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Small Business Digest


Direct Mail, Other Print Promotions Are Still Cost-Effective for Small Firms

A growing group of small businesses are marketing to their clients and customers the old-fashioned way - direct-mail and other print promotions.

These companies are finding that direct mail, calendars, postcards, product inserts and other print promotional concepts are still viable as a way to reach and more importantly sell customers.

The added benefit is that they are usually very cost-effective.

Early this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on several smaller enterprises using direct mail to improve sales. The article echoed advice from some marketing experts that “snail mail” is still a valuable tool to gather new clients and upsell current customers.

This approach is particularly useful when selling to smaller enterprises.

JoAnn Laing, author of The Janus Principle, Focusing Your Company on Selling to Small Businesses, is high on direct mail as a cost-effective tool to win new accounts, especially when selling to smaller firms.

When in a buying mode, small-business leaders may search for information on the Internet, but they most often make their decisions based on written material sent by providers,” Laing says in her book and when working with both large and small clients.

“In our focus groups and surveys, small-business managers tell us they really do read their mail and act on printed material,” she says. “When they do decide to buy, they most often refer to printed materials they received in the mail or got from a salesperson. In fact, we found many respondents who said they often kept promotional materials for months before acting.”

Laing and other experts are high on calendars as an effective tool. “A calendar stays on a potential client’s wall for 12 months, reminding him or her about the seller every day,” Laing says.

While declining in volume, card decks are another means of reaching a wide audience at low cost,” Laing added. So, too, are postcards a way of reminding potential customers about products and services.

Laing points out that 73% of small-business customers are drawn from a 50-mile radius of the main establishment. “Reaching them by mail and highlighting products and service is still a good buy, and the U.S. Postal Service has a great program to help small businesses promote and deliver their products,” she says.

Also, Liang points out, much print design work can be done in-house, and printing costs have come down.

Jane Harvey, who operates a group of Alphagraphics stores in Austin, Texas, says she has seen an uptick in smaller firms' turning to printed pieces to build traffic.

One easy way of adding sales is to put a promotional flier, sometimes just a sheet of paper, in every order. “We had one customer who added a sales sheet to every order who reported a 7% increase in sales,” Harvey says.

Laing says another cost-effective way to build sales is to add a promotional insert in every bill that is sent out. “Large banks and other big mailers do it! Why can’t a small business employ an effective marketing tool as well?” 

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