UP THE CHANNEL:Effective direct mailing

UP THE CHANNEL:Effective direct mailing

I love junk mail, not just IT related stuff either. It keeps me up to date with new products, special offers, street pricing and it can often lead me to shops I would not normally use.

The Australian Direct Mail Association claims 74 per cent of Australians are happy to receive relevant and beneficial direct mail. To be effective, it has to rise above junk mail status. And if it was not successful why would Harvey Norman, Harris Technology and many others place so much faith in it?

But what will make Joe Average bolt into your store, wallet in hand? Here are a few pointers that will improve your response rates.

Colour is king: Poorly reproduced black and white brochures on cheap paper suggest a company does not think enough of its customers. Bigger, glossy, informative catalogues are in. If budgets are tight you are better off spending more on a bigger and better quarterly than a cheaper monthly.

Content is queen: If you want someone to read the catalogue you need more than page after page of poor photos, bulk specifications and prices. Help the reader to understand how to use the technology, which options are useful and what to buy. Editorial pays dividends.

Design is important but it isn't everything: A nice clean layout, logical product groupings and plenty of white space will entice potential customers to read on. Programs such as Publisher have excellent templates to produce a nice catalogue and most printers will then clean it up for a small fee.

Size matters: A multi-page catalogue, taller and thinner than A4 stands out in the crowded mail box.

Aim for longevity: Convince the reader to keep the catalogue for a couple of months by calling it, for example, the Winter Edition. Use special monthly offer coupons. Have sections that are relevant to topics like back to school or end of financial year. Promote complementary workshops or home repair services - offer free spyware checks or hard drive health checks.

Target a specific audience: Don't try to be all things to all people. Research what your market is buying. Catalogues are more about driving traffic to your store or website than actually selling the featured products. Once you get a consumer in the door it's up to you to close the deal.

Keep editorial light and set up a dialogue with the reader: Put some personality into it with pictures of real staff, contact numbers, email addresses and even some interesting or humorous information about them or the products.

Limit the number of products and brands: The most successful catalogues only have two or three choices per category. Promote complementary products to add value to the sale.

Use the catalogue to evoke action: Drive traffic to your website, offer customers the ability to log on and get the catalogue via email. Offer members-only Web pricing.

Distribution: Ideally by Australia Post because it can place items in letter and commercial post office boxes that others can't. Send only to your immediate catchment area - usually within 5km of your store and usually along the main transport corridors. How do you pay for this? An 8-12 page, 20,000 copy catalogue will cost about $4000 for printing, $2000 for artwork and about $800 for distribution - that is 34 cents per copy. Many suppliers will assist in co-op funding and you can make money by selling space in the catalogue. If you want a good example look at Harris Technology's catalogue. It is not perfect but its better than most and a great model to build on.

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