Direct mail: In vogue again

April 5, 2012

In the water treatment industry, marketing fuels business.

Do you remember the days when your mailbox was chock full of “junk mail?” This is not the case anymore. Instead, our physical mailboxes are empty and nowadays it’s our inboxes that are full of “junk.”

To me, as a veteran direct marketer, this means there is great opportunity for marketers who use direct mail to target their prospects with relevant offers. A recent USA Today featured an article about the Postal Service with statistics about the kind of mail people want to receive. Relevant is in. Targeted offers to the right prospect group are in. Blanket emails are out.

In the water industry, marketing fuels the business. And, direct mail has been making a strong comeback.

Nowadays, dealers who want to reach out to homeowners face a dismal percentage of available phone numbers due to the “do not call” list. The only comprehensive way to reach potential customers is through direct mail.

Smart segmentation

Segmentation — selecting your list to determine those for whom your offer is most relevant — is a practice that separates the great marketers from the also-rans.

Not everyone is a prospect for an in-home water system. Direct mail offers dealers the opportunity to spend their marketing dollars only on the market segments that count — specifically homeowners.

Within the homeowner market, there are certain key market segments that are top responders year-in and year-out, such as new homeowners, homeowners with new babies, homeowners with children, homeowners with ailments, eco-friendly homeowners, homeowners with pets and affluent homeowners.

Dealers who are just starting a direct mail program need to select the segment that they feel will work best for their product line. Dealers should also target the group they feel they can best relate to and the ones who can best afford their product offerings.

Then the key to success is quality, consistency and messaging.

Quality counts

Quality suffers in today”s 24/7 marketing frenzy. This is especially true of the barrage of online marketing your prospects receive. Most emails demonstrate little thought to proportions of white space and copy. Garish graphics are clip-art, or worse. There are spelling errors galore and those darn links everywhere. So when your prospect receives your compelling offer in her mailbox, the quality of your creativity can really make an impact.

Make your piece something people want to hold in their hands and appreciate. When a mailbox has mostly newsprint circulars and bills in it, your direct marketing piece done on substantial stock with authentic images bathed in a silky, flood finish, which appeals to both the eye and the hands, gives your message that extra 15-20 seconds of prospect attention to really make an impact. Quality counts, more than ever.


The old adage in direct mail is that multiple mailings will increase response and enhance brand recognition. This is totally true. Kimm Seamans at Discovery Marketing knows that frequent mailings to homeowners with children in her market work. She has been focusing on that segment for several years and it has paid off.

There are also direct mail lists targeting specific market segments, such as new homeowners, which are available as a hotline program, enabling dealers to reach out to this small but significant group on a weekly basis, distributing marketing dollars over the course of a program and ensuring consistent response into their dealership. There are over 40 Culligan dealerships that mail to new homeowners on a weekly basis through a program administered by Unco Data Systems in Minntonka, Minn. There are other dealers that mail to homeowners with new babies on a monthly basis, month-after-month.

Messaging matters

Marketing Authenticity guru John Rooks argues that people crave authentic relationships. He suggests that authenticity is a powerful competitive differentiator in a world where even news takes on the quality of propaganda.

Just the other day I received a mailing from a local auto dealership regarding a car I had traded in to that same dealership 15 years ago. Besides being a waste of money on printing and postage, that mailing said to me that they didn”t remember or care about our prior relationship. Not authentic, not worthy of my response and a great example of a marketing strategy that backfired.

Direct mail, done correctly, creates the opportunity for your business to establish an authentic connection between your brand and your prospect. Make your offer sincere. Make your message feel authentic to your prospect.

Dealers who are marketing eco-friendly systems can reach out to eco-friendly homeowners with strong creative messaging that resonates with them.

Dealers who are marketing to new homeowners need to remember that the water never tastes the same in the new home as it did in their prior home and capitalize on that concept.

Dealers who market to homeowners with dogs need to remember that every dog owner will look twice at a postcard with a happy dog on the front drinking pure water.

Dealers who reach out to homeowners with children need to make sure their mailer focuses on the quality of water a parent wants to provide for their family.

Matching your message to the market segment will pay off in the quality of response you receive.

So if you”re the kind of marketer who really wants to get noticed, re-think direct mail. If all the noise in your prospect”s inbox and Facebook and Twitter pages has you fighting to get noticed, it”s time to re-invest in the tried-and-true, the reliable and measurable, the segmented and targeted, the responsive and profitable, the valuable and very “in” medium of direct mail.

Dale Filhaber is president of Dataman Group Direct Mail & Telemarketing Lists based in Boca Raton, Fla. She is also past-president of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. “DataDale,” as she is known in the industry, has been a guest lecturer at several WQA, national and regional water conferences. She has published numerous articles about marketing in the water and home industries and is the author of “Ask DataDale,” a popular blog for the direct-marketing community. She can be reached by phone at 800-771-3282 or email, [email protected].