Direct Mail and Marketing Tips

 

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blue-orange

How to Create Direct Mail That Stands Out

How can you send mail that builds trust, delivers your intended message and grabs attention? Is there a formula for success when it comes to winning with direct mail marketing? We think so! Of course, there are other factors involved in a successful campaign, like mailing to the right target audience and having a product or service that is worth investing in. Assuming you’ve got those things covered, how can you create mail that stands out?

Postcards That Punch

You can be as creative as you like with a postcard design, but generally, you can pack a lot of punch into a postcard campaign. They are low-cost but can generate a high ROI due to their attention-grabbing capabilities. You can use these in between bigger sends; for example, if you post catalogs then postcards in-between catalog sends could keep customers interested.

Personalization applies to postcards as well.  This can include the text, like the name of the recipient, and in some cases the image or offer used. If you’re sending offers to previous customers this might include something different to what you would send to new potential customers. You can personalize many aspects of postcards.

Be Bold

We have already learned the formula for success is 70% list, 20% offer, and 10% creative.  So, if we have the right list and the right offer, how do we use a creative to grab attention and close the deal?

Bold colors, bold images, bold words. Think bold if you want to be heard. It’s no good sending out a piece of mail that looks like every other piece. So, forget what you already know about direct mail and re-define the space for yourself. The first rule to standing out is not to be afraid to stand out in the first place! This means no holding back during the creative process.

To use a postcard as an example, think of it as a little (or little giant) billboard in the mail.  The advantage to a postcard is that you don’t need an open to get an impression. The person receiving your postcard will see your message – we already know that.  So, make it stand out from the crowd. Use personalization, use color in unique ways, use an image that grabs attention and begs for a spot on the fridge. Now that is the gift that keeps on giving.

Snap them Back

Snap-packs stand out for a different reason to postcards. They look like official letters from places of authority. With a snap-pack, you have limited space to work with. You need to be direct and to the point.  Chatty just will not work with this format. It will look like an official document (PIN number, rebate, contest notification, …) on the outside. You will probably want to continue with that theme on the inside – official: direct and to the point.

You’re almost guaranteed opens so you’ve covered that first difficult step. Once opened, you need to generate a response through wording and content that still engages. Don’t just connect, make the recipient take action.  We need an offer so compelling people have to respond. Make the offer so good that they will have regrets for weeks if they don’t respond.

Crystal Clear

A message that is simple but absolutely crystal clear will win. Use headlines and subtitles when necessary. Bullet point to reduce wording (for example on postcards). Don’t confuse the receiver in any way, use a strong call-to-action that is EASY to action. (take action on).

Extreme Messages

So even though your message needs to be crystal clear, that doesn’t mean it can’t be EXTREME! Extreme messages get attention. However, you must deliver on that message otherwise you lose trust and value. In the online world, it’s known as ‘click bait’ and often extreme headlines or video titles do not deliver on their promises. This only annoys the receiver and as we said, breaks trust. An example of an extreme message could be the following: ‘Change Your Life Today’. If your product or service is genuinely life-changing, then this could work really well. If it would be underwhelming in reality, then you wouldn’t go for this technique.

Headings should be concrete, and benefit-oriented.

  • Be Debt Free in 30 Days
  • Cut Your Mortgage Payments in Half
  • Experience the Best Vacation of Your Life – For Free

Sometimes the use of numbers, and concrete concepts help with visualization and credibility.

If you have tried sending mail in the past that seems to follow the rules above but hasn’t resulted in any success get in touch. We have mailing lists that might suit your product/service better and can offer expert advice when it comes to design, mail type, and deliverability. Creative design is easier said than done, so let our experts guide you if this isn’t your forte.

