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Direct marketing

Ten tips for successful campaigns

Direct marketing is about contacting customers and getting them to respond. You can target your message and measure the reponse accurately. There are ten key steps to running a good direct marketing campaign:

Plan ahead
Think hard about what you want to achieve. Are you hoping to make a profit from this campaign or are you looking to make money over time?

Budget carefully
Put together a realistic budget before you start. It's no good getting halfway through a campaign and then realising it will lose money. You don't just have to pay for whatever it is you're sending out. Postage, mailing lists and processing responses all cost.

Decide what to do yourself
You can do most of a direct marketing campaign yourself. Is this good use of your time? Would it be better to outsource some of the work? Find out what's best for your business, then find reputable suppliers through the Direct Marketing Association.

Target your best prospects
Prospects are people you want to sell to. Look at what you know about any existing customers and use this information to decide which people to mail. You'll get a better response if you can talk to each prospect in a way that's relevant to them. Being selective about who you contact can make direct mail more cost effective.

Use market research to learn more about your customers

Choose the right media
There are two types of advertising media: Mass media (TV, radio and press) and targeted media (direct mail or the telephone). Both are useful in direct marketing. A well tested combination is direct mail with a telephone follow up. What's best for you will depend on your business.

Manage your data
Data on your prospects can come from your existing customers. You can also buy data from organisations like Experian. You'll probably want to store your data electronically - if you've got a copy of Office Small Business Edition 2003 then you've got everything you need to set up a database. You'll need to check the data carefully to make sure it's accurate, consistent and there isn't any duplication.

Stay legal
There are strict data protection laws that you must adhere to. Register with the Information Commissioner and learn the eight principles of the Data Protection Act. Other areas of business law apply to direct marketing too. Get full details by downloading our Guide to Direct Marketing (Acrobat pdf, 2,202KB).

Be creative
The purpose of your direct marketing copy and creative is to sell. Make sure you really grab the reader's attention and give them an easy way to respond. Focus on the benefits you're offering and write as if you're speaking, so you sound like a human and not like a faceless corporation.

Deal with the response
Be ready to cope with the responses. You can handle these yourself or get an external supplier to do it for you. Make sure you get further information and orders out in good time. Check the basics too. Do you have enough phone lines to handle the calls you'll get?

Measure your success
The final step is to work out how successful your campaign has been. This is vital as it'll help you improve next time. Compare the outcome against your original aims. What was the response rate like? If you've gained new customers, how much did each one cost?

Download our free guide for comprehensive advice about direct marketing. Produced in association with Experian and the British Chambers of Commerce, it contains all the information you need to run a successful campaign.

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