Today’s topic is putting together and executing a direct mail strategy for a new business. This is our multi-part continuation and we’re well over two weeks into this step by step of what you have to do to execute a marketing strategy for a brand new business. Throughout this series, we have been using a childcare center as an example.

While I tend to slant towards all things digital, and that is a combination between my background and expertise, but more so just the return on investment that I can typically get a much better return from $1 invested in digital versus $1 invested in offline marketing. However, a lot of marketers and businesses alike have been continuing to turn to digital marketing. Now, while that’s music to my ears, the downside is that digital marketing also then starts to artificially inflate some of the various advertising costs. So as there’s more of the same type of businesses, advertising on Facebook, Google, and various other platforms, those ad costs will start to rise. But as more people flood to digital, that means that they’re typically pivoting or shifting their marketing dollars then off from something else. 

A lot of people that continue to say, offline marketing is dead or direct mail is dead. Based on the data and so based on the results, I can tell you that direct mail is still alive and well. I am actually seeing better results from direct mail than I ever have been before, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. 

The first thing that you’ve got to keep in mind and this is a little bit of a tough one to think through and to really nail down the hard return, but direct mail and offline marketing are going to amplify your online marketing and vice versa.

What I mean by that is the whole objective with marketing is so that you are being shown to your prospects and in this case, potential parents everywhere when you’re opening up a new child care center. I need you to be front and center—everywhere that a parent turns. I want you on billboards, in their mailboxes, on Facebook, and in their newsfeed. I want them to be looking at videos on YouTube and they’re seeing your videos and your in-stream ads. I want your name to be broadcasted by local influencers. I want you potentially on the radio if that makes strategic sense.

I’m aiming for you to blanket the entire community that surrounds your geographic business so that they cannot say that they never heard of your new childcare center. The whole goal with all of this marketing and all of this planning is so that you hit your marketing objectives and your business objectives from the day that you open. Rather than you opening up a business, and then trying to wing it for the first couple of months, we’re strategically rolling out different marketing tactics on a regular basis, so that you have a fighting chance to make sure that you end up thriving in any kind of business climate. 

With direct mail, I’m looking for you to do a couple of things:

  • Come up with a really solid and creative offer 

If you look at what other childcare centers are doing, that’s gonna give you some ideas of what not to do, because you’ll find that most businesses in particular niche, they pigeonhole themselves in the same type of offers. 

A lot of childcare centers are doing 10% off the first month or waiving enrollment fees. And if you see the same kind of offer from 20 different centers, how are you going to stand out? I’m going to give you some strategies and how you stand out with the appearance, but I want you to nail the messaging and the offer first. 

Some promotions you can do:

  • Summer Camp for the first 50 families that enroll—that could be worth $2,000 or more
  • Founding family special—the first 50 families that enroll are going to be founding families, their tuition is going to be locked in at the lowest rate possible or a free summer camp.
  • Free Chromebook or iPad for the first 50 enrollees

Just look at how you can really separate yourself from everyone else—look at what they’re doing and do the opposite. We need to separate you from that noise to really stand out. 

  • Mail list within the neighborhood based on your profile personas

Now with direct mail, you want to strategically pick and purchase the neighborhoods based on your personas that you established about two weeks ago that are most likely to be interested in enrolling their kids. Now when you’re going and purchasing the list, you want to make sure you’re working with a very reputable list broker—you want to make sure that they have all the criteria that you need so you can target families that have kids of certain ages, exact neighborhoods—not even just zip codes. 

So, if I were opening up a childcare center, I’d want to be targeting all the neighborhoods that are in and around my childcare center within a couple of miles. In doing my prior research, it shows that parents are more likely to enroll their kids at a center that’s within 10 miles maximum and usually three to five miles is how far they’re willing to drive to drop their kids off at a childcare center. 

If you know you’ve got a really tight radius around your center, then you start to add all those other criteria based on your persona—family, certain income, and certain interest. And what I like to do is I like to start with 1000 which is just the number that I’ve always used. But you can start with 100 or 500, whatever number you’d like. 

But here is the magic key to direct mail—those same people, whatever number you decide to start with, so let’s say you’re starting with 1000, you need to send those thousand people at least three and ideally up to five pieces of direct mail during about a two-month span. 

Let’s say you’re going to do five, you’d want to send 5000 things out in total to 1000 people. What you don’t want to do is go wider, and send one piece to 5000 people. That marketing rule of repetition—that’s the whole piece of “I need these people”, these parents to see you everywhere. You need to send multiple pieces to the same people over a short time span, so roughly two months. So you’re basically sending two pieces every month. For two months, maybe the second month you send a third or you do it the first month. The offers don’t need to change every single time, you can literally be sending the same offer. 

Now how you’re going to stand out is using vibrant colors you’re going to use if you’re doing postcards—the company that I’ve always used is Postcard Mania. You’re going to use jumbo postcards that stand out—I want them to be big. I want the colors to be vibrant and bright, but should still be in alignment with your brand colors and your logo, but I needed to stand out. I want limited texts and I want the call to action or CTA to be the center focus. 

Now depending on your persona, you can play with how you want those families to take action. Now you don’t have a physical location opened—either you’re going to drive them to a URL where you’re going to use a tracking landing page. On that landing page perhaps, you could have a tour and a form for more information, or you’re going to have a phone number and that should be a tracking phone number. 

What also works extremely well with direct mail is using something called PERL—personalized URL. So this oversized postcard with your call to action could say “become a founding family visit [email protected]”. What this tool will do is it’ll create those 1000 URLs for example that when you have personalization on the postcard, whether it’s their name, their family name, and even, in particular, a URL that has their name in it, the click-through rates of going to that CTA are much, much higher.

Now, typical response rates for direct mail tended to be 1%, which is pretty low. But in today’s economy, and if you execute this right, I have seen direct mail response rates as high as 7% to 10%. Meaning you could potentially have 100 people from that list of 1000 and up requesting more information and going through your funnel—that is how you deploy direct mail. 

So, I’d like to focus on postcards, initially. Could you broaden up and do lumpy mail? Definitely. Could you broaden up and do a little letter? Definitely. What about a handwritten letter on the front, for example, you definitely can do that as well. I like to start with postcards—start to test the waters. And again, mail to those same people, three, four or five times.

Get out there, make a change, and take some action.