Knocking On Your Audience’s Door

So you’re interested in a direct mail marketing campaign. Smart move. Who is your audience anyway? Have you determined who’s door you’re going to knock on? Because before you start writing that killer message or sales piece, this needs to be crystal clear in your mind to achieve the best possible outcome, and get that door opened to you.

THE most important thing to understand is that your message is going to be shaped by your audience (i.e. who is reading your sales message). Understanding and knowing who you’re talking to, guides your message, along with the additional contents you include to support it.

Because here’s how it works. Not everyone appreciates your message or your attempt to connect with them. And that’s OK. The goal is to reach out only to those who are likely to have an affinity, like, need, or interest in what you’re marketing to them. Narrowing your field of play increases your chances to have your message read, and for meaningful response.

It’s Like Dating

For instance, when you meet someone, what do you do first? Extend a friendly handshake; introduce yourself; and begin with light conversation to break the ice; and put your audience at ease. You continue to communicate, to find common ground and interests. If you continue the relationship or conversation. The same goes for business. It’s a rare luxury when a first-time communication results in a sale.

It takes time to build trusting relationships to a point where your chats are effortless and free-flowing, and where you open up, and the person also feels comfortable sharing with you.

The same holds true with your business relationships and the conversations you might have with a would-be customer, as opposed to an existing customer.

Here are a few other points to keep in mind to help you understand your audience and how you might formulate your marketing conversations:

  • How do your conversations differ between new and existing acquaintances and friends?
  • How much more product/business detail do you feel you should share with a stranger as opposed to existing friends, or folks that know (of) you?
  • What things do you feel comfortable talking about with someone you’ve just met, as opposed to a long-time friend?
  • How many times did you say…”Just ask John/orJill. He’ll/She’ll tell ya…” In order to substantiate something you shared with someone new, as opposed to someone who’s known you (and what you do) for some time?
Your Audience Awaits - Know Who They Are

Your Audience Awaits – Know Who They Are

Now think of your sales message and the intended goal our outcome in terms of that one-on-one conversation.

The truth is, you will not share the same message with someone you already know (i.e. An existing customer), as opposed to someone you need to introduce yourself to (in a sales letter). You won’t ask the reader to take the same action either. And how much and what type of detail you’ll need to share about you and your offer will differ.

When you already know your reader (customer)…

you can show more familiarity. You won’t need to demonstrate as much data and statistics with someone you’ve already connected with, or have an existing customer relationship with.

These folks already know about you, and have had experience with you and/or your products or services. They already know, like and trust you and are more apt to take action or buy again.

These are the people you might reach out to if you

✓ want to attract them back to you as customers
✓ to let know about a new product or sale; or
✓ entice them to upgrade their relationship or purchases with you.

Your overall approach can be less of a hard sell and more like, “Hey, remember when you bought that thing form me, and you loved it? I’ve got more stuff you might be interested in…” Or something along those lines. I’m sure you get the picture..

Whereas, when writing to someone you’re not very well acquainted with…

or who doesn’t have prior experience with you, or your products or services, your goal and approach will be completely different. You’re going to need to provide all the information possible in your mailing package.

First off, you’ve got to introduce yourself. In addition, you’ve got to gain their attention immediately. And that’s where the importance of your list comes in. You already know from your research and the demographics you used to obtain your data, that you’re reaching your ideal customer.

Will Your Audience Open The Door

Will Your Audience Open The Door To Your Message?

Regardless, you need to alleviate their concerns or potential objections, gain their trust, and to answer any lingering questions they might have about what you’re proposing to them. Part of the sales piece is also about building that relationship and trust factor. Your audience needs to decide if it’s safe to let you in (i.e. read your message further). And later…whether or not they should take action without having to justify that action afterward.

If your direct mail campaign is to attract new customers to a product or service, be aware that you’re likely looking at a longer-form sales piece that’s chock-full of facts, enticing information, supporting material, testimonials, statistics and charts, and whatever else you can provide to substantiate your claims. Your job will be a bit more difficult – although still worth the effort. But don’t fret. I’ve got you covered.

Value In Your Mailing List

Perhaps I put the cart before the horse. Your audience and associated mailing list go hand-in-hand.

You’ve definitely got to know who you’re going to speak to in your direct mail message. And determining the goal of your campaign and the format of the material you’ll create also helps determine who you will talk to. But before that conversation even takes place, you’re going to need the right mailing list so you can speak to those intended readers specifically.

