How to Advertise with Direct Mail
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an advertising campaign that has proven results? That means every time you spend money to run the promotion you earn a profit from it.
For example, say you had a direct mailer advertisement that cost you $500 to print and mail. Let’s also say that from experience, you know every time you mail it out you will get, on average, three new customers and $1,000 in net profits from it. That’s how big companies manage their direct mail campaigns – they know what to expect, based on past results. But how do they get a proven ad that works predictably well?
They develop their advertisements by trial and error. They look for market feedback at every step and then apply what they learn to improve the advertisement bit by bit. How different that approach is from the typical repair shop. Many shop owners might have tried advertising only one time. Perhaps they put a coupon in a community mailer, then got discouraged by the dismal results and quit.
To help you succeed with this, let’s look at some techniques that big companies use to develop their successful direct mail advertising campaigns.
Set Reasonable Expectations and a Timeline
Learning how to advertise is like exercising. If you do it only once you won’t get results. So, plan for the learning curve. Results are not instant. Like learning how to fix cars, it takes time, dedication, and a little help along the way.
Set a Budget and Spread It Out
Suppose you had $500 to spend on a direct mail advertisement. Don’t spend it all at once. It is wiser to spend it a little at a time and give yourself the opportunities to learn along the way. You need to see what works, and what doesn’t work. That’s why it would be better to spend $50 per month for ten consecutive months then to spend $500 all at once.
Get Your Message Read
Advertising letters run a high risk of being thrown away without being opened and read. How often have you thrown away ‘junk mail’ without reading it? And letters are expensive and time consuming to write, print and mail.
Postcards get a better result. Many people will at least read your postcard as they walk from their mailbox to their front door. And post cards are less expensive to work with then letters with envelopes.
Mail it To the Right People
The novice to advertising their auto repair shop is usually expecting unrealistic results. In his exuberance, he wants to mail his postcard to as many people as possible. Don’t waste your money like that.
What does your shop specialize in? For example, if you mostly work on German cars, they buy a list of names and addresses of people who own German cars in your trading area. You can find many companies online who will be happy to sell you such a list for only pennies a name. One company I’ve bought lists from is InfoUsa.com.
Make an Offer – And Be Specific
This is the most important part of this article. Don’t print on your postcards “we fix cars” or make claims that are meaningless or can’t be easily proved, like “we are the best, biggest or oldest shop around.”
Decades of marketing studies have shown that the most effective way to advertise is to make an offer. Offer something of value to the consumer, preferably something that gives them little risk to try. Your offer must overcome the natural resistance, skepticism and lack of trust among consumers.
Write from an Outline
What should you print on the postcard? Follow this formula:
1 – State the problem a customer might be having with his or her car.
2 – Describe the solution to their problem.
3 – Offer the solution, in specific terms.
For example, suppose you wanted to promote this special offer, a package deal for a tire rotation, balancing and wheel alignment.
Use Language Consumers Understand
Few people would know they need a tire balance and wheel alignment to fix their car’s vibration and pulling problems. So, don’t use that technical language.
Instead, you could write:
Does your car vibrate, wobble and shake on the highway? Does it want to change lanes by itself on a straight road? Many times, those problems can be easily cured with a tire rotation, wheel balance and wheel alignment. You can get all that for one low price this month.
Save on Printing
Since you will be printing and mailing once a month, you can save money by doing all the work yourself. It’s very easy.
You can buy postcard paper from any office supply store. It comes 250 sheets to a package for around $20. Ask for 65-pound cardstock in bright white. Avoid flashy colors. Most printers will handle that heavy paper fine. You can print two or four postcards to a standard 8” by 11.5” sheet of cardstock paper.
Print the names and addresses on the front side, along with your return address. Don’t use any graphics; this is a sales offer, not art. Then simply cut the sheets into postcard size with a paper cutter. Use regular stamps, because you wouldn’t save much with the extra expense and trouble of a bulk mail permit. We recommend using a service like Stamps.com to save you time and money when mailing.
Mail on Mondays
Your postcards will get delivered Tuesdays through Thursdays, the prime time to have your message read by your future customers. Weekend mail is more likely to be thrown away.
Track Your Results
Be realistic and expect small things at first. Pay attention to what people say when they call about the postcard they received. Many times, it is just a good way to get them to call and start a discussion about their car’s problems. Only one hour of labor sold pays for your monthly promotion, right? So, don’t quit.
As you learn what people are responding to, emphasize those things in your future mailings. Omit the words, phrases or offers that people don’t respond to.
That’s how it’s done by companies that are decades old. It is not unusual for them to run the same mailer for years on end, because they know what results to expect before they even mail it out.