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Planning is the key to good marketing Top tips for a successful campaign

Planning a marketing campaign carefully, particularly one involving direct mail, can make the difference between success and failure. Too often intermediaries dive straight into organising the &#39creative&#39 for a campaign without thinking about who should be targeted and, most importantly, if the activity is financially viable.

There is no single correct way to plan a campaign but there are a number of steps that can prove useful for financial advisers. The first step is to set your campaign objectives, such as to generate a certain number of leads or to sell a specified level of mortgage business, decide what you want to achieve from the campaign and remain focused on your goals. Each objective should be measurable to ensure you can assess the success of the campaign.

The next step is to decide which potential customers you want to reach, what sort of marketing is most appropriate for them and when is the best time of year to communicate with them. For example, to reach homebuyers you should plan a campaign for the early part of the year and the spring.

Having decided on the mix of marketing methods for the campaign – perhaps a combination of press advertising, PR and a fulfilment pack – the next step is to calculate how much it will cost. The cost will include several items such as producing the marketing materials i.e. design and print; distribution (including postage), booking advertising space and the cost of resources (man hours) in organising the campaign.

Once you have the total cost of the campaign you can assess its financial viability by comparing the cost of the campaign against the estimated response rate and the potential income. As a guideline you should look at a response rate of around 1% to 2% for direct mail to existing customers and up to 0.5% for an advert in the local press.

Once you are comfortable that your expected income for the campaign will exceed the total cost, the next step is to create a schedule of activity. It is important to allow a reasonable amount of time for activities such as compliance approval, print deadlines and publication deadlines.

Before launching your campaign, take some time to brief anyone who may be involved such as staff who will answer the telephone. Make sure they understand the objectives and are fully motivated to support the activity.

On launching your campaign be sure to monitor its performance and as interest starts ensure that every enquiry is followed up within a reasonable period of time. Once your campaign has run its course, measure how successful it has been for you and if all your objectives were met.

Direct mail is an effective way of communicating to existing and potential customers because you can target your customers precisely; it&#39s an easy way for people to reply to you; they can retain the information for future or pass it to a friend or family member and it&#39s relatively inexpensive if properly targeted.

There are three distinct target groups that you can focus on with your direct mail activity – existing customers, prospects or a cold list purchased from a list broker.

Your first target group should be your existing customers where better response rates can be achieved, making the activity more cost-effective and financially rewarding. The key to any direct mail campaign is accurate targeting within your database. Therefore the more comprehensive and accurate your customer details are on your database, the more successful your marketing will be.

Remember the Pareto Principle which states that “80% of our business is derived from 20% of our customers”.

By increasing your knowledge of your customers, you can focus your efforts on the 20%who will be the most productive and not waste time and money on poor prospects.

Once you have established the profile of your target group it is important to make sure the proposition you are offering is suitable to that group. This could be achieved by highlighting the key benefits of the product/service that could meet their needs. Whether you use your own database or a list bought from a broker for a direct mail campaign it is essential that you take ensure that your use of the data does not contravene the Data Protection Act(s) 1984, 1995 and 1998. Your business must be registered under these Acts if you maintain computerised personal records.

The next step is to create your direct mail pack ensuring it communicates your message clearly with a simple call to action. The contents of a direct mail pack can vary but the key items are:

•A personalised letter addressed to the individual you are targeting. Try and keep the letter short and to the point highlighting the reasons to act, e.g. to save money.

•A leaflet (optional), containing clear accurate information about the product you are offering.

•A response device such as a reply card, reply paid envelope or faxable form. Make it easy for people to respond by offering a number of options.

•An envelope which should be big enough to contain everything you want to send.

If you have large volumes when mailing your pack you could use a mailing house to organise the mailing for you. Local Yellow Pages will provide you with local mailing specialists. To run your own campaign, you could set up a mail merge programme to take customers&#39 details from your spreadsheet or database and merge them with your letter.

Once the mailing has gone out the next important step is to handle the responses coming back in. Make sure your team is briefed and ready to take calls from the mailing. Don&#39t expect everyone who receives your mailing to reply and don&#39t write them off if they don&#39t. For customers who respond make sure their request is followed up as soon as possible. Don&#39t leave it as leads can go cold.

Planning your campaign

•Set clear objectives and measure the financial viability of the campaign before you incur any costs •As far as possible, test any campaign ideas before launch to minimise any risks you might be taking with your budget Direct mail

•If your mailing is over 4,000 pieces, you can qualify for Royal Mail incentives You may want to stagger your mailing to ensure you are able to handle all the responses promptly and effectively – which is essential By following up each letter with a phone call you can boost take-up by 50% •Make sure you contact your existing customers first, as they are the mostly likely to respond favourably to your mailing

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