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Small Business Marketing: Tips for Managing Your Mailing Lists

Get more out of Direct Mail marketing by following these easy tips for managing your customer and prospect databases

The mailing list is the single most important aspect of a successful direct mail postcard campaign. Too often, with a well-planned promotion and a great-looking postcard all ready to go, the mailing list gets rushed and, as a result, the response rates suffer. Let's take a closer look at both your existing customer list and your prospect list.

Small Business Marketing: Your Current Clients

Upload Your Own Mailing List allows you to upload your own address lists in Excel, .csv, .txt or .dbf format for use with our direct mail postcards.

address file example

A well-known marketing statistic reads: "It costs seven times more to gain a customer than it does to retain a customer." This means that you should always be mailing direct mail postcards to your existing customer base. Although any campaign is better than nothing, this does not mean that you should simply place every customer you have on a general direct mail campaign. The more you can segment your customer database and tailor both the content and timing of mailings accordingly, the more successful your campaigns will be. The secret to this is collecting data about your customers from the start.

Collecting Data Directly from Your Customers

Customers are full of valuable information that will help you market to them later. The trick for business owners is to build unobtrusive systems to collect that data. Don't be afraid to ask customers questions, or even to print up short information cards to be filled in when they check out. Tell the customer you want to keep them aware of special promotions and new offerings. It may seem intrusive at first, but you'll find that, once you've started the conversation, customers are eager to tell you all about themselves!

For example, if you are a high-end shoe store, be sure to collect your customers' names and mailing addresses, as well as their shoe size and what styles they try on. That way, when your new lines of summer four-inch heel sandals arrive, you know exactly who to market to. Keep tabs on your customers' purchasing behavior and invite your best customers for a champagne and hors d'oeuvres season preview.

But remember, trying to reconstruct that valuable data after your customers have left the store is almost impossible! Make sure your employees know what questions to ask and how to collect the answers. You don't need a fancy database to store this information; a simple spreadsheet will suffice for any small business.

Collecting Data from Your Customer Records

Your own purchase and service records are a second great source of customer data that will help you segment your marketing database for a direct mail campaign.

Try Using Our Scheduling Calendar

order scheduling calendar

Did you know that allows you to schedule orders up to one year in advance? Use the handy scheduling calendar next time you place an order to:

  • Send out mailings just before a big sale
  • Schedule a series of monthly mailings all at once
  • Keep you marketing going even during your busy season, or while you take some time off!

For example, an HVAC business can very easily determine when customers are due for regular maintenance or which customers own aging equipment that may be due for replacement. Even better, if the notes from your last service call show that your customer was concerned about energy efficiency, send them an advertisement highlighting your top-of-the-line AFUE gas furnace and the rebate the government is offering on this level of efficiency!

Mailing list segmentation using customer purchase and service records is especially effective for any business involving regular maintenance, annual appointments, or major equipment installation. This includes: Automotive Shops, Dentists' Offices, and Home or Residential Services businesses. Chances are you are already collecting this information in case your customers call you; the secret to marketing is to turn things around and figure out when you should contact them! A simple spreadsheet showing installation records and service notes will make it easy to sort and segment your customers - and then to send them direct mail postcards at the right time with exactly the right marketing message.

Scheduling Mailings to Your Existing Customers

You don't need to mail to your customer base every month, however you do want to mail at least quarterly. Your customer doesn't want a monthly reminder to replace his/her HVAC system. Even a simple keep-in-touch holiday card will show that you value their business and keep your business in the forefront of their mind when they do need you again.

Write easy marketing reminders within your email or wall calendar to make sure direct mailings become part of your routine. Be sure to include a call to action on your mail piece such as "Call us today for a free consultation" or "Visit us today for 25% off your next pair of shoes". When offering a promotion or discount, be sure to detail the promotion end date to establish urgency.

Small Business Marketing: Prospect Mailings

Purchase a Targeted Mailing List offers both business and consumer Targeted Mailing Lists for only pennies per record. Create a basic geographic list, or select an advanced list using specific demographic criteria.

Business Lists: $.12 per address
Advanced Business Lists: $.15 per address

Consumer Lists: $.08 per address
Advanced Consumer Lists: $.12 per address

With prospect marketing, carefully select a consumer list that fits your target market. A high-end women's shoe store seeks a specific age range and income level, combined with a wider geographic area. On the other hand, for a neighborhood dry cleaner, convenience is king, so you may only need to buy a consumer list based on geography.

Repetition is key when you are seeking new customers, so mail to your prospect list at least 6 times a year. A common marketing mistake is to try to determine a campaign's success or failure after the first mailing. It will take several impressions to build brand-awareness, and it may simply be a matter of waiting patiently until a prospect needs your product or service for them to convert into a customer.

To control your initial direct mail prospecting costs, divide the prospect list into 4 groups and mail to one group for 3 mailings and then switch to the next. Give your prospect campaign the same look and feel and provide appropriate spacing between mailings.

Start each mini-campaign off with a bang, sending the first three postcards closer together, monthly or even twice in the first month. Then, follow-up through the rest of the year with a quarterly mailing. With a six-postcard campaign like this, you'll spread out your marketing costs evenly and you should see a steady stream of new customers throughout the year.

Example of a 6 Part Mailing:

sample mailing schedule
Source: Rossi, Jerry. Dog Eat Dog & Vice Versa: 9 Secrets to Put the Bite Into Your Marketing. Portland, Oregon: Charter Publishing, 2006.

A few final tips:

  • Test out different offers and drive the prospect to mention or bring in the advertisement to receive a discount -- you want to see your advertisements in action.
  • Mail your postcards First-Class so any undeliverable postcards will be returned to your mail box and you can take the prospects off of your mailing list.
  • Be sure to move all converted prospects to your customer mailing list.