Right now, we’re offering YOU a FREE, no obligation, direct mail assessment. Our DM experts will spend up to 2 hours consulting with you, critiquing your current DM piece (message, offer, response device), your target audience, and suggest ideas for even more powerful future campaigns. ($280 value) Contact us today on our toll-free number.

strategy

New to Direct Mail Marketing? Here are 5 Things You Need to Know

Many businesses are reading about new digital trends and how to embrace the digital world for the first time. Many other organizations are so accustomed to the digital space that this isn’t even needed anymore. They are no longer ‘new’ to digital marketing but well established in their approach to this. So, it’s ironic really, that here we are talking about being new to something that was happening long before the digital world even existed. The thing is, direct marketing is actually a less-crowded place for marketers to be. It’s a medium that actually converts better for marketers, compared to digital methods, when done correctly.

On that note, you might be surprised to learn these five things about direct mail marketing.

Mail is More Memorable

57% of people say they are most likely to remember a message by mail. With digital ads and promotional messages, as regular smartphone users we see so much information through our screens it’s extremely difficult to remember messages from businesses. A memorable digital message has to work 10 times harder than a direct mail message. It’s tangible, it feels more real and as a result, it’s better remembered.

Mail is Authority

Many people still prefer to receive bills and statements through the post because it gives them something physical to deal with. This connection between physical mail and authority carries over into promotional mail too. However, in the case of a branded offer, it’s a different type of authority that comes across; one of trust.

Mail Hangs Around Longer

On average, advertising mail is kept for 17 days before being disposed of. When you think about this, it’s huge for a marketer! Yes, in some cases that mail might get pushed aside and not looked at, but for others, it’s something that might sit openly on the counter side, kitchen table, pin board or even on the fridge. Compare this to a digital ad and it’s something that’s seen for a few seconds. 51% of email actually gets deleted after just two seconds. Even if a digital ad is repeatedly shown to a user, it’s not always there in the same way.

Mail Drives Digital Action

It’s a common misconception that if you require a digital action (email lead, website sale, etc,.) that direct mail will not deliver the same results as a digital funnel. 92% of people will be driven online after receiving a form of direct mail.

If you’re still skeptical about the power of direct mail and you’d like to ask some specific questions, please feel free to contact one of our team. We can guide you through every step and even look after all elements of the process; providing you with a contact list and assisting with design work for promotional postcards and more.

happy-easter

Add a Little Promotional Sprinkle this Easter

You don’t have to sell chocolate to add a sprinkle of Easter into your promotions this April. It’s beneficial to get involved with the holidays even if it’s just for fun. Generally, people are very receptive to holiday-themed promotions because most of us celebrate and embrace them. Easter is a happy time, a holiday of bright color and light-hearted fun. This can be reflected in your marketing communications and even across your website if you like to go the extra mile.

Here are some simple ways to get noticed this Easter:

Throw an Easter Sale

It’s very common to use Easter as a promotional sale. If you can afford to and it works for your margins, perhaps an enticing Easter discount could tempt more customers your way this holiday. Now, just because other brands and businesses are doing it doesn’t mean you should too. However, unfortunately, in this very consumer-led world, people have come to expect it. If a competitor is having a sale and you are not, this could be damaging unless you offer something even better.

Offer Easter Freebies

This is another example that leads off an incentive. If you have a physical store you could offer Easter freebies like free chocolate with every purchase or Easter balloons for your younger customers. If your B2B, why not give something else of value this Easter. It doesn’t have to be directly related to the holiday itself, the holiday is just an excuse, a tool in your toolbox this April.

Even something as simple as ‘Free Shipping this Easter’ is worth shouting about.

Easter sweepstakes [or contests] are also very popular and a nice way to put your business on the map.

Splash Your Socials with Easter

Holidays, trends and national themes are really good ways to get involved at a social level. Coming up with new social media content that really engages your intended audience can be hard work. Keeping it fresh is even harder. For B2C, social media is purely fun. No one heads on to Instagram to be sold too. You should always aim to have 80% of your social media content that is there just to entertain or inform. Easter provides an opportunity to do this. For example, you could share a Facebook poll and have people vote their favorite Easter egg.

