Direct Mailing tips, experiences and advice

Hello everyone I’ve been reading a few articles on direct mailing for gaining new customers and I was just wondering if you could give me tips on your past experiences using this method. So I’ll go over what I already know and what my current strategy is. I will treat mailing like A/B splitting tests. I will carefully track what converts and what does not—wording, any deals that are included, type of brochure etc-- carefully making adjustments according to what works and what doesn’t.

I am still working on building my list of potential clients. Narrowing down my niche further (Maybe family owned restaurants?). If anyone has any further advice on this I’d be glad to hear it. There are list brokers out there who specialize in these sorts of things, and I am looking into my local chamber of commerce for such lists as well. But do you think it’d be better if I just do a quick scan of restaurants out there instead and maybe run my own due diligence (Though this sounds costly)? Or to even peruse through the yellow pages and see what I can find?

What makes someone throw out an envelope, and what makes someone read it? How can I ensure that my envelope will be read? I want to buy plain envelopes and maybe print out a logo on it, use some nice eye catching but clean sans-serif fonts, but that is all I have so far.
Anyone one have any solid experience i.e. a/b testing on this?

This I already have. I will make it concise as possible. I haven’t really decided on my call to action. Is a free consultation even an incentive nowadays? Would it be too cheesy to put in brackets beside that “$100 value”? Probably… I’m offering webdesign, SEO and SMM, not a discounted futon.

So I decided that since I’m highly targeting my audience, adding in a brochure would help with the conversions. The question is what kind? I plan on adding some full website templates that I have done but I think the three fold pamphlet is a little cheesy and overdone. I actually am a fan of the accordian fold one but I’m not exactly sure how this is done on what paper…. I am willing to spend extra money on this because it seems like you buy brochure paper that’s a little longer than the usual 8”x11” and you simply cut it in half. Overall I think you save some paper costs, printing costs (smaller size) plus it looks really unique and sleek.

I am talking about something like this:

Follow-Up & Plan B:
I plan on following up a week later with a call on those who did not call me. If anything I can try to generate warm leads from them. Which leads me to plan B. I will try to prequalify my leads by narrowing down my target audience as much as I can but I expect between a 5-10% response rate through this mailing method, maybe less. So if I send out 100 letters I’ll get 5 call backs. However even if I do not work with anyone who has called me back I can ask for a lead. (I will try to get at least 5 out of everyone I talk to so I’ll at least have some warm leads at all times).

[FONT=verdana]I can’t add much to the advice I gave in your previous thread. No doubt other people here will have some useful tips.

However, I will pick up one of your points. You say: I plan on following up a week later with a call on those who did not call me.

This is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Just think about it. You send out a hundred mailings. You get maybe five replies. The other 95 throw the mailing in the bin. (That would be quite a respectable result, by the way.) So why are you wasting time on the 95, when you should be concentrating on the five?

If someone didn’t reply, it almost certainly means he’s not interested. He doesn’t need your services now, and doesn’t foresee needing them in the future. Following up with a cold phone call not only wastes your time, but it is likely to irritate him and cause bad feeling. Better to write off the 95, and put your effort into converting the five who replied into happy customers.


Good point Mike, better for me I suppose to just focus on increasing my conversion rates by finding more qualified people and experimenting with what works. As far as list building is concerned I found a few list brokers. and seem to be okay so far but I need to do more research and see how they compile these lists. My local chamber of commerce also provides a similar list, as long as you join as a member, which is a pricey $400 fee.

I’ve also been looking around for good design printers around the city. I found a company that not only prints out the brochures but mails them out in custom envelopes. I may be able to save some money going this route. Overall the marketing budget is pushing around $300. Cold calling is the cheapest way but may not be the most effective.

[font=verdana]Exactly. I get fed up with salespeople* calling up, wanting to speak to my boss to follow up on an unsolicited letter, brochure or email they’ve sent him, and to check that he has received it, and if he’s interested. I always try not to be too blunt, and say “If he’s interested then he’ll get in touch” but sometimes they don’t get even that hint. What it does do is to pretty much guarantee that any further communication from that company – even if it looks moderately interesting – is filtered about before it gets anywhere near the people with money to spend.

