success. Most can’t believe it’s that easy. I assure you, it is.


Christy Hovland is managing partner at Hovland Marketing in Fruita. Hovland is available for public speaking engagements that inspire your inner marketing genius. Contact her at and follow her on