Try a game, like the Easter egg hunt.  How is this useful? It gets people talking and posting on content that has come from your brand. It builds top of the mind brand name awareness and it keeps your followers interested.

Say It with a Postcard

Say ‘Happy Easter’ to your customers with a special postcard. Use this chance to include a reminder about your service or product and why it’s still number 1! The receiver gets a nice Easter postcard which adds a personal touch and along with that, they’re reminded of your business offerings.

[What if you use variable data to put a specific number on each Easter egg postcard.  Then, have the customer bring it in to see what prize is in their egg.  They could check online as well, though you would have to build a portal for that – Zairmail can help.]

Zairmail provides everything you need to get your postcard campaign in the basket of your ideal customers. Bet they will love theEasterr treat! Get in touch today.

marketing-message

What Makes a Marketing Message Stick?

With consumers constantly inundated with advertising and promotions, it’s a battle to deliver a powerful message that is well remembered. Is there an art to this or is it largely luck? Well.. you probably guessed it. Like everything in marketing, it’s about your creative thought-process behind that message. Whether it’s a TV jingle that you just can’t get out of your head or a slogan that you’d recognize a mile off, they’ve all been designed to evoke emotion.

Emotion Is the Key

We remember messages by an emotional recall. The exact emotion could be anything, as long as it activates that emotion long after the receiver has engaged with that content.

Here are two examples:

  • A radio advert for a new local cleaning service might have a theme tune that is so silly it becomes humorous. This creates an emotional response because as you listen, you might laugh at the lyrics or sing-along because it’s so outrageously silly.
  • A postcard sharing a new local charity helping animals in need might have such a strong visual that it creates empathy in the form of compassion, or even sadness, that in turn means we don’t forget that message for the rest of the day, week or month.

Some messages are designed to make the receiver take action there and then (like the charity postcard). Other messages, like a TV or radio advert with a memorable jingle, are also created to build brand awareness and association for future needs. When you hear a radio advert for home insurance it’s unlikely you will need to renew your insurance around that time. However, if you can recall the song and the name of the business, it becomes etched in your memory for that point at which you are looking for a new home insurance providers.

Humor, happiness, excitement, outrage, sadness, compassion. Generally, it doesn’t matter what type of emotional response a receiver has, as long as it’s not a neutral one.

No response = no impact.
But it is worth noting that if your message generates outrage or sadness that this is your intended response. This type of response would only work for select businesses, like non-profits or political campaigns.

You should initially try to select an approach which you feel connects best ‘for that specific audience’.  It all starts with identifying the specific audience and trying to understand which appeal will really connect (disrupt) them.

When Length Matters

It’s simply not true to use a blanket statement like ‘short and snappy messages are always better’. This completely depends on the message itself (the complexity of the issue) and the media being used. When running a direct mail postcard campaign, a short hard-hitting message is very effective. With a postcard you want to say as much as you can with very few words so short, snappy and packing punch is the way to go.
If you sell something a little more complex, although you still don’t want to overwhelm receivers with too much information, you also don’t want to neglect key selling points.

Finally, ask yourself, is your message even worth remembering? What’s so great about it? What makes it different? The message itself is still very important. Are you simply selling local cleaning services or are you RE-DEFINING domestic cleaning in family households?

CTA

The Call-to-Action in Direct Mail Marketing – Are you Winning?

The call-to-action (CTA) is one of the most important elements of any promotion. It doesn’t matter if it’s an online or offline promotion, without a call-to-action your audience is left with no direction on what do to next. With offline direct mail marketing, CTA’s aren’t about just ‘clicking here’ and taking action in this way, but they are still about direct actions and direct results.

The Rules of a CTA

To start, ask yourself, what do you need customers to do first? If you’re in real estate and your end goal is to close that sale, how does that process start? Possibly it’s with a phone call. Your CTA would, therefore, need to be something like ‘Call Us Now’ followed by a phone number. In this example, the CTA could be even more enticing, so read on to find out how to take this further. Remember this key rule for a CTA: a CTA should be big, bold and explicitly clear!