  • except, of course, that they are never selling anything…[/font]

Very good point, so what would you advise doing to get through in a positive way?
if someones interested in what you offer then surely they will get in touch, so does that mean just send one letter and hope it makes an impact…how could it be followed up positively?

It’s not really a question of making an impact. Or, put another way, if the initial letter doesn’t make an impact, then a follow-up phone call isn’t going to improve on that situation.

However, it’s possible that the prospect has no interest in your service right now, but might well have in the future. To cover those cases, there’s no harm in doing a second mailing to the same list in six months time (provided the list is kept up to date of course). It’s always possible that the prospect’s circumstances will have changed, or that his business is taking a different direction, and that might improve your chances. But I wouldn’t risk more than two such mailing.

Also, if you’re worried that the initial mailing will not make an impact, the solution to that is testing. This is the big advantage of direct mail over other forms of marketing. Try, say, three different approaches, each to, say 2 - 3 percent of the list. Then adopt the one (if any) that gives a satisfactory hit rate.


I would actually ask this question on a marketing forum rather than a general business forum. What you really need are people more experienced in this kind of marketing, people who do this day-in-day-out. Personally I hate direct marketing, I don’t even open most unsolicited mail, it goes straight into the recycling box. But that’s just me.

I’m sure many people would agree with that. But, surprisingly, many people do open direct mail, and many even read it - or at least glance at it. Even people who immediately delete all spam email and hang up on cold callers will often give a mail shot a few moments to prove itself.

Direct mail, if done properly, can work - and can do so without annoying people in the way that other forms of marketing do. The key words there are “if done properly”. Unfortunately, most of the unsolicited mail that lands on our doormats is merely junk mail, and deserves to go straight to the recycling bin.


Any update? Have you tried it yet?

Well I talked to the printing guys and they tell me they have about an 11% conversion rate which is quite high. They produce really high quality prints on great paper with custom designs and such but all in all it’s pretty expensive… I mean I’m looking for my FIRST client I don’t have $300+ in my marketing budget :blush:

So what I’ve decided to do is stick with cold calling a few targeted restaurants. I’ve worked on my script so it’s as natural and convincing sounding as it can be. And I will try to incorporate some questions and banter instead of rehearsing a wall of text. But uhh… what I really should’ve asked in the cold calling thread was…“How the HELL do I overcome my nerves?” I’m looking at my list of 25 (for now) restaurants and my stomach is sinking and I’m feeling a little dizzy. I actually have some experience in cold calling so this is a little weird… Maybe because this time I’m the one being judged not the company I work for.

I will update after today and tomorrow. Hopefully I can get through the list of 25 in a day. I think typically owners leave around 3-4pm. What I did was I put the worst restaurants and the least likely prospects at the top of my list so by the time I get to the bottom my pitch will be more honed in. And I’m going to try to get some feedback from who I can (Again even thinking about this is making me nervous ughhhhhhh).

[FONT=verdana]Well, I still think that direct mail is better than cold calling. That said, cold calling does have the advantage that there is virtually no up-front cost. You can dip your toe in the water and see how you get on, without spending a lot of money. Let us know how it goes.

By the way, the fact that the printer gets an 11 percent conversion rate is irrelevant to you. The conversion rate depends much more on the product you’re selling, how you present it, and - above all - the quality of your list, than on how good the printing is.

I’d also suggest that you might do better in direct mail without any printing at all - just a single page A4 letter. But no doubt you’ve already weighed all those options.


Hey Mike, I think the best combination just might be to do direct mailing with a followup call a week later. I agree with you about the conversion rate, when they told me that I assumed it was a b2c type conversion rate but I didn’t followup cause I was in a rush. All I want is to get my letter or my pitch to a decision maker, I think how I present it is fine and the product itself is great.

The only problem I see with direct mailing would be acquiring the restaurant owner’s name and mailing address. In that case I’d need to find a good list broker to give me a solid list or I’d need to join my local chamber of commerce to get their list (Which kinda sucks from what I’ve seen and has a hefty price tag of $400!). Plus I’m not entirely sure to be honest whether mail would actually have a higher conversion rate than say cold calling. One thing I am good at is sales and warming up to people, so I think I might have a better chance with cold calling rather than mail.