There are several ways to develop/acquire a mailing list. Some more costly than others; some easier to manage; some that will yield better results. To help you make a decision about the best method to connect with your audience, check out these suggestions:

You could:
✓ Conduct research and create your own specialized and targeted list,
✓ Buy a list from a mailing house or reputable list broker, or
✓ Use your existing customer base list from data you’ve collected over time, or
✓ Use Canada Post or the US Postal System’s new direct mail services

Any of these methods are good. Each have their own advantages, disadvantages and challenges.

In my view, the advantage of creating your own mailing list…

is that you end up with a custom list of your audience (i.e. ideal customer) based on a custom profile you’ve developed for the product or service you are promoting or offering. Using this method enables you to shape and fine-tune your message further.

Just a note here…This method is more effective for Business To Business communications rather and Business to Consumer as it might be difficult to find desired demographic data (on your own) for individuals, compared to business information, which is readily available through various on-line sources and social media platforms.

The disadvantage is that it takes time to create this type of list.

But rest assured, even though this would be a list of cold recipients, there are ways to craft sales messages that still yield good results. It’s worked for many businesses in the past, and continues to deliver outstanding results.

To demonstrate…Think about a time you received a piece of direct mail material from a company you didn’t know. You opened it regardless because the outer envelope got your attention. You were curious to learn more. And when you read the message, you felt as though they knew you. They were speaking directly to you. And you kept reading because the content was interesting and compelling. You were nodding as you read, thinking…”yeah, I need this.” And then…you took the action they suggested.

Before considering this method, you’ll need to examine the resources (i.e.people) needed to undertake this exercise. If you can manage to do it on your own, be aware that it is time-consuming, but beneficial.

Personally, I went this route because my leads were easily found. I also wanted more control over who I might potentially want to work with (since I’m a service oriented business). For product-based business, your profile might not be so restrictive. But again…you know who’s on your lists and have background on them and their own businesses.

With the help of the Internet of course, I went where my ideal clients hang out. I was able to find names, addresses and other contact information I needed to build a substantial list (using excel of all things as my data-holding software). This enabled me merge my list with my personalized messages (sales letters) (in Word).

The advantage of using a Mailing House or List Broker…

is that they save you the time and energy of creating a list. They have the means to pull a list for you based on numerous specified criteria and demographic information related to your customer profile so you can target your audience more effectively.

The challenge is – data can often be dated, having been compiled as long as one month prior to your list (file or labels) actually being produced. People move around. In addition, you are responsible for reviewing your list for any discrepancies or duplicates. Reviewing a list of say, even 1000 names and addresses can be time consuming.

Data Tip: be more exclusive as opposed to inclusive about who you want on that list, however. Not everyone is an ideal customer for what you’re offering. And the idea of throwing out a wide net is a waste of your money. Your goal is to target only those who you believe would benefit from or want to buy your product or service, or to learn more about you.

Your House List Is Gold

I’m talking about using your own in-house list of names and contact information that you’ve diligently collected over time. Your list of customers, visitors to your store or website, subscribers, e-mail enquiries and the like represent a golden opportunity to tap into an existing audience.

These are people you’ve already established a relationship of some kind with. And the fact is that getting an existing customer to buy again, as opposed to seeking new customers is much more fruitful.

Your message can now be on a friendly, familiar level. Carrying on a conversation with these folks should be effortless, and your message won’t need to be so filled with facts, statistics and the like.

If you’re not already making it a point to collect customer data, you may want to consider taking up this activity. It’s a strategy that will serve you well in future marketing efforts, and especially for a direct mail marketing campaign to talk directly to your audience.

Canada Post/US Postal System’s direct mail services

is another effective option to conduct your campaign. If you live outside of these two countries, I’m sure your respective postal service has similar options for small business. Be sure to look it up.

If you are in North America, however, be sure to check out Canada Post’s Marketing Solutions and the US Postal Service’s “Every Door Direct Mail” . They both have features to help you coordinate your entire campaign from start to end – including targeting your audience.

Their services can generate lists using custom segmentation and targeting, by applying demographic filters. Doing so allows you to create piece(s) that reach your intended audience. Along with a wide range of advice, guidance and reports, Canada Post and US Postal Services have the means to help you create the best direct mail marketing campaign possible.


Ultimately, having a clear picture of who you want to talk to in your direct mail message, and creating or obtaining the right mailing list to send your material to are critical to your message formulation, the overall campaign creation, and its success. Start by knowing your audience, then build outward with a clear plan on how you’re going to carry out your sustained marketing effort.

There’s more to a successful campaign, but this is a good foundation. I hope you’ve found value in this article. Be sure to comment, or ask questions. below. Thank you for your interest.

Look for more on the subject of direct mail marketing in the next few articles as I talk about the materials you’ll need in your package. In the meantime, check out the first article in the series in case you missed it.