Direct mail is one of the best ways to market a product. You can zero in on a particular target market with the right mailing lists. For example, you can mail to all consumers who buy computer products and software within five or 10 miles of your store. The downside to direct mail is that it’s very expensive. You have printing and postage costs to consider as well as the cost of the envelopes. And envelopes aren’t exactly cheap if you use colored ones to attract attention. And good mailing lists are not cheap either. Most businesses can expect to pay $95 to $150 per thousand for quality names, according to Businessweek.com.
Here’s an example of the cost of direct mail. Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that your postage, printing, envelopes and mailing list cost $2.00 for each piece you send out. Hence, your mailing cost would be $10,000 to $20,000 if you send brochures to 5,000 and 10,000 people, respectively. That’s a lot of money. And it may take some time to see a return on your direct mail investment.
But don’t fret. There’s actually a way to send out an unlimited amount of direct mail pieces for free. The method itself is not unique. It’s called cooperative advertising. Coupon magazine publishers use this method to help businesses advertise their wares and services at reasonable rates. What is unique about sending out direct mail for free is the manner in which it’s done.
The late Gary Halbert, a renowned direct mail expert, recommended a way for businesses to completely cover their advertising costs and printing through cooperative advertising. He also incorporated a tool that he used to keep his promotional expenses low while delivering a powerful message about his own product. The end result is a highly effective direct mail campaign that will cost you nothing.
Here’s how it’s done. Start by calling 10 non-competing businesses in your area. In other words, make sure none of the businesses sell the same types of products or services. Take the $10,000 cost of mailing 5,000 pieces, for example, and divide that number by 10. That’s a base cost of $1,000 per advertiser, excluding yourself. Factor in a little extra for your time and work. Therefore, assume you will charge each advertiser $1,200 each to mail one colorful brochure out in your cooperative mailing. That’s more than enough to cover your printing and mailing costs for the 5,000-piece mailing. Meet with the business owners and discuss your cooperative advertising proposal. Emphasize the fact that the advertisers will have much less competition in your cooperative mailing than they would using a coupon magazine publisher like “Reach or direct mail cooperatives such as Val-Pak and Harte Hanks. Get the 10 businesses to commit to a mailing. Collect their payments up front. Find alternative businesses if your first group of 10 turn you down.
Meanwhile, create a short, concise message about your own product. Use a message that strongly illustrates one of the key benefits of using your product. For example, say something like, “Free Recorded Message Explains An Amazing Secret Of How You Can Instantly Get Up To 50% Off Your Annual Car Insurance Payments.” This may be a little extreme, but you get the point. Print your message in bold, and with all capital letters, on a plain white postcard. Use black ink only. The black ink will contrast the color brochures of the other businesses. Use a second business line, if possible, to hand the flood of calls. Include that number on the postcard. Create a short message about your product for people to listen to when they call. Then invite them to leave a message along with their name, phone number and the best time to call them. Insert the postcard with all your mailings.
Increase the number of advertisers by five or 10 as you increase the number of mailings. That way you can keep your rates down. You will still be mailing every piece of mail completely free.