Eye-catching creative isn’t enough if it fails to deliver responses via a strong call-to-action. It might stand out amongst other mail and it might well be read, but you must make it clear what the receiver should do next. They won’t take the time, or expend the energy, to discover this on their own, it needs to be explicitly clear.

So, step one is to ask what you want customers to do first. What action do you desire from them? The second part is to ask yourself, what benefit am I offering them? Finally, are you driving an incentive to make them take that action? Why should they take that action?

The incentive is called the “offer”.  The offer is the second most important piece of direct response (mail, tv, …other) campaign.  The CTA is an explicit request to take advantage of the offer.

The formula for successful direct response is 70/20/10 – 70% list, 20% offer, 10% creative.

We know that when we get the right offer, in front of the right audience, good things happen.

Creative helps us break through the clutter (get noticed or interrupt).  The offer is what compels people to respond. The offer needs to be compelling enough that no one in their right mind would ever be able to say no – though we still need to make money.  We can look at the first promotion as acquisition cost if it leads to regular ongoing orders (lifetime customer value).

The offer should be non-threatening or low perceived risk.  We also need to reduce/remove any barriers. You see how people say free, no obligation, complete money-back guarantee, free signup, not credit card required…?  These are all designed to reduce barriers for responders.

Enticing CTA’s

You could really make your CTA’s enticing, rather than the standard ‘Call us Now’ or ‘Visit our Website’. Add to this with powerful phrases such as ‘40% off when you call us today’. [This is the offer + CTA] You can add time-sensitive incentives or just give them a direct message such as ‘Call now for an exclusive quote’. If you don’t have the capacity to take calls, or this isn’t your desired action, then you might want to focus on driving website visits. This might seem like a difficult task without ‘click here’ buttons that you would find on a digital promotion. However, you can strategically position your web address with a CTA such as, ‘Visit our website for 20% off new sales!’.

Design is Key

The design of the CTA is also incredibly important and should be taken into consideration along with the overall design of the promotion (whether that’s a postcard, flyer or snap pack). Think about the different elements of the design, from the color of the CTA; does it pop against the rest of the design? The position of the CTA; could you place it higher on the design rather than at the end? Finally, think about the size of the CTA. You want it large enough to be seen, but not too dominating that the key message/benefits you’re trying to convey from the promotion get lost.

If you’re new to direct mail you could benefit from a FREE direct mail design session with one of our design team members here at Zairmail. We have everything you need to get your campaign off the ground, including targeted direct mail lists and free direct mail sample kits.

We have already helped 100’s of customers enhance their direct response programs and supercharge returns.  Can you afford not to produce the same results for your business?  Click here to schedule a free consultation and start driving greater business growth now!

<< Click Here – Grow Your Sales >>

seo

What’s the Latest in On-Page SEO 2019?

Something no business can ignore is SEO or search engine optimization. SEO could be incorporated into a strong marketing strategy to support both online and offline marketing efforts. The challenge with SEO is that it’s constantly changing, sometimes those changes have a huge impact on the way you operate.

Google could drop a new algorithm update at any time and it can send even the top-performing websites into a downward spiral of confusion. It can feel a bit like trying to fix a house after a hurricane. On top of this, everyone seems to have a slightly different understanding of what they need to do to increase optimization and what they shouldn’t be doing.

SEO can be broken down into two main parts. The first part is ‘on-page SEO’ and the second part (you guessed it) is off-page SEO. You need to do both of these well, to stand any chance of ranking. Some SEO beliefs are just so outdated that now they are merely a myth. Other things you once considered not that important, are having the biggest impact on your rankings. What’s the latest in on-page SEO for 2019? Where does it stand today?

