Chess is probably one of the more strategic board games one can play. Even casual players carefully consider how they will mount their attack. It’s been said that what sets world-class players apart from the rest is their ability to “think 10 steps ahead” of the competition.
In other words, they’re not just looking at the move right in front of them. They’re thinking about how the move they make now affects what they’ll do later in the game.
What’s that got to do with direct mail marketing? Good marketing requires a good strategy. But just because you have a schedule for sending out mailings doesn’t mean you have a strategy. Maybe you even have a firm budget, all the topics picked out and the creative in place. That’s still not strategy. Chess masters do more than simply move pieces around on a chessboard. They have specific goals and objectives.
When you’re doing direct marketing, you have to define your audience. You have to know what they want, how they think, what they struggle with, and how they talk. Then you can begin creating your message. And just like a chess master tries to get his opponents to make certain moves, you’ll want to move your audience to action as well. Maybe you want them to pick up the phone and call you. Perhaps you want them to go to your website for more information. Maybe you want to get them to send you an email with their questions. Whatever the action is, you have to provide them with a clear call to action—making it clear what you want them to do—and then you have to integrate your other marketing tools so that the process is seamless.
Some people say that great chess players always think 10 moves ahead of the move they’re actually making. Others who know the game well suggest that it’s not so much that they think 10 moves ahead as that they have 10 options for every move that an opponent may make: “It he does 1, I’ll do A. If he does 2, I’ll do B. If he does 3, I’ll do C.” They play out different scenarios.
Your direct mail strategy needs to do the same thing. You need to think through how potential customers may respond—and have a plan in place to respond quickly and efficiently. That means you need a strategy (a plan) and a system (some kind of infrastructure that allows you to respond.)
Chess is a game. It’s nice if you can win. Business is no game. If you lose there can be serious consequences. What’s your strategy for winning?