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Three direct mail tips for your best tax season yet

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By Joy Gendusa
December 6, 2013

Postcard marketing can be complicated, just like any other marketing. However, I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and I’ve learned how to break it down to its most essential components.

There are really just three main principles you need to master to get great results with postcard marketing. Don’t get me wrong. There are other principles too, but you don’t need to worry about those until you have what I call the “Big Three” down to a science.

In my 20 years of postcard marketing experience, I’ve overseen the mailing of 985 postcard campaigns from the tax preparation industry. I’ve seen the strategies each used, and I’ve seen how it worked out (and maybe didn’t work out) for each. Using the following three tactics, you can enjoy your best tax season ever.

The Big Three: Size, Design, and List.

Size

“What size postcard do I need?”

“Can I get away with a smaller card?”

“What is the benefit of a bigger card anyway?”

This principle has the biggest impact on the first impression you make with prospects (or if you make any impression at all). There are many debatable topics in the marketing field, but I don’t think anyone can disagree with the following statement: “A bigger postcard is easier to see.” Right? That’s hard to deny. For those of you in competitive markets, this is going to be a critical factor in the success of your postcard marketing. You may need a bigger postcard to get noticed in a full mailbox, filled with letters, bills, and possibly other advertisements.

Most direct mail marketing companies will give you a few size options for your postcard. If a company doesn’t, move on and find one that does. Usually, they offer something like: small (4x6), medium (5x8), and large (6x11), though the names can vary. To find out which size is best for your situation, answer these 3 questions:

1. How often do other companies in your industry market?

a) Not at all/I’m the only one (You can lean towards a smaller card)

b) Light to moderate amount (Lean toward a larger card)

c) Moderate to heavy amount (You NEED a large card)

2. Do your competitors also mail postcards?

a) No (You can lean towards a smaller card)

b) Yes (You need a large card)

3. How much explaining does your offer require?

a) Not that much/easy to grasp (Smaller card is fine)

b) A little background info (Medium should do the trick)

c) A lot/details are important (Go big or go home)

We have found that most tax preparation businesses get optimum results with a 4x6 postcard (4.25x6 to be exact). This could vary if you are in an unusually competitive market; however, this size has gotten the best results for our tax prep clients.

Design

Now you know which card size gives you the best chance of success. Next, you have to use a postcard that is designed to rise above the marketing noise, engage prospects’ interest, and turn them into a client. Your postcards must be designed with marketing intent to do this. There are 10 marketing design elements that your postcard must include:

1. Clear headline

2. Supporting graphic

3. Color that pops

4. Intriguing sub-headings on the back that lead into benefits

5. Benefits!

6. Enticing offer

7. Business name and logo

8. Call to action and/or expiration date for the offer

9. Contact information – website, map, phone number

10. Return address

Elements 1-3 on the list are used to engage your prospects’ attention and generate interest in what the rest of your card says. This is where you take them from noticing your card to actually picking it up and reading it.

Elements 4-6 are used to take your prospect from being interested to taking some kind of action. You use engaging subheadings to lead your prospects into the marketing copy, which shows them all the ways your services benefit them. You close out the card with a fabulous offer, to make them feel like not taking action is missing a great opportunity.

The last 4 elements are meant to give your prospects every bit of information they need to take that action, once they finish reading the card. You give them every piece of contact information you have. Then, you explicitly tell them what you want them to do. Do you want them to call and schedule an appointment, visit your website, etc? People are busy. If you don’t spell it out for them, they won’t take the initiative themselves.

Let’s quickly talk a little more about No. 6—your “enticing offer,” because in our experience the offer makes or breaks a tax prep postcard marketing campaign. What kind of offer compels prospects to pick up the phone and take that next step?

1)  Discounts (plain and simple): Money talks, and the more money you are taking off your price the more interested prospects become. You don’t have to go crazy though. We’ve seen success with discounts such as, $30 off, $15 off, even as low as $10 off. You can take another angle and try offers like, 50 percent off, 25 percent off, or maybe “50 percent off what you paid last year.” We’ve also seen good results for those who offer a flat rate such as, “$99 for any tax return!” It all comes down to your competition. In the tax prep industry, as in many other industries, your offer must be better than the other offers your prospects are seeing.

2)  Free e-file...and a discount: Offering free e-filing has gotten great results for our clients, but you’ll need to offer another incentive as well, like a discount or a referral program, since free e-filing is something that’s really saturating the market.

3)  Referral program bonus: Speaking of referrals, they are very popular with your prospects. Everyone has to do their taxes, so prospects have no problem offering referrals to their friends and family, if it gets them some extra money. They don’t have to try to convince them to do their taxes. They’re going to be doing them anyway, so helping a friend get a bonus (and maybe getting a few yourself) is more than enough to persuade the average taxpayer.

List

Even the perfect postcard can’t generate responses if you send it to the wrong mailing list. Your card is a tool to convert quality prospects into leads, and leads into customers. If your prospects aren’t qualified to take advantage of what you offer, they won’t respond no matter how enticing your marketing looks. You have to find out who your “ideal prospect” is to be successful. Who are the types of people that need your service the most? Who makes up the majority of your current clientele? The great thing about targeted mailing lists is you can target with high specificity. You can target gender, race, income level, etc. It’s important to keep in mind your two main markets in the tax prep industry: early filers and late filers.

Early filers are keen to find a good deal, so the offer will be critical. Late filers are less price-sensitive, but a great offer is always persuasive. This market will need repetition more than a great discount to turn them into clients.

After analyzing six of the most successful tax preparation postcard marketing campaigns by our clients, we concluded that the ideal postcard campaign consists of a 6,000-household mailing list, which is mailed to twice. That means you are having 12,000 postcards made, which 6,000 quality prospects will see a total of two times. Of course, the more you mail your campaigns, the more leads you’ll generate; but for a short-term campaign for the tax season specifically, our data confirms this strategy is ideal.

We have the benefit of seeing postcard marketing work for our tax preparation clients, so we can recommend this strategy wholeheartedly. However, if you aren’t ready to go all out, we would urge you to try what we call a “tester campaign.” A tester campaign of 6,000 cards to the list of 6,000 quality prospects will show you enough results to convince you to send the other 6,000. We see it all the time.

And here’s the last thing I’ll recommend if you want to generate big revenue this tax season—start your postcard campaigns early. Getting a head start on your competition makes you much more likely to turn your prospects into clients. Use these tactics and enjoy your best tax season ever!

Joy Gendusa is the CEO of PostcardMania.

1 Comments

Joy - you are right on in terms of postcards being the top medium for accountants looking to increase their tax practice. My comment has to do with the mailing list. The #1 Mailing list for accountants who want to increase their tax business is the Dataman New Homeowner list. New Homeowners Must File Taxes on their new home and they are often new to the area and have no pre-existing accounting relationship. While the mail quantity is typically low - the response from this strategic group is always high. Multiple mailings to this key group will bring accountants new clients who will stay with them year-after-year. Accountants who mail to New Homeowners will buy their postcards from you year-after-year, because the program is so successful! Dale "DataDale" Filhaber, Listologist

Posted by: datadale | December 9, 2013 4:12 PM

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