Direct mail: still a powerful marketing tool for MSPs

In an age of digital communication across global gigabit networks, who in their right mind is going to rely on an outdated technology like old-fashioned snail mail?

Plenty of businesses, as it turns out.

Each year, Target Marketing magazine surveys its readers to find out how they’re marketing to their customers. Direct mail was holding steady with 75% of people using it—25% of the entire survey base was increasing its use of direct mail, and only a handful of existing direct mail users were spending less on it. This indicates that there’s still plenty of life in this marketing technique.

It’s easy to ignore this tried-and-tested marketing channel when most discussions online focus on social media, but many small business clients want nothing to do with digital communication channels. They also don’t know what managed services are, or that they even exist. So how are they going to find your website, Twitter stream, Facebook page, or YouTube channel?

If you are not marketing to these potential clients in a way that is relevant to them and via a channel that they will see, you are missing out.

Building the perfect direct mail campaign

So how do you run an effective direct mail campaign for your business? The important thing is to do it creatively, with flair. Here are 8 tips to getting it right.

1. Use an attention-grabbing headline that delivers a promise

Your headline needs to accomplish a single thing: Capture the reader’s attention. Try something like this:

“Let me show you how to reduce IT downtime, while reducing or retaining your existing IT budget.”

Make a promise that will have your readers continue reading all the way to your offer, like this:

“Imagine knowing your network will be monitored 24×7, while you aren’t spending a penny more than you must, and having a team of professionals to ensure that all of your computer systems are running smoothly.”

2. Make a solid offer 

You’ve made your proposition. Now give the reader a way to take advantage of it.

“Gain that peace of mind right now with a free consultation.”

3. Provide a clear call to action with a deadline

Speaking of that action you want, this also needs to be clearly laid out on your mailer. If your reader doesn’t know how to act, they won’t.

“Please call me at <phone number> to set up a meeting and learn how to keep your computer systems running without impacting your IT budget.”

You need a way to insist that your reader acts as soon as possible, otherwise they will forget about you. A deadline on your offer is a proven way to encourage action now, not later. Like this:

“I am only offering free consultations for the month of *insert month*, so act now!”

4. Provide social proof

Social proof is an excellent tactic for any type of marketing, including direct mail. People don’t like to be the first to try things, so offer some proof about your services like a testimonial from a satisfied client.

5. Make the buying process as easy as possible

So, you got your reader to visit your website. Don’t make them jump through hoops to get the information they need. If you want them to call you, have a direct phone number. Don’t put them on hold!

If they came to your site via a URL on your direct mail, design a simple landing page that will give them the information they need and get them to commit. Unbounce offers a nice drag and drop interface, effective templates, and integrates easily with your other third-party online marketing tools.

6. Build a high-quality mailing list

The quality of your mailing list directly affects your sales. One way to keep the quality high is to create your own targeted mailing lists and do the hard work of qualifying each lead yourself. You know your community better than any costly mailing list company.

7. Make your direct mail social media-friendly 

The reader may not bite right away, but if they are social media-savvy and you can persuade them to follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook, you may be able to work your inbound sales later. Always include links to your social media pages in direct mail.

8. Make it measurable, and don’t be afraid to experiment

If you cannot measure your results, you won’t know whether your campaign has been successful, or how to tweak it. Use unique URLs or phone numbers to help you track your direct mail campaigns.

Experiment to see what works for you and your prospects. Don’t be afraid to do A-B testing and see which headlines or calls to action work best for you.

Creating postcards to help market your MSP business

Talking of experimentation, creativity is key when it comes to direct mail. Direct mail can take many forms: sales letters, flyers, and brochures among other pieces of collateral. But one of the easiest pieces of direct mail to produce is the familiar postcard.

The postcard format

Standard postcard size is 4.25”x6” (10.8 cm x 15.2 cm). Many vendors also offer larger size postcards: 5″x8″ all the way up to 6”x11″, and just about every measurement in between.

Postcards are printed on stiffer paper stock than most other communications so they can get through the postal system without being damaged. Most postcard printers will also offer a glossy stock, at least on the front, to help your card stand out from the rest of the mail.

Design tips

Postcards are a visual medium, so you want to feature a relevant, eye-catching image on its front. Create a headline in bold letters that ties in with the image and delivers your message with impact. And, of course, as with all your other marketing materials, your postcards should create a clear call to action to your prospect or client.

