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Can You Send Direct Mail to Hundreds (or Thousands!) of People… for Free?

flying mail redYes, you can.

You want to get your message out around your city or state, but like many entrepreneurs – you’re short on cash.

You could do you do whatever most people do and put it off until later. OR you could get a little creative.

I’m hoping you chose to get creative because I’m going to tell you today how you can run a direct mail campaign in your area for nothing but the cost of your time – AND build relationships with fellow local business owners while you’re at it.

But first, a little story:

Back when I was in sixth grade, I sold baseball cards at local baseball card shows.

My friend and I would split the cost to rent the table for the day. My friend sold his cards on his half and I sold my cards on my side.

A couple of times we had a friend come for half the day and he had a few cards, so we split the cost of the table three ways.

Do you see where I am going?

I paid half the costs most of the time, and one-third of the costs now and then.

Half is Good. A Third is Better. But How Do You Get It For Free?

If you’ve ever seen a direct mail postcard – maybe from a real estate agent, you’ll have noticed that there is usually just one company saying something on it.

Now think about how you respond to those cards when you get them – sure, a bunch of people will throw them right out – but most will at least take a look at the front and back to see if there’s something interesting.

Interesting could mean different offers on both sites – different texts and fonts and messages are a lot of visually interesting than one cohesive one. A little more jarring, maybe – but captivating copywriting can help you there. 😉

So you’re going to add interest by sharing the space on your direct mail post card.

Let’s say that you want to mail 1000 people.

You would normally pay, lets say, 65 cents apiece, between cost of printing the postcards and the postage.

It will cost you $650 to do that mailing.

You might be saying… “That’s great Eric but I don’t have $650 for the mailing right now.”

Didn’t you read the title? This is going to be free. 🙂

When you look at a jumbo sized or large postcard (or small postcard, but you have more room for your company message with a large one) think of it as having three distinct parts: The front section, and two sections on the back – half and half.

In our scenario, the front section is yours – and the two back sections – you’ll be offering to other local business owners who you want to build relationships with, and who have similar customers.

You could split the card into more sections, but I’ve found three to be the most effective – it provides the most value, and saves you time on coordinating with people.

You approach the businesses you want to partner with and explain that you are mailing a group of local residents in your area and normally a mailing like this would cost  $650 or more, but you’re willing to give them half of the back for $325. This is a good deal because – even though you aren’t offering half of the total space – you are doing all of the legwork, and getting a better price by ordering a large amount than would be possible by ones self.  (Please keep in mind, that making up the whole of the price  from your partner businesses is totally optional – and you can pay a portion as well – the size of your front section can compensate you for your time in arranging everything – it depends on your relationships!)

Let your partner businesses know that, aside from creating the ad (which they have to provide to you!) you’ll take care of absolutely everything – assembling the ads, making the order, checking the proofs, confirming delivery – the whole nine yards.

Heck – if you’re a designer – offer to create the ad for them as well! Charge a little more – or pay a little less yourself – either way – make sure you’re compensated for all of the value you’re providing.

This is a win/win because while you get your mailing paid for – they save a ton of time organizing things – AND your businesses can all complement each other in what they offer on the postcard. Teamwork at it’s best.

Build Relationships – Save Money

Do you see how just a little twist on a simple direct mail campaign can save you hundreds of dollars, and make you valuable new business connections?

Lowering the cost of your advertising is great for your margins – because your cost per lead is dramatically lower. (Or free!) This will make you happy – any business parters happy, and any investors ecstatic!

It also frees up your marketing budget for bigger and better things.

Don’t stop with direct mailings either! This same technique can work beautifully with magazine or newspaper ads, flyers, brochures and posters. If you can share the sapce – you can share the cost.

One tip I’ve found hugely effective for getting a good deal on magazine ad space is letting the rep know that I’m working as an “in-house agency.” This has gotten me a break from 10-20% because I’m bringing more business to the publication. Going one step further, and letting them know of your experience with direct mail marketing means that you will be tracking the response you get from the advertisement in their magazine, and will be able to provide them with valuable data. This can increase the percentage of the discount they give you.

Of course – when you can negotiate a fantastic deal in a magazine – that means you’re making a much more appealing offer to a partner business to share your ad space – so you can easily get a few partners to take on the lions share, or all of the financial cost. Your share is the in-kind negotiation and organization.

So Do You See the Possibilities of Partnership in Advertising?

You should never let a financial downtime, or slow month keep you from expanding your marketing efforts.

You should also never let the opportunity to create a new business relationship – with an ad rep, with other local companies, with suppliers go to waste. Take the time to reach out. Use your brain to find ways to reduce and share costs. Get good at making offers.

The next time your business has no customers, your phones are not ringing, and your business looks dead, just think…

“From now on the only dead things I want in my business are the faces of dead presidents as they fly into my bank account thanks to all my new clients and customers.”

Then step out of your comfort zone and make it happen.

Get Started Today!

Think about the businesses in your area whose market is similar to yours – or whose products and services your market would be interested in.

Do you research to find the best deal on direct mail providers.

Then just start contacting local business owners you want to work with until you find your first campaign partner.