What is On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO is all about how your website is built, from user-experience down to how search engines find and locate your web pages. Search engines use bots to crawl your website. If your website isn’t allowing this to happen, Google can’t crawl it correctly. This gets a little bit techy, so ask your web developer to handle this part. The most important thing to remember is that bots don’t have eyes. You will first need to identify the keywords that you want to rank well for and then design keyword rich text for your pages. When it comes to keywords, just write it first for user-experience. A keyword rich page still needs to read well and ‘stuffing’ to try and please Google will just result in penalties.

User-Experience

A pretty website just won’t cut it. You could have the best branding and the most appealing visual content ever, but if the actual usability of your website doesn’t flow well, it’s game over. When we talk about user-experience we’re referring to these areas:

Do you have clear call-to-action across your website for customers?
Is your content accessible? Does it meet the web content accessibility guidelines?
Is the mobile version of your website fully responsive? Does the mobile version work just as well if not better than the desktop version? Google index mobile-first and have done so since 2018. The page load speed of your mobile website should, therefore, be top notch.
Is your website secured with an SSL certificate?
Do you offer a range of content types on your website? Video, images, and text.
Is your content sharable? Add social sharing buttons to make this easier.
Is your content really good? If it’s just ‘average’ this is where you’re going wrong. Make your website the most valuable source of information in your niche.
Title tags and meta descriptions are still important. It’s the first thing someone will see on Google.

Ultimately you need to think about what a user is searching and what answer they are actually looking for. How can you answer their search query in the simplest way? This doesn’t always mean having visitors land straight on a sales page. You might offer advice, tips and other support on your website which are equally valuable when it comes to ranking content.

mail

Why is Direct Mail Marketing So Powerful?

We’re in a digital age. So much so that the digital world rules our day; from the minute we are called to life by our smartphone alarms, to the minute we close our eyes and a background app is monitoring our sleep! When you really stop and think about just how integrated technology is in our daily lives… it’s terrifying! Yet it’s also completely normal and accepted.

As business owners and marketers, the digital space gives us so much opportunity that we just didn’t have 10 years ago. It gives us access to people in a completely new way and with that comes immense amounts of valuable data.

The problem is, that businesses are so focused on the next big digital move that they often neglect more traditional methods of marketing that are still, if not more, valuable today. Direct mail marketing cuts through the digital noise and stands out in a world of screens. Yes, offline mail could well direct the customer to a website or online platform, but it does so in a more authentic way.

Physical Mail Builds Trust

Once upon a time, online shopping was a risky business. People didn’t know what or who was authentic online and which businesses they could trust. Today we know that online shopping and online communications are safe and we know what to look for as consumers. The thing is, there is so much spam online and that many advertisements, emails, and websites that it’s difficult to build trust when you’re trying to reach brand new customers. Recently there have also been huge issues with social media exploiting user data, again eroding online trust. As a result, trust is actually on the decline, unless you’re a huge brand with a huge reputation. Even creating a positive brand awareness can be a challenge. This is where direct mail could really help you out.

“76% of the consumers trust direct mail when it comes to purchasing decisions,” but why is this?

Well, the answer is quite simple, people trust direct mail because they are receiving something tangible and real. It’s usually highly targeted for local businesses and it’s often much more personal. If we need to reach a dentist in New Jersey who purchased a Ford in the last six months, we can find that list. This is not so much the case with online. Even with all that data, we still can’t target users at that level of detail.

Another thing to consider is the potential for mail to hang around a while, as a reminder. Customers might keep a flyer on their counter side, on a table top or in a pile of papers to look at later. Online, when a browser, website or email is closed, so is that advertisement… until it maybe appears again, if and when it does.

It’s Lighter on the Brain

We know what you’re thinking… how can something be lighter on the brain and how can we know that? Well, a fantastic Canadian neuromarketing firm carried out a study which showed that it takes 21% less cognitive effort to process direct mail compared to digital media! They concluded that direct mail was easier to digest and easier to remember.

Online tools such as email are very good at building rapport once you have a relationship.  However, because of the spam effect, they are not very effective when prospecting for new customers. In addition, search engine marketing works well when customers are looking for a product or service.  However, when we want to reach out to them with a new offer, especially something they might not have otherwise considered (or didn’t even know they needed), direct mail is better at getting the job done.

