The 4 ways direct mail can build successful products and services
We’ve talked a lot in in previous blogs about how to use direct mail to promote your brand. What we haven’t talked about is how to use direct mail to promote and build demand for a product or service.
Could be an existing product or service, or it could be something new. In many important ways, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of where a product or service is on its journey, direct mail has a crucial role to play in growing product and service demand.
The skinny on products
We’ll get into what that role entails in just a minute, but first, let’s get real about products – new products in particular.
(And just to be clear, from here on out when we say “products,” we mean “products and services.” Don’t want to shortchange all the important service providers out there.)
According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, of the more than 30,000 new products introduced every year, about 1,500 actually succeed.
What’s success? That’s a topic for a different blog. But a 95% failure rate puts your product up against some really long odds.
When you’re in a product launch, you’re looking for anything that can scale demand quickly and economically … but that’s no less true if you’re dealing with an existing product.
While the odds are stacked against your little product bird successfully leaving the nest, it’s a bird-eat-bird world out there for the survivors, too. Differentiation that leads to demand equals survival.
How can direct mail help build successful products? We’ve isolated four ways, and four more touchstones that can help you craft a successful direct-mail campaign.
The ways that direct mail can help build successful products are:
- Quality time with your product
- Overcoming educational obstacles
- Personalizing product attributes to buyers’ needs
- Qualifying your best potential customers
The touchstones that can help you build a great direct-mail campaign are:
- Understanding your product’s position in the product lifecycle
- Understanding the most important differentiators
- Having clear goals for your mailing
- Having a plan for the data that’s going in … and the data that’s coming out
Let’s spend more time with the first four, and save the second four for a subsequent blog.
How direct mail builds successful products
The average direct-mail piece stays in a household for an average of 17 days.
Now, obviously, a good chunk of that time is spent actively adding to household clutter. However, during that period your mail piece will also get picked up, sorted through, looked at, and hopefully read several times. Direct mail lets you put your product’s best face forward, and keep that face in the customer’s face for a long time. Let’s see a Google Ad do that.
Think of what you could do with all that attention.
Actually, you don’t have to think about what to do with that attention. We’ve already thought of that for you.
Overcoming educational obstacles
The most difficult part of getting consumers aware of a new product is educating them on why your product is different and therefore better than what’s out there.
Let’s face it: Your established competitors aren’t going to do that work for you. If anything, they’re going to be turning up the static trying to drown you out.
Earned media – press coverage and PR – isn’t going to carry the freight in most instances, because media is so fragmented.
Owned media – like your website and socials – is great, but how are you going to get people there?
Paid media is, well, paid – and you’re not swimming in silver dollars like Scrooge McDuck.
Direct mail is one of the best ways to educate potential customers on why you’re different and better precisely because of what we just talked about – that quality time people are spending with your mailing.
If you have a customer’s undivided attention for 15 minutes, think about all the great things you could tell that person about your product.
We live in an attention-based economy. One estimate puts the number of messages we receive at between 4,000 and 10,000 every day. There’s a queue of messages just waiting for us to glance their way.
Imagine if your message could move to the front of that line and get truly read and understood. That’s what direct mail can do.
Personalizing product attributes
Taking the attention-and-education idea one step further, once you have people’s attention and are educating them on your product’s benefits, it’s vital to make those benefits real to the recipient – who they are and where they are in their own personal journey.
Because direct mail is so good at personalizing its appeal to key demographic and psychographic factors, you can craft a mailing that goes far beyond someone’s name in an address line to provide personalized education, appeals, and offers.
This is all leading to something good … but before we get to the big finish, there’s one more aspect to examine.
By adding an easy action item to your mailing, you can identify your best potential customers, add them to your funnel, and start the conversion process with a vetted list of quality prospects.
Again, this is a move that maximizes precious marketing dollars. You might have a super-effective conversion funnel, but you cast such a broad net trying to get people into the funnel that the process is ultimately inefficient.
You’re spending money on poorly defined prospect lists or Google Ads for adjacent or long-tail keywords, or you’re trying to identify lookalike audiences for customers you’ve already converted, and it’s just not getting you anywhere.
Instead of shooting in the dark, how about this: Take a relatively small sample of who you think are potential customers, prepare a personalized mailing, have a simple action like scanning a QR code that sends people to a microsite (which you can also use for digital advertising or other marketing tasks), and see how you do.
If you do things right, you should see a nice lift from the direct-mail campaign, with the added bonus of identifying your best potential customers – not only individually, but by attribute, helping you more effectively scale up marketing efforts.
Putting it together
Let’s look at where we’ve been. A good direct-mail piece gets opened, gets read, educates consumers on your key product attributes and differentiators, makes it personal to the recipient, and helps qualify prospects individually and by attribute.
If you get to that point with your product marketing, your product is well on its way to becoming one of the 5% that make it.
Next time we’ll look at more things you can do to ensure the success of your product and your direct-mail campaign.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to use direct mail to build up the strength of your product or service, contact us. We have ideas.
By Jim Felhofer 9/6/22