There’s no need to wait – you don’t have to have a big advertising budget to see big benefits.

About Eric Barton

Eric Barton is an author, marketing strategist, SEO/PPC specialist, direct response copywriter and serial entrepreneur who helps clients improve their results online and offline-fast and easy. You can learn more about how Eric can help your business by calling 262.716.1786. And while you’re over at his site, grab some valuable nuggets waiting for you at Fast Easy Success Marketing.

11 comments

  1. Joe McFadden says:

    “you’ll be offering to other local business owners who you want to build relationships with, and who have similar customers. ”

    But the key here is relevancy. There needs to be a synergy between you and those sharing your mail space. So a real estate agent might want to partner with a home security company and a landscaper, but probably not a pet store. There just isn’t the same connection between the message and the offers.

  2. eric says:

    Hey Michal. It’s great to build relationships in business and life. I know you said have no biz so not applicable, but actually this strategy may help you now or in the future because maybe you feel strongly about a charity, an events etc…

    Now you can immediately begin your campaign for your cause. This can be used successfully in business and other areas in life, if used correctly. And…

    Nice Leanne…Glad you are out there taking action. Every door direct mail is good for some things and especially the reach you get for the discounted rate. However…

    This strategy definitely will allow you to stand out more and for an even better discounted rate, possible free.

    I think a lot of people run from something like this at first because they think about the other people on the card or mailing may take their business and that’s why it’s key to make sure they are related but not in competition.

    Like real estate agent, mortgage brokers and a home inspector would be great, but 3 real estate agents or 3 mortgage brokers or 3 inspectors would be a terrible idea because your sending business away.

    Now would not suggest doing this strategy with sales letters because you want 100% attention, but for lead generation this strategy is potent and profitable.

    1. Very cool ideas Eric,

      I can see how it can work for me as a visual artist as well. I like to create relationships and find win-win-win situations for all involved.
      Thank you for the insight.

  3. Leanne Regalla says:

    Hi Eric,

    Great idea! I have been experimenting since last year with direct mail and variations – door hangers and the postal service’s Every Door Direct Mail. I have considered cooperative ventures but haven’t done it. That probably goes back to poor advice from a mentor years ago who said not to share space, and to simply not knowing how I could make it work.

    Thanks for this! I have good relationships with several businesses in my area, and I’m sure I can make this work for future campaigns.

  4. Michal says:

    Your method is totally unapplicable by me, as I’m not a business owner. However, you made me think Eric about my “I-face-this-struggle-alone” mindset.
    “You should also never let the opportunity to create a new relationship – go to waste.”
    Now I have to ponder how to go about making those relationships. Thanks Eric.

  5. eric says:

    Nice Mac. That strategy I talked about in the article is perfect for balling on a budget. Plus, like you said, great way to not only get some free mailings, but also throw some money in your pocket.

    It’s a wonderful thing is that you are now getting paid to advertise versus paying to advertise.

  6. Marc says:

    Whoa. My mind is blown. You’ve just written up a description of a small advertising flyer that I send out in my town every 2 or 3 months.

    I can testify that it works, although it can take a lot of pavement pounding to find people that want to embark on the adventure with you.

    Basically when I started my company 3 years ago on a no debt, less-than-shoestring budget, I concentrated all my marketing on the web and in networking because that was what I could afford (cost me about $200 a year for chamber of commerce memberships). The thing is, I’m a print consultant and graphic designer, so I know the power and effectiveness of direct mail, but couldn’t afford the postage!

    I saw the same with my storefront/retail customers—I can offer great deals on printing and do the graphics myself, but I couldn’t help anyone with what Uncle Sam charges. It’s a set rate per piece, no matter how many. So I came upon the idea of putting together a small advertising flyer, finding folks of like mind in my chambers of commerce, and splitting the cost with them.

    We’re currently on our 4th issue of the Farmingville Flash (see facebook page and like to follow our progress here: http://facebook.com/farmingvilleflash ), and the local feedback has been outstanding! People don’t read papers anymore, so businesses have no idea where to advertise. With the Flash we are able to send out 6,000 colorful, high quality and attractive flyers to everyone in the zip code for from $75 an ad (we distribute prices based on the size of the ad each person wants, so a full page is $800) .

    Best of all, as the artist and printer, I get paid for the work, and if there are any open spots, I get to advertise for free!

  7. eric barton says:

    Absolutely John. Plus, that method of “sharing space” can be applied to direct mail letters, post cards, flyers etc…

    and can use for magazines and newspapers.

    This strategy allows you to take advantage of it online and offline and most importantly, you’re making it a win/win for everyone. Less hassles for them and less money (if any) for you to reach more people.

  8. John Gibb says:

    hi Eric

    Share the space, share the cost

    That’s an interesting JV concept worth testing and tweaking until it fully works, right?

    I always been a fan of Jay Abraham and his win-win-win approach to business growth.

    I like your “in-house agency.” method of getting deals on magazine ads. That’s clever. I guess it’s all about understanding what the other party needs the most and making an irresistible offer, isn’t it?

    One deal leads to another.

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