Of course, we’re not saying that online advertising isn’t valuable. It 100% is a crucial part of any marketing strategy in 2019. We’re just asking you to consider older forms of marketing that still carry a lot of trust for the majority of consumers.

SWOT

New Opportunities for Growth

When you’ve reflected on your business performance from the previous year, done the math and looked for patterns in your finances, you’re ready to focus on new opportunities for growth. These are the simplest steps to successful strategic planning and we’re going to share a very easy tool that can help you with this area.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis sounds like something you learn in business school…. And it is! However, it’s one of the simplest and earliest things you learn, so don’t be scared off by the fancy name.

SWOT stands for ‘Strengths’ ‘Weaknesses’, ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Threats’.
The SWOT analysis simply asks you to think about each of those things. You can do this to look at your business overall, or you can carry out a SWOT analysis for a specific project idea to assess the pros and cons of that potential venture.

The best way to do a SWOT analysis is in a grid form:
Below we have inserted some examples based on an independent coffee shop business.

SWOT

Strengths:

In the strengths box, think about what your company does better than anyone else. What gives you a competitive advantage? Which areas are you really confident in? These are positive things that are happening internally.

E.g, A coffee shop with a fantastic reputation for customer service, with top ratings on all popular review sites.

Weaknesses:

Which areas do you need to improve on? Which internal issues are impacting your business negatively and causing a present issue?

E.g, The coffee shop does not get a lot of shop foot traffic because of the current location and relies heavily on word-of-mouth. It’s quite hidden and this can be difficult to attract new customers in the local town.

Opportunities:

What is happening around your business that could open up doors? These are external things that might be happening in the market to allow your business a new avenue.

E.g An opportunity to expand offering and sell a wider variety of coffee because the coffee market is currently continuing to grow and diversify.

Threats:

Here you need to think about things that could happen in the future that might cause a problem. These are things that haven’t yet occurred but might be an issue. Again these are external issues.

E.g, Dairy and coffee costs could increase in the future eating into margins.

 

At surface value, the SWOT analysis doesn’t help you prioritize these things, but we shouldn’t stop here. It’s crucial to prioritize the top 3-4 items within each quadrant. Rank your strengths and weaknesses in terms of importance. You will need to give this some thought, but by ranking them the SWOT gives you a clearer picture of what’s going on.

Keep in mind that there are limitations of the SWOT analysis. It can’t be used for in-depth issues and it doesn’t help you prioritize things. It’s great for identifying problems but it doesn’t offer any solutions. The model doesn’t assist you with thinking about ways to overcome weaknesses or protect your business against threats. It’s purely just a starting place and although it seems simple, it forces you to focus on each area and then look at the bigger picture taking in to account each quarter.

strategic-planning

Strategic Planning – Looking for Patterns in Your Finances

When you’ve got all of your financial information in front of you, it can feel overwhelming. Especially when it comes to business finances. If you followed our last guide ‘Doing the Math’ you should now have a much clearer overview of your financial performance in the previous year and roughly why it performed this way. The next stage is to look for patterns within the numbers that can serve as clues for planning.

Start with the Customer

A good place to start is by sorting all of the orders by the customer. If you sell fast-moving items such as food or fashion, it will be better to approach this slightly differently. For fast-moving items look at the largest order values or total repeat orders for the top percentile, middle percentile, and bottom percentile. If you have customers who use your business as an ongoing service, or something that fits this category closely, sort customers from largest to smallest.
It doesn’t really matter how you do this, the end goal is the same. You want to figure out who your biggest customers are; whether that’s another company for a B2B or the biggest category of individuals customers for a B2C organization.

When you carry out this task, be mindful that things might not always be as they seem. Large customers might have been in a position to negotiate additional discounts. Small customers might actually contribute more to the bottom line. This is why it’s so important to carry out a financial assessment rather than make assumptions.

