First, I want to start off by saying I’m not an expert at direct mail. If you want good insight on how to correctly market with direct mail as a photographer, you need to expose yourself to the direct mail marketing genius of Bev Walden. The goal of this post is just to do a mini-case study of what kind of direct mail pieces work and don’t work (on me).

Outdated mailing lists – FAIL
Direct Mail Baby Formula Ad
What a waste of marketing dollars. From what I’ve seen, direct mail marketing isn’t cheap. For a national company with a huge distribution, it’s especially costly. So my question is why I’m getting mail for baby formula when my youngest kid is 2 and a half years old. We’re definitely out of the formula stage, but apparently that’s not stopping the mail. What a waste of marketing dollars.

Wrong timing – FAIL
Direct Mail Car Ad
I’m not going to criticize the car dealer who sent us this direct mail piece. I’ve heard that the average consumer only takes a few days for the entire car buying process, so car dealers have a very limited time to get their message across to an audience that actually cares what they’re saying. Either way, this ad found its way to my trash can as soon as I pulled it out of the mailbox because the timing wasn’t right for me to purchase.

Sale for existing customers – SUCCESS
Direct Mail Vista Print
We’ve used Vistaprint in the past, but haven’t thought about purchasing anything from them recently – at least until we got their most recent mailer. 500 business cards for only $10. That’s not bad. We already know that Vistaprint will deliver the goods as advertised based on prior experience. Their mailer reminded us about their product and the deal sweetened the pot. I’ll be putting my order in as soon as I get the chance.

Photography workshops – SUCCESS
Direct Mail Sandy Puc Tour
I’m probably setting myself up to get more direct mail by letting fellow photographers know this, but I’m an easy sell when it comes to photography workshops. It’s not very often that I get excited about direct mail, but when I saw the Sandy Puc and Jerry Ghionis tour was heading to St Louis, it pretty much made my day. I’ve always loved Jerry’s work and teaching style. We’ve never seen Sandy speak, but we know she does good work. Plus she founded NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep), so we’re definitely wanting to meet her. I’d say as a photography studio owner, workshop mailers are probably the least likely of any kind of mail to end up in my trash can.

Delicious food at a bargain – SUCCESS
Direct Mail Steak N Shake
Thank you Steak N Shake. You provided temptation in the form of pancakes on paper to my front door. and now I want breakfast for dinner at Steak N Shake. The closest Steak N Shake to our house is at least 10 minutes away. While we have other places that serve breakfast much closer, I’m set on getting the exact pancakes in that ad. I have a feeling I’m not alone. We want exactly what we see, and once our heart is set on something, everything else is just a substitution for what we really want.

Final Thoughts
All of the direct mail ads that worked on me were for things that I already had a desire to purchase. I know the rule for advertising is that most consumers will need to hear a message over and over in order for the message to sink in, but I’m going to make the argument that for direct mail, this isn’t the case. For me, it’s trash it or use it. I don’t give the “junk” (meaning anything that I don’t want at the current moment) a second look. If you’re trying to build a brand, I’d say direct mail is a bad way to go. Again, take this as a grain of salt since I’m not the expert, but if your piece is going to be successful, it seems like it’s got to get in the hands of the right people at the right time and needs to give the consumer something to get excited about.

I’m sure some of you have been using direct mail for years. I’d love to hear some success stories – or even failure stories. What are your thoughts on direct mail in the photography world?

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4 Responses to “Effective Marketing With Direct Mail”

  1. I hate to admit it but I open my mail over the trash can, and make three piles. One, trash can, Two, immediate action, Three, gets stack in a pile for later consumption. 90% goes right to the trash can.

    • TJ says:

      I do pretty close to the same thing. What’s for me, what’s for Larissa, and what’s for the trash.

  2. jay Mcintyre says:

    I’ve been looking at some direct marketing solutions, thanks for the pointers. Now I’m craving pancakes though!

    • TJ says:

      Drop another comment when you finish up your direct mail campaign. I’d love to know how it went for you! Maybe you can share some of the stuff you learned during your campaign. I could definitely go for some pancakes myself – and I just ate lunch =)