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Hiring Direct Mail for the Holidays: 2020 Edition

We have been thinking about an article called, “Hiring for the Holidays? Don’t Forget Direct Mail!” that we wrote for our partners over at Virid a couple years ago.

While the original premise still holds true – hiring direct mail for the holidays is a great way to boost your holiday sales and end the year on a great note – we understand that budgets for hiring people and marketing campaigns may be limited this year.

Brick-and-mortar stores have been hit the hardest, and may not be getting ready to hire additional employees like they usually do. They may face capacity restrictions that prevent them from doing so, decreased sales resulting in less money for hiring, or both.

Online retailers have also been impacted in similar ways, even those without physical storefronts. The supply chain for many businesses has been disrupted by the pandemic.

In either case, there are ways to leverage cost-effective direct mail campaigns to try to make up sales now, so you are in a better position to hire people or larger direct mail campaigns after the holidays.

Here are some tips for hiring direct mail to deliver cost-effective marketing messages this holiday season:

Holiday Marketing Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Stores

  1. Keep people updated on how you are operating.

Your operations may continue to change throughout the holiday season. Sending a postcard or other piece of direct mail with general information about your business and a URL for a dynamic landing page that you are able to update on the fly is a great way to keep people informed.

On the postcard, make sure you include information about things like where you are located, what your website and phone number are, and what your store hours are. If you are in a position where you can offer discounts, be sure to include one on the postcard.

Some examples might include free or discounted shipping, a percentage off a large order, etc. The goal of the discount here is to encourage people to buy from you and spend more money when they do so.

On the landing page, it is important to make sure that this page is updated at all times. If your store hours change or how people can order from you and/or receive their purchase, it is important to lay everything out on this page.

  1. Partner with other businesses.

If you are a small local business, see if you can partner with other businesses around you to send messages together and encourage people to shop local and support your community.

You might know other business owners personally, or you can reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce for a directory or to see if they have any ideas for getting everyone’s messages together.

In this example, you might consider teaming up for a postcard or other mailing that you can all share messages on and split the cost.

We worked with businesses in Lewiston, NY in the past to produce a mailing called “Around Town,” where 10-12 businesses joined together to purchase ad space on a self-mailer that was mailed to everyone in the immediate area.

This program allowed many businesses to try direct mail for the first time, in a way that was less cost-prohibitive than their own separate mailing. Once the value of direct mail was proven, the businesses may have considered expanding to their own solo campaigns.

  1. Encourage people to shop early.

In a 2019 study, 16% of consumers said they would finish holiday shopping during the week of Christmas.

Last-minute shopping may not be a reality this year, if your business is not equipped for any possible further changes to your business operations.

No one can predict what the restrictions will look like during the December holidays this year. If you are required to move to online-only sales but you do not have a website or the ability to sell products online, this could be devastating for your business.

The more people that you can get to shop now, the better for your business if anything happens later.

  1. Embrace your website.

Creating and updating websites can be a costly expense. While it may not make financial sense (or there isn’t enough time) to implement a brand new website right now, taking the time to update what you can on your existing website – or quickly creating one with basic information on Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, or any other similar sites – will go a long way toward keeping your customers informed.

  1. Stay flexible.

This has been a truly difficult year for so many retailers. If you try to stay flexible and look for opportunities to continue operating safely, you can keep moving as much as possible.

Holiday Marketing Tips for Online Retailers

  1. Drive traffic to your website with direct mail.

If your website traffic needs a boost, send out a direct mail campaign introducing people to your business. One benefit of doing this is to establish credibility and prove that you are a “real” company – with so many spam and phishing efforts out there today, people can be suspicious of brand new online retailers that they have never interacted with.

Taking the time to print something on paper and send it to them adds a layer of trust that you may not be able to achieve with email marketing and social media along.

Whatever you do mail them, it is important to make sure that you are ultimately leading people to your website, where hopefully your online inventory is updated.

This is important because it ensures that people are aware of what is in stock and what is not, so they do not experience any frustration trying to order something that you are out of.

Moving people to your website from direct mail also allows your other digital marketing efforts like digital retargeting to kick in.

  1. Spend a little extra on social media posts and display advertising.

As we alluded to in the first point, direct mail pairs well with digital marketing efforts. It is often an important activation point for the online experience.

In addition, providing multiple touchpoints for people to respond is important.

Related: 3 Ways That Omnichannel Marketing Will Win this Winter

  1. Consider adding discounts for larger orders and/or free shipping.

As with brick-and-mortar stores, if your online retail business has the capacity to offer discounts, consider adding coupon codes to your direct mail for free or discounted shipping, large orders, etc. The goal is to incentivize people to spend more money with you.

  1. Set appropriate expectations.

With supply chain disruptions being common this year, lead times for production and delivery may be delayed for many retailers and packages are taking a little longer to get through the mail.

Including this information on a direct mail piece will help set expectations upfront, so there are fewer surprises to the consumer if something will take a long time.

Once they place an order, try to make sure they have an estimate on how long it will take to get to them and provide a tracking number whenever you can.

  1. Stay flexible.

This is another point that we covered with brick-and-mortar stores that also applies here. 2020 will continue to throw everyone curve balls. Staying flexible will help you continue making the best of the worst situation.

The Bottom Line

After a particularly challenging year, holiday sales are critical for the survival of your business.

Hopefully, these points will help you drive sales during the December holidays. By doing so, you may put yourself in a better position to hire more people or marketing campaigns next year.

Additional Resources

The Future of Direct Marketing: Retail Marketing Tips

The Future of Direct Marketing: Tips for the Short-Term

Think You Can’t Afford Direct Mail? Think Again

[Guest Post] Doing More with Less: What to Do When Marketing Budgets are Limited