April 24, 2024

Direct mail can change your entire life and business philosophy. That may sound like hype, but it’s not: that’s exactly happened to me and my wife. When we first started our business, we built $300.00 — that’s right, just three hundred dollars — into income of about $16,000.00 a month in less than a year. We were doing well just by running space ads in national magazines and pyramiding the proceeds to buy more ads to attract new customers — just as a lot of other small business people are still doing. But once we started working with our mentor, experienced direct marketer Russ Von Hoelscher, we stopped focusing solely on chasing after new customers and started to mine the money available in reselling to existing customers by appealing to them through direct mail.

Within nine months, we were making about $25,000.00 a week using the direct mail methods Russ taught us. I know direct mail marketing works, because I’m one of its many success stories.

We used to hire Russ to come to our home in Kansas and work with us over the weekend. At that time, Russ charged us $2,500 for a weekend of his time and expertise. He’s an absolute master when it comes to making money with direct mail, and I was privileged to watch the master to work. We’d pick him up at the airport on a Friday night and, starting very early Saturday morning, we’d sit around the dining room table and talk about all kinds of products and services our customers might be interested in, as well as new promotions. Russ would get excited about something that we were talking about, and he’d start writing on one of the many legal pads we had waiting for him there.

Meanwhile, Eileen and I would sit back in awe, watching him writing fast and furious, as quickly as he could; and when he’d stop, we’d talk more, drink some more coffee, and eat some good food. Then he’d be at it again. He was taking all the ideas we were expressing, and translating them onto his legal pads as he wrote the sales letters. When he left on Sunday, we’d stop by the typist’s house and drop off all those pads to have them typed out and saved to a floppy disk. Then I’d tweak the copy he wrote, send the resulting sales letters out to our customers, and start raking in the profits.

Somewhere along the line I said to myself, “I want to learn how to do this.” It took me eight years to learn it to my satisfaction — and I’m still learning. It’s a fascinating, lifelong process.

Direct mail marketing sounds simple, but doing it well is not. Sure, it’s just a matter of taking ideas for new, related products and services, writing simple sales letters communicating those ideas, putting them into envelopes, and sending them to your best customers — people who have already bought something from you before. That’s as simple as it can be. But most businesses aren’t doing that. They’re doing what Eileen and I did before we met Russ: constantly chasing new customers, not doing enough to sell additional products to their existing customers.

Once we started using direct mail to sell to existing customers, Russ helped us learn how to use direct mail to create sales letters for new customers — those who were interested in the kinds of things we were selling, but had never done business with us before. That’s when the millions came pouring in. You get an incredible feeling when you put together your first direct mail package and the orders start arriving. It’s exciting, addictive, and profitable. So: let’s take a look at the main advantages of direct mail marketing, and why you should make it a part of your business.

Advantage #1: Direct mail works. It’s like a recipe: Follow the instructions, and you’ll get the results you desire. Forget that so many other people aren’t using it. Don’t be restricted by the fact that may it not have worked for you before. You didn’t know then what you’ll know by the time you finish reading this article.

Advantage #2: It works for everyone, including small businesses. In your local marketplace, you probably won’t have much direct mail competition, if any. You’ll have a chance to run right past your competitors and become the dominant business in your field. Even if you run a regional or national business, the chances are good that none of your competitors are doing what you can do with direct mail.

Advantage #3: Direct mail is targeted marketing. You can pick and choose people who’ve bought services and products similar to yours in the past. Most other forms of advertising don’t allow this. Those methods waste most of your advertising on people who aren’t interested in what you offer, spraying your message out to people from all walks of life, just a tiny fraction of whom are your best prospects. Direct mail makes it easy for you to choose only the people you want to reach — and then to reach them in a personal way. You’re actually sending a letter to someone, communicating via a printed letter, one-on-one. Always act as though you have something special to say to one special person. That’s what makes direct mail so personable.

Advantage #4: Almost no one knows these secrets. If they know anything about direct mail, it’s usually very basic; they understand it involves mailing things to prospects, usually postcards. They may have tried it, and found it didn’t work for them. Again, that’s because they’re doing it wrong. They don’t understand the industry or the methods — not even the basics, let alone its intricacies. As shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis once said, “The secret to business is to know something nobody else knows.” That’s true of direct mail. If you can learn to understand direct mail marketing at a basic level, and you’re willing to focus your efforts on it, the rest can come later. It takes a lifetime to master, but you can earn while you learn.

Advantage #5: Direct mail gives you an unbeatable lead, almost an unfair advantage, over other marketers. It’s a stealthy way to promote your offers to your marketplace, because your competitors may have no idea what you’re doing. The only way they’ll learn is if someone tells them, or if they get on your mailing list somehow.

