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How to keep Direct Mail from becoming Junk Mail

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7 ways to ensure a successful senior living direct mail campaign

To achieve a measurable response, direct mail campaigns must be executed strategically through a combination of creative design, pin-point timing, a compelling call to action and a well-targeted mailing list.

Solutions Advisors was recently honored with 11 National Mature Media Awards, seven of which were for direct mail campaigns for our senior living community partners.

Regardless of the marketing channel we use, our approach is to always tell a story – through  messaging, design and photography. Our unique story-telling approach applies to direct mail, too – there’s an art and science that goes into ensuring the brand positioning and uniqueness of your community is communicated in a limited amount of printed space.

There’s a limited time factor, too. With direct mail, you are granted a split second to capture the attention of the recipient – or meet the immediate fate of the recycling bin. But by following our 7 tips, your mailer can linger a few more moments in the hands of your recipient, and even compel them to act.

1. Fun, Free Event + Key Selling Point + Proper Targets = Successful DM Campaign
Rarely do we send direct mail without coupling it to a community event – but we don’t stop there. The event must showcase key selling points and be tailored to the amenities that make the community special. (It must also be properly targeted, but see No. 7 for more on that.)

At Fox Hill in Bethesda, Md., for example, we wanted to showcase the wide range of foods prepared by the chef, so we held an exclusive lunch and tour. Food stations were set up throughout Fox Hill, encouraging visitors to walk around and experience the food, while getting a feel for the lifestyle of the community.

A key selling point of Fox Hill is its focus on arts and entertainment. A few years ago, we started the Strathmore Music & Arts Showcase at Fox Hill, a series featuring jazz ensembles, vocalists, string sections, and other performers in the community’s performing arts center. The direct mailers highlighted the engaging, intellectual aspects of being a Fox Hill resident, and the events were well attended by both current and prospective residents.

2. Avoid fatigue: Change it up!
If you frequently send direct mail, don’t hold the same event or send look-alike mailers every month, or your piece will make a beeline from mailbox to trashcan. We did monthly mailers for the Strathmore Music & Arts Showcase for Fox Hill which are unique each time we drop – not just in design, but in the way the pieces fold and even feel (a painting event featured paper that felt like canvas). Some mailers should be in envelopes while others are self-mailers with various-sized postcards.  We’ve even experimented with fonts that mimic handwriting on the outside versus the typical mail house addressograph.

3. Initial offers should be low barrier to entry
So much of the direct mail we receive is, in fact, junk mail – get-rich-quick offers, department store sales, or coupons that entice recipients to spend money. Direct mail from a senior living community should not offer discounts or feel condescending – rather, it should feel conversational and welcoming. The goal is to get your prospect to experience your community, so make your call to action easy to get to “Yes” with meet-and-greets and fun events (more than a simple “Open House”). Note: while free food is always a draw, we believe not all events need to be ‘food-focused.’

4. Follow-up mail should move prospects through the conversion funnel.
If a prospect attends an event, they’ve shown interest. The next event they attend should be a hybrid format – still entertaining, but also educational. Send your invitation only to those individuals or couples who attended the first event.

The third event-mailing, sent only to those who have attended the first two events, is about conversion – make it special, framed as a meet-and-greet with current or prospective new residents. In this mailing, you are targeting a very specific group of people – in fact, your marketing to them may not be in the form of a mass mailer, but rather a personal letter, phone call or well-designed email invitation inviting them to take the next step.

5. Invest in good design and copy.
Marketing messages bombard us every day, at nearly every moment: picking up your mobile device, reading the news, commuting to work. At the mailbox, you are not only competing with other senior living community mailings, but with every other piece of mail in the box. Don’t skimp on the actual copy and design – try not to use the same stock photos as everyone else.  A professional photo shoot is a good investment and will give you a library of photos that will differentiate your community. Your copy should speak to the individual, not to the masses, and have a compelling call to action.

6. Make the CTA clear.
Be sure to include a clear and visible call to act. We suggest putting the call to action on the mailing panel. We find that most people tend to look at their name and address when they grab their mail, and having your offer nearby, visually, is a good way to make certain it’s seen. Consider multiple contact options – some people hesitate to pick up the phone, so be sure email is a viable way to RSVP or consider a dedicated RSVP landing page.  Note: if your only call to action is ‘call us to learn more,’ you just wasted a lot of money on direct mail!

7. Target, target, target.
If your mailing list is not strategic or highly targeted, you will very likely spend lots of money with little or no return. Don’t settle for just ‘age and income’ – you can narrow your focus by home ownership, home value, marital status, and much more. Depending on the community type – luxury, assisted living, or a more value-priced neighborhood – your target list should be specific to the market you are trying to attract. Depending on the size of your market, your mailing may range from 5,000 to 50,000 pieces – so make every postage, design, printing, and mailing list dollar count.

Direct mail can be a cost-effective lead generator as well as a way to segment your prospects and advance them through the sales journey. But direct mail has to offer a clear, singularly-focused offer with a low barrier entry. Be sure the design reflects your community’s brand positioning, using photos and copy that stands apart from other mailers in the recipient’s mailbox. If your direct mail campaigns have had less than stellar results, consider Solutions Advisors as your marketing partner.

Direct mail costs can be kept efficient if you use the right partner. Solutions Advisors has a national footprint, extensive direct mail and marketing channel knowledge, and can help develop award-winning direct mail campaigns that yield results. Contact us online, via email, or by phone to learn more about our marketing services.