The Pareto Principle

You might find the ‘pareto principle’ to be true in your own stats. This is when roughly 80% of your sales are generated by just 20% of your customers. The higher that percentage (80%) the riskier it becomes for your business. You know the phrase ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’; this couldn’t be truer when it comes to customers/clients. Of course, there are some industries where this can’t be avoided due to a small number of prospective customers. However, in cases where this is not true, try and nurture smaller customers and find new ones to reduce your overall reliance on the ‘whales’.

Answer these questions:

  • Are specific customers or industries (B2B) more responsive to your business compared to others?
  • Does this offer you any clues on where to find future customers?

We can now drill down further and turn our attention to look at specific orders. So rather than focusing on the customers now, it’s time to look at the products or services that were ordered the most and the least.

Answer these questions:

  • What is the average order size?
  • Which is the most popular and least popular item/service to be ordered?
  • Is there anything you can do to increase the average order size? Can you increase your upselling efforts?
  • Why are certain products selling better than others?
  • Can you make any changes to improve the appeal of the least popular items?

If you’ve successfully carried out part one, part two and now the third part explained in this article, you should have a solid foundation for a plan to move forward. In the next installment, we will show you how to look for new opportunities for growth.

strategic-planning

Strategic Planning – Step Two… Doing the Math

If you read our first installment of strategic planning for business owners, by now you have hopefully carried out the first step; reviewing and asking ‘why’ things happened the way they did. Now it’s time to focus on really understanding the operations of the company. This is the next logical step after we’ve taken the time to reflect on the root cause behind wins and losses.

One powerful way to this is to look at the numbers. When it comes to handling and analyzing the business finances most of us run in the opposite direction! Looking at the numbers means focusing on the math, and even for business people, math can feel unfamiliar or even intimidating. The good news is, the math required for this is very simple. So don’t panic! We’re not suggesting any crazy algebra here. The best approach is to use simple formulas on a spreadsheet, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. We promise you, taking the time to do this step will make all the difference.

Start With Sales

At this point, we’re still looking back on historical data and assessing the performance of the previous year. We need that sound foundation of understanding in order to build a stronger strategy for the year ahead. Start by looking at the sales from the previous year. How did you do? How did it compare to the years before that? If you do this exercise consistently every year, you start to build up a picture of how your strategy and implementation had a direct impact on sales. Or where the strategy fell down, where you faced obstacles. Just answer these questions:

  • Are the number up, down or about the same?
  • Can you see any high-level trends developing over time?
  • Is there a clear upward growth, or do you need to intervene somewhere and correct the path?

Correction is different from improvement. If things are going well, improvement is necessary just to take things up another level. Correction is needed if the figures are down or you noticed a negative trend occurs.

Break It Down

Break this down further and start to look at the sales on a monthly or even weekly basis. Only move on to this stage after you’ve looked at the yearly figures. There’s little point overwhelming yourself with lots of data straight-away. If you don’t understand something, really try to figure it out before moving on. Answer these questions:

Are there specific times in the year when you receive more orders?
If yes, is this due to overall industry trends or is it associated with specific promotional campaigns you ran?

If you notice drops in sales over certain times of the year and these are due to the industry you’re in, this will have implications for cash flow. Answer these questions:

  • Do you need to plan for slower times and set aside money to manage cash flow?
  • Are there special promotions you can run to boost demand during those slack periods?
  • Can you replicate successful campaigns from last year?

At the very least, just understanding the seasonal flow of our business, can help us be better prepared. In the next series of strategic planning tips, we will look at the patterns within the numbers and how to complete the financial assessment before moving on.

 

 

About the Author

Wilson Zehr is a Direct Mail Leader, Direct Marketing Specialist, and CEO of Cendix (www.cendix.com), the leading provider of Web-to-print solutions that increase sales both online and offline. He is also the founder of Zairmail (www.zairmail.com), the company responsible for many "industry firsts" in direct mail.

 

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