Advantage #6: Direct mail marketing is scalable, whether up or down. With an initial test, when you’re just getting started with an offer, you’ll want to keep the volume low. If the market responds, you crank the dial up, mailing out more pieces. If it doesn’t, you try another offer. Whether or not you scale up and down may also depend on the marketplace you’re in. If the whole Internet is your marketplace and you have millions of potential customers, then even a small return may make it worth cranking up the volume. If you’re in a small local economy, with thousands or tens of thousands of potential customers at most, you’ll require a greater response. Always check your numbers and always test, and you can continue to grow your business.

If you don’t think you can handle all that work yourself, hire more employees. This is especially true if you’re a one-man band, because your ability to grow is limited by your ability to perform. Let other people do some of the work; act as the brain behind it, the person who directs and facilitates it. This method can work whether you mow lawns for a living, own a small mechanic shop, or you’re an electrician and think you don’t need to advertise because you have all the business you can handle right now. Build a team you pay to do most of the actual work. Don’t limit yourself by thinking small.

Advantage #7: You can segment your customer list, so certain offers go out only to specific groups of customers. Your very best customers — the people who spend the most money with you — will get offers the rest of your customers don’t; so even within your customer base, there’s stealth selling going on. Your other lists won’t even see an offer unless it’s a hit with your best customers, whereupon you carefully introduce it to everyone you think might buy it.

Advantage #8: You can make grand offers with a much better chance of success than most advertising methods. One of my personal heroes is P.T. Barnum, one of the founders of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus. He was an incredible entrepreneur, involved in all kinds of businesses. Many good biographies have been written on the man, and it’s worth it to study his life — because he understood marketing at a deep level, which helped him become one of the world’s richest men in his day.

Barnum once said, “Most business people are trying to catch a whale using a minnow as bait.” They throw together small direct mail flyers or postcards that aren’t connected to any kind of strategy. Those campaigns fail to produce, so they give up and declare that direct mail doesn’t work. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Direct mail beats the pants off all other kinds of marketing and advertising methods. You’ll see one of the reasons for that with our next advantage:

Advantage #9: Done correctly, direct mail marketing does a complete job of selling. It’s like a salesperson in an envelope — one who never gets sick, never complains, never wants a raise, and works 24 hours a day. If done correctly, it’s disruptive — which is precisely what you want it to be. I was involved in the business for years before I really understood the full impact of the word. Direct mail has to be disruptive in order to catch people’s attention. Yes, people still sort their mail over a trashcan sometimes, not paying close attention to all the direct mail they’re getting; but it’s still far more disruptive than any other method, except for a live salesperson.

Think about how easy it is to delete your e-mail; you don’t even have to read it. Direct mail is far more disruptive than email; it gets in the way and drives in that little wedge that’s necessary in order to get the right people to pay attention. It seems like everybody’s in love with whatever’s new, and direct mail is old-fashioned — so most people ignore it. Yes, it’s old news, but it works better than all those fancy innovations.

Advantage #10: Direct mail can make you big money. My company has generated over $150 million in gross direct mail revenue in 24 years, and my wife and I are the most average people you’ll ever meet; you’d never pick us out of a lineup of successful people. Yet direct mail marketing has been responsible for almost all of the millions of dollars that have come pouring into our little company. Our headquarters are in Goessel, Kansas. If you didn’t know it was an hour north of Wichita, you wouldn’t be able to find it on a map. You probably still wouldn’t find it.

Now, we love Kansas and are passionate about our state, but we also recognize it for what it is. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and we like it that way. But although we’re in a town of just a few hundred people, we’re generating millions of dollars with direct mail. That should inspire you. This is something that really can make you a lot of money.

If there’s a single business tip that will profit you more than any other, it’s this: you have to sell more things to more people more often for more profit with every transaction. Everything else is details. But such details! You have to figure out all the ways and means, strategies and methods; and you have to get it all right. But it’s still just selling more to more people more often for more profit per transaction. Direct mail marketing is the ultimate way to do that. You’re in full control of every aspect of the process.

Yes, there’s a learning curve. You have to be willing to both learn and practice. Try to make it fun and exciting; but even if you don’t feel that way about it, just keep your eyes on the prize. You can earn incredible amounts of money while you’re learning, and even more when you’ve mastered direct mail. There’s simply no better way to use that little formula of selling more stuff to more people more often for more profit every time than direct mail.

Check the other articles I’ll be posting in the next few days and months, where I’ll provide secrets on everything from the best direct mail marketing methods to copywriting tips. I think you’ll soon realize that this really is the best way to go forward for most businesses. So dig in deep and really use these methods I’ll teach you here — and you’ll end up light years ahead of the competition.