Direct Marketing: ‘Must Have’ or a ‘Spam Sandwich’


As you may know, I host the Colleagues on Tap event held at The Beacon in Newcastle West. We always sit down together in the afternoon and have a natter about something related to our businesses.  February’s chat focused on whether Direct Marketing is a ‘must have’ or a ‘spam sandwich’. We defined direct marketing to be, in the main, email marketing, newsletters & leaflets, and some members of the group confirmed they were already direct marketing with varied response.

Key points to emerge from the discussion were:

  • - In general it was felt that if you choose to use Email and Direct Marketing it should, as much as possible, be personal and unique. The more people engage with the message the more likely they are to remember or share. So contacting 2 or 20 key contacts in a meaningful way will probably yield more potential than blanket mailing 10000 people in the hope of a few bites
  • - Try to understand the data that your mailing system provides – it will help you to improve your campaigns
  • - General feeling was that it’s OK to use your own personal contacts to send one or two relevant mails, but mass mailing can irritate and therefore damage your brand.
  • - There are numerous ways of encouraging people to give you their email address like setting up competitions or giveaways, but this takes time and resources, so if you do want to distribute ‘en masse’ it would be worth considering whether buying a list would be appropriate to your business (obviously not for everyone, depending on your product or service)
  • - For leaflets, if you’re not the most creative and don’t know any designers, but have an idea of how you would like your leaflet or brochure to look, most printers offer to design your leaflets for you, depending on the quality of their designs this might be an option.
  • - Apparently FSB (Federation of Small Business) members can get a design, print and delivery service from around 32p +vat per letter, although leaflets will be slightly more. The royal mail on the other hand will charge approx £300 per 1000 leaflets.
  • - The use of QR Codes was raised, some people already use them to direct people to websites or to share brochures and large pieces of information like a 40 page PDF, although the group were split on whether they are already an outdated technology and will possibly be redundant in just a couple of years. Great for business cards so that people can scan and store your contact details easily although of Near Field Technology is already being used in business cards. are launching their version soon too.
  • - Networking, working on your service offer, portfolio or elevator pitch and showcasing your talents face to face might have a better impact than direct marketing. Again this is a personal preference.

A note from me:

There are plus and minus points to all of these means of communicating your marketing message. Email gets a bad rap because our inboxes are inundated with spam, but it’s cheap and if done well, can it be an effective way of reaching large numbers of potential new customers. Posted Leaflets have a slightly better response rate due to the fact that they get into people’s hands at the time they read their mail, but still, if they’re untargeted or done badly are they just a waste of time and money.

In terms of response rates as a rough guide you could expect around 0-2% from email and 4-5% from direct mail.

The key things to consider before embarking on this form of communication are:

Your Message! – what you trying to say?
Who? – do you have a mailing list, will you buy one?
Design – can you do this yourself or will you need to find a designer?
Delivery – print or email?
Cost – how much do you want to spend and how much is one new customer worth?

What I use to send

There are others, including Contactology, which I came across recently, but I mainly use Mailchimp for It’s easy to use, has loads of preset templates, reports and analytics and is pretty cheap – around £40 for 2000 emails.

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