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Direct Mail Secrets: The power of an
effective direct mail campaign

Shhhhh. I've got a secret!

Did you know that even though humans can learn a number of different ways, the most effective way is through repetition? Think about how you learned your multiplication tables. Or better yet, think about advertisements. Do we ever hear or see an advertisement just once?

Art Evans of Photo Data Research says he discovered that mailing the same piece to the same prospective customer list three times achieves extremely successful results – even the second and third time around.

“I learned to pace these mailings at least one month apart,” Evans said. “More often than you think, a recipient who didn't respond the first time will respond to the second or third mailing.”

Direct mail is more than a matter of repetition. According to Kevin Nolan, president of Nolan Painting and member of the PDCA residential council, direct mail is a huge component of his business.

“We've done direct mail for the past four years, with great success,” adds Nolan. “I can say that because without direct mail we would have had virtually no business this past winter.”

Nolan recommends the following for a successful direct mail campaign:

  • Create a budget before starting. Don't wait to launch a direct mail campaign until you're slow because the lag time will kill your business. The trick is to always have a warm list, even when you're busy.
  • Start by mailing to your current customers at least four times a year. The mailing should ask them to tell their friends about your services. “We offer a 10 percent discount during January and February, so we ask our customers to help spread the word that winter is the best time to get interior work done,” says Nolan.
  • Next, mail to homes in neighborhoods where you're currently working. You can purchase a CD-ROM list of residencies by zip code from Info-USA or Select Phone at office stores like Staples.
  • Contact a list company and select a demographic you wish to reach. We decided to choose homes in the $250,000 range. Be sure to choose a number that you can afford to mail at least three or four times a year. For example, we mail to 12,000 names four or five times a year.
  • The first few mailings will likely yield poor results -- so don't get discouraged. The results will gradually increase and you'll soon have a response rate of more than one or two percent (which is the norm in direct mail campaigns).
  • Mail postcards because they're easy to read and inexpensive to mail. We use an oversized postcard with our logo on one side and a message on the other.
  • Use a print shop or mail house to do the mailing. This way, mailings are done on a regular schedule, no matter how busy you get. Our print shop prints, labels them and mails the postcards all in one shot.
  • Mail on Thursday so the piece will arrive on Saturday – the best time for residential customers to read and react to your mailing.
  • Have a constantly changing – but simple – message. Too much copy is hard to read and customers will throw it away without a glance. In addition, list services, special offers and other significant items that customers might be interested in.

According to Nolan, implementation is the key, followed by repetition, repetition, repetition!

“We mail about 75,000 pieces a year and because of that, we kept 35 painters busy all winter long,” he said. “Thank goodness for direct mail.”

*Some portions of this article originally appeared in PWC's “One Man's Direct Mail” by Kevin Nolan.

This article provided courtesy of THE FLOOD COMPANY,  serving the painting industry for over 150 years. 
They are manufacturers of high quality wood finishing products, preservatives, paint additives and more!

For more information on their products and informative articles, visit their website at

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