by Thad Eckhoff, Owner of Apex Services and Co-Founder of the Pressure Washing Resource Association
(From Issue 23/March 2014 of eClean Magazine)
If you’re in the residential services game, you spend a lot of time thinking about ways to get the phone to ring. You want to continually attract new clients while nurturing a profitable relationship with the ones you already service. It’s a never-ending battle against attrition to continue to grow (or even maintain) your business. You have to spend your marketing dollars wisely, and with a seemingly endless array of avenues to spend your company’s lifeblood, the choices can seem overwhelming.
Every time you turn around a new company is lining up to part you from your hard-earned cash and promising to be the solution to all your advertising issues. But I’m a firm believer in the tried-and-true.
The first recorded direct mail campaign was launched in 1835, and although that first attempt wasn’t particularly successful, the importance of repetition began to manifest itself. These days everyone, from the local pizza parlor or fitness club to regional car dealerships to Google, is utilizing direct mail as an effective sales tool. The options can seem overwhelming.
You probably have several questions. Where do I start? Do I get a bulk mail permit? Which one? Do I have to buy a list? Where from? What demographics do I send to? Do I use a mailing house or try to do it myself? What about the all-in-one services who promise to do it all?
The process has gotten simpler for many in the last couple of years. The newest exciting twist in the direct mail world is the United States Postal Service’s “Every Door Direct Mail” program, commonly referred to as EDDM. It is a relatively low-cost method of getting your marketing material into the hands of potential new customers but the trade off is that you or someone who works for you has to do the initial preparation for mailing.
Instead of buying or compiling mailing lists, the Every Door Direct Mail program allows you to send oversized postcards or brochures to individual carrier routes. You can mail to residential only, or choose to include businesses. No labels are needed because each piece is addressed to “Postal Customer”.
Let me repeat that. No rented lists. No expensive permits.
You know what neighborhoods your target market lives in and now you can target them directly at a relatively low cost. Just carpet bomb the whole subdivision with your message for one low price.
There are other advantages besides the cost. If you research demographics and rent a list you are typically sending to scattered houses in a rather large area. With EDDM you can be sure to hit every house within that coveted “golf course/lake home/all two story vinyl/whatever your perfect demographic is” neighborhood. This means that you are working in a specific, centralized area. This cuts down on travel time and expenses, true, but the biggest advantage is that the more you work in a particular neighborhood the more work you will get in that neighborhood. Every time a homeowner sees your truck drive by or sees your company working at one of her neighbor’s houses she is one step closer to calling you.
Please note- You cannot send regular 4X6 postcards using Every Door Direct Mail. Each piece will have to conform to the postal service’s EDDM sizes.
Repeat- you cannot send dinky, insignificant, ignorable postcards.
That is a good thing.
Your local post office has a handy free visual reference guide that shows you whether your mailer conforms to EDDM standards but the most common sizes used are 6.5” x 9”, 8.5” x 11” (the size of a full sheet of paper), and a 4.25” x 14” tri-fold menu. For the typical cleaning business you will have to choose between the lower-priced 6.5” x 9” and the visual impact of the 8.5” x 11”. The smaller one will definitely be larger than most of your prospective customer’s mail and be easily noticeable (unless someone else is sending the same sized card!) but the larger is most commonly wrapped around the mail bundle by the carrier for a marketing message that cannot be ignored!
To sum that up- you can send out an oversized, visually arresting marketing piece to entire neighborhoods for less than half the price of a first class stamp.
What’s not to like?
Concerning the design of the card itself- resist the urge to try to cram too much information into that relatively large expanse of marketing real estate. A large, attractive, well-designed card is going to get your prospect’s attention. The headline needs to make them aware of a problem that they have regarding their property and your call to action needs to motivate them to contact you to solve that problem- IMMEDIATELY!
Invariably, when the topic of EDDM comes up in a group setting I always hear at least one “Direct mail doesn’t work in my market.”
Really? Just flat out doesn’t work?
What about gravity? Does gravity work in your market? Is the sky blue in your market? Does the rain fall up there?
Here’s the deal. Multi-million dollar companies… multi-billion dollar companies don’t spend the money they spend on direct mail because it doesn’t work. They do it right and make it profitable. Direct mail is not their only source of advertising, but then it shouldn’t be yours, either.
So when someone says that it doesn’t work in their market I have to ask the question, “What are you doing wrong?” You see, there are a few different ways that you can screw it up. Is your homemade card just butt ugly? Microsoft Paint is awesome and all, but this is 2014 and only your mom thinks it looks good. Or maybe she’s just humoring you. Get it professionally designed. I’ve heard time and time again from the homeowner who called well after a campaign expired, “I saved your mailer until now. It was just too nice to throw away.”
It’s a pretty card but still no one called? Maybe your message is vague. Maybe your call to action doesn’t call your prospect to action. When browsing the forums or Facebook groups I see a lot of blue cards with a picture of a generic house with a giant headline that says “PRESSURE WARSHING!!!” and an ego gratifying company logo that probably is a cartoon guy with a wand. The other contractors think it looks good and ask where you got it but guess what? The homeowner probably doesn’t care. It’s not their house. It’s not their logo. It’s not their problem and it goes in their trash.
The most common reason that contractors get turned off of direct mail in general and EDDM in particular is that they fail to follow the infallible rule of most marketing and direct mail in particular – Repetition is KEY. If you don’t have the time, resources, and will to mailing to the same houses at least four times then DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME AND MONEY. There have been plenty of studies showing that consumers need a certain number of impressions before they are comfortable with any brand. Each successive “touch” builds exponentially and is key to their calling you for a quote.
Another thing to consider is that you need to do your due diligence in testing what message and style of delivery is most effective in your area. If you live in Podunk, Iowa (or Mississippi) your target market is probably not going to react the same way to any given marketing piece that works in Boston or Seattle. You need to sell to your prospective client on their wavelength and that will vary by location and culture.
So now that you know many of the pitfalls to avoid and you’re ready to get your feet wet with Every Door Direct Mail, head over to the USPS website and get the process started. You will need to apply for a CRID number, which takes a couple of days, and in the meantime you can use their map tools to check out which carrier routes you would like to hit. You can get info such as home value, income, and number of residences and businesses. You will need to print a couple of forms and bundle your cards with the facing slip that you downloaded but all in all it’s a piece of cake and the post office website walks you through it. Now get busy and blast them all!
Thad Eckhoff of Apex Services and the Pressure Washing Resource Association has been using direct mail extensively for almost 15 years. All views and strongly worded opinions are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Eclean magazine, its owners, or affiliates. Please direct any angry emails to him directly at email@example.com.
Thad is also the man behind the biggest pressure washing and window cleaning event of the year, the 2015 Pressure Washing and Window Cleaning Convention and Trade Show, August 7-8 in Washington, D.C. Register below to save. To learn more about the event, visit www.theHugeConvention.com.