And given my budget limitations I think my best option is to cold call around the area and to send out maybe 50 or so highly targeted mail out with a sleek but elegant design on the envelope. Something like this:

We’ll have to see though! I’ve made it my goal to do 250 cold calls a week. I have to go away this weekend but next week I’ll be doing this at least 5 hours a day. I just need to find out how to get the most out of each one (Like maybe how to do some light market research at the end of each one).

This cold-calling thread from 2009 has some additional ideas to consider:

Spend a couple of minutes following the thread (it’s not too long) and it tells a nice story:

  1. OP says he’s going to cold call small local businesses by walking in off the street and trying to talk to someone face to face.
  2. Gets a good kicking from the ‘experts’, because saying ‘Cold Call’ round here is like a red rag to a bull. He’ll be thrown into the street, no one will talk to him, blah blah…
  3. OP goes ahead anyway…
  4. …experiences no problems…
  5. …And reports significant and immediate success a few days later!

Conclusion (mine, at least): there’s not a whole lot of good information about ‘classic’, tried and tested sales methods to be had in this forum, unfortunately, because people who don’t know what they’re talking about (and have never tried it for real) dump on it all from a thousand feet and put newcomers off. They make some valid points, of course, but not necessarily very important points.

The ‘old’ methods work just fine. Cold Calling (by phone or walk in) and the various forms of Direct Mail work well for selling websites to small businesses. Anyone who says otherwise either hasn’t tried it or didn’t do it right! I know I get a lot of my business this way. The web design industry is not a special case.

Webdesignnoob, I hope you conquer your nerves and implement your cold calling campaign - I’m sure it will be a success story, just like the thread above!


Hey Paul, thank you for your link to that thread, truly inspirational! I love his tenacity and big brass balls haha. He did his local market research, and carried out his plans with some grit and it paid off, immediately!

I’m am doing what I can to deal with my nerves. I’ve even started to meditate… Kinda off topic but mindfulness meditation has so much clinical evidence behind its effectiveness in reducing stress in general that I had to give it a go! Other than that, stress inoculation is the only real cure (doing it in increasingly larger doses until you get used to it).

well, you might consider anti-spam and anti-cold call communities. There are whole websites and communities dealing with complaints about cold calling. People report numbers - they are never sure whether it is a scam or telemarketing, <snip/>

Thanks for these advices, these are useful for business starters who have no idea how to reach potential customers. Advertisements can be expensive especially in television and newspaper. Businesses <snip/>, for example reach prospective clients through internet, brochures, gift items, cold calling and surveys.

My first clients all came from referrals, and I imagine that’d be the best way to start off for you too.

Much cheaper and less wasteful than printing and sending letters, and referrals always come with the referrer’s stamp of approval, so the prospect is more likely to pay attention to you.

So, maybe ask around your friends and family, if they themselves, or people they know, are in the business you’re trying to sell to, and then try to make meetings from there.

And work on your portfolio! If you have nothing at all but free time, make a proper website for a pretend restaurant (or whatever), don’t make it a joke either, take it seriously and make it look real. If you get meetings, you’ll need something to show! And compile all your best graphic designs and everything else too. Enough so you look like you can handle the job.

Sorry, I havent read the entire thread, however I would advise against cold calling. It can work, but its a tough gig. Instead, consider putting on some decent clothes, and going into businesses and introduce yourself and hand over a card.

Avoid the hard sell. Just be polite and let them know you’re not there to force a sale. If they’re interested, theyll give you hints (tip - listen carefully to their choice of words)

Just say something like “Hi, my name is John, I’m just in the area handing out business cards to help raise awareness about my new web design business…” etc etc

I did this when I first started and had a 100% success rate. I got clients EVERY single time I ventured out. (usually only took about 5 or 6 people before I got the opportunity to organise a meeting)

Worst case scenario, they smile and say no thanks.

At least they have your card.

Calling over the phone is annoying, and once they hang up, you’ve lost them.