Design Business Council
Grow your business - the old fashioned way

Many studios use EDMs to communicate with their clients, but there are some who have not given up on the old fashioned way of 'push marketing' using direct mail.

Over the years we've developed many direct mail campaigns and we know that a traditional response is about 1-2%. For large companies like supermarket chains it may be worth the effort but small businesses like design studios need a much better response.

So in a campaign involving 100 pieces of mail, two to four clients can be expected to respond and half that number to commission some work. I’ve recently seen examples where the numbers increase dramatically when the client receives more explicit content related to their needs and when the market is narrowed with specific outcomes defined.

The clue is to create objectives with a strong call to action; an example of how effective you have been for similar clients. For example if you are pitching a retail client you would present a value proposition based on increased sales from a campaign you developed and implemented for another retailer.

It is possible to get high direct mail response – it just needs a bit of work. I recently saw evidence of a six month direct mail campaign that returned $650k worth of new business.

Here's what I learned from that campaign.

Start with a small very targeted list. In this case the designer started with 20 contacts – all people they had previously worked with because this gave them the opportunity to design a targeted, personalised message.

Make it educational.

They found the best way to sell their services was to NOT sell them. They used their work as examples to educate clients on how design opened up more opportunities.

Make it personal.

They put hand written notes in the envelope with the direct mail. This included handwritten post-it notes to direct clients to specific content or ideas they might find of interest.

Follow up.

There are a few ways to do this. Firstly they enclosed a response form and asked for feedback and other contacts they could send the educational piece to. They also published the same content on Linkedin and emailed clients about the article. The clients who liked the Linkedin article were immediately contacted by phone to set up a ‘chat over a cup of coffee’. Not a hard sell, just a get together.

Repetition worked best. Each month for six months the clients were sent a new direct mail piece. All time and costs were tracked and measured against the results.

Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed a series of business tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.