Online resources

Here are some online resources that will help you with your postcard strategy. Most of these websites include the printing and postage costs in their pricing, so you don’t have to worry about licking 100 stamps.

  • ZazzleZazzle has a handy, online drag-and-drop postcard design form. Their postcards start at about $0.80 per card, but they also offer bulk discounts. There are no setup fees or minimum orders. You can use your own design or pick images from their stock photo files.

    Another cool marketing tool that Zazzle offers is the ability to create your own postage stamps. Try putting your logo on the stamp of your latest direct mail postcard for an eye catcher.

  • Click2MailClick 2 Mail doesn’t offer an online design tool like Zazzle, opting instead for Word and PDF templates, but it does have a variety of card and shipping options—including an ‘email to real mail’ feature that converts your email to postal mail.
  • Amazing MailAnother vendor offering an online design tool.
  • MooMoo makes high-quality postcards. It’s a fast, cost-effective service that also allows you to print different images on different cards, which helps with comparing results.

Sizzling sales letters

There are many IT marketing methods, ranging from cold calling to business networking, yellow page ads, trade shows, flyers, and postcard campaigns. None of them comes close in terms of effectiveness to a professionally written sales letter. A properly written letter that follows a formula for effective selling can bring you new clients very quickly.

A sales letter is essentially your sales pitch in print. When selling one-to-one, you’re giving your sales pitch to one individual at a time. You practice your pitch, you polish it up, and when it’s time to deliver it, you hope that you hit all the right buttons.

A sales letter takes that perfected sales pitch, crafts it to make sure it hits all the right buttons at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way, and delivers it to hundreds, even thousands of prospective customers at the same time!

Writing the perfect sales letter

Writing effective sales letters is as much science as it is art. There are formulas and rules to follow, and they start with a basic formula called AIDA. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

 Get their Attention
You do this in the headline and first paragraph of your letter. The first paragraph has just one job: to make them read the next paragraph. Each subsequent paragraph should do the same.

  • Gain their Interest
    To be interested in your sales letter, the recipient must be a properly targeted prospect.
  • Generate Desire
    Is the reader salivating at the incredible offer you’re making them?
  • Inspire them to Action!
    An effective sales letter compels the reader to do something once they finish reading. The problem for IT services companies is that a services contract is a big sale. A reader will rarely want to invest upfront in a contract based on a sales letter, no matter how well written it is. An MSP might get the prospect to phone them for a 30-day free trial though.

Following up

Sending a sales letter gives the MSP an opportunity to follow up, typically with a simple phone call. Unlike a regular cold call though, a sales letter follow-up call is easy, because the letter itself did all the selling and the prospect already understands your proposition.

If you want to use sales letters in your marketing campaign and would like to take a shot at writing them yourself, there are several books to get you started:

If you don’t have the time to learn how to write an effective sales letter yourself, you can always hire a professional copywriter to take on the task for you. Experienced, proven copywriters don’t come cheap, but assuming you choose your copywriter wisely, the returns will be well worth the investment.

Sales brochures

Sales brochures are another way that you can deliver your business message. They provide the opportunity to use large-format designs to draw the reader in and engage them with your content. The problem is finding the time to design and create one.

Instead of creating brochures from scratch, MSPs can use templates. These are typically Word-based and simply require users to click on the sections of text and type their own sales copy.

Keep this copy simple. You may be tempted to cram as much information as possible into the space you have, but don’t. You must give the words plenty of room to breathe. Don’t confuse the reader by including huge blocks of text.

Sales brochure templates

Here are some online resources for sales brochure templates.

  • Microsoft Office OnlineThere are lots of great examples here, including some IT specific brochures. You’ll need either Word or Microsoft Publisher to use these.
  • Xerox SMB TemplatesXerox features not only sales brochure templates, but postcards, sales flyers, business cards, calendars, and even office forms on its templates site. Templates are free and in MS Word format.
  • Stock LayoutsYou have to pay for these—$99 a pop—but they might be exactly what you need to jump start your marketing. Plus, if you find a design you really like and can use it year after year, you’ll really get your money’s worth.
  • Brochure MonsterIf $99 is a little too rich for your blood, Brochure Monster’s templates run $10-$20.

Online marketing may have captured the public’s imagination, but for many businesses, paper still has power. Don’t rule out direct mail as an effective form of marketing. This old dog still has plenty of bite.

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