Direct Mail Best Practices

Since it is natural in senior living that most providers grow their business from the operation, outward, you’re not along if you’re looking for some tips to help get more out of your marketing.  To help your direct mail expertise catch up to the level of care your facilities deliver, here are a few best practices gleaned from the leading companies in the arena.

Develop Your Database

This component is first because it is most important.  Keeping track of your prospects and treating interactions with them like an ongoing conversation allows you to understand and anticipate their needs.  Across your database, you will also be able to spot trends that may be specific to your area and lead to more effective customer touch strategies (we will get to that concept in another thread).  Your database should contain at least all of the fields listed below:

  • Name of prospective resident
  • Name and role of loved one in charge of care
  • Mailing address, including zip code
  • Telephone number
  • Email address(es)
  • Source of inquiry (website, mail, referral, etc.)
  • Date and details of first inquiry
  • Recency/frequency of contact
  • Credit history and rating (for applicable custodian)
  • Relevant demographic data (age, gender, marital status and lifestyle data)
  • Current household size

What you do with this data will dictate your ROI.  We will talk more about maximizing this information in the following tips.

If you want more information on the topic, check out An Introduction to Database Marketing, here.

Mail Lists

80% of your success is derived from your mailing list and your offer.  The best message and most polished copy will only be effective if you’re making the right offer to the right audience.  So how do you get to the right audience?  Well, they’re often right in front of you.

Start with your existing residents.  Knowing about them and how they became your constituents gives you the clearest path to finding more people just like them and growing their ranks.  The right combination of demographic (age, income, gender, neighborhood, etc.) and psychographic (interests, lifestyle purchases, buying history, etc.) data will lead you to like-minded audiences where your message will resonate best.  Fischer Group can guide you through this process, and even obtain your list for you.

Each mailing provides new data for your existing database.  Capturing and acting on that additional data will help you wring the most out of your list, and you will help yourself service your prospects with the most insight.  Just like you nurture your relationship with a customer, it’s important to nurture your list.  Of course you want to scrub the names you lose through attrition, but gathering data about any identifiable reply habits can lead you to making smart adjustments in your customer touch strategy, your messaging (more on those, below), and maybe even your offer.

The Offer

Aside from your list, the most important component of your DM campaign is your offer.  Your offer must be compelling, beneficial, and simple to understand.

To be compelling, come up with an offer that is unique.  It may also help to have an offer that is tied to an event, or is only available for a limited time.  The objective is to get your reader to act, and move him or her to act quickly.

To be beneficial, your offer should identify a need and fulfill it.  The more urgent the need, and the more thoroughly fulfilling the solution, the more beneficial your offer will be perceived.

A simple offer is one that you can convey very briefly.  You will not have your prospect’s attention for very long, so make sure that you can make your offer clearly and concisely.

Where to Start

You have a great list of names and a great offer for them.  Now let’s get to the business of creating a great DM campaign by starting with a Creative Brief.  “Oh, it’s just a simple mail campaign, I don’t need to write a creative brief,” you say?  Well, if that’s the case, it won’t take you very long, so just do it.  A Creative Brief will help you hone your idea and give you a laser focus on the steps to execute it.  If you have a team, it will give all of your teammates their responsibilities and your expectations.  So think of a good creative brief :

Background – Give a description of the situation and what you wish to change or solve about it.  Include whatever information you have to illustrate.

Audience – Describe your target audience and any perceptions you believe you will encounter in engaging them.  If you have information to back your assertions here, include it.  If your assertions are based on educated guesses or demographic assumptions, make it clear here.  It may be very useful to reflect on that information later.

Product – List the wonderful features of your product.  Once you have your complete list, prioritize those features, first by their importance, and then by the order you wish to communicate based on this offer.  This is a great exercise to perform long before you start writing copy.

Sticking Point – What concept, idea, or feeling would you like to stick with your prospect after he or she has digested this DM piece?  You never thought about it that way?  Think about it.  It is an important part of your creative brief.

Offer – Describe specifically your offer, why it’s compelling, what benefit it serves your audience, and what makes it unique.

Objective – State very clearly the factor you are trying to change.  You may be trying, as always, to increase your business, but this particular campaign might be about bringing prospects to a particular event or to see a specific function of your business.

The Piece(s) – What is the best vehicle for you message and an offer?  Does your audience prefer one vehicle to another?  Is a combination of pieces going to be more effective than a single one or a single type?  Make sure the piece is appropriate for the promotion and the audience.  Of course, you can make it something exciting, like a pop-up book with a 3-D interactive video experience built in.  But you can also keep it simple and concise, and start with an old fashioned DM letter (here’s why the Forbes Magazine likes the letter approach).

The Two Rs – Restrictions and Requirements.  These may be obvious to one team member and not another, or perhaps making a list conjures some that you didn’t realize existed.  In any case, spell them both out.

Finish Line – Be clear about the action you are going to create and how far you want to move the needle to declare a win.

Here’s a brief article about applying the scientific method to your direct mail campaigns.

Happy Hunting!


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