Direct Mail Marketing for Escape Rooms
Many people think of online marketing or advertising via local publications, but probably one of the most under-utilised methods is direct mail marketing.
As it sounds, this is where you send advertising materials in the mail, directly to consumers. You might think that sounds like envelope stuffing and potentially a lot of work (and hey, isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?), but there are actually companies out there set up to do the work for you.
Of course, the bottom line for every escape room owner is, will direct mail work? We dug into some research and also spoke to Brian Sommer of CluedIn Escape Rooms about his own experience with direct mail campaigns. Here’s what we found out:
Direct mail statisticsMany people assume that direct mail might not be a great option - do people really read the stuff that turns up in their mailboxes? According to multiple different surveys, yes they do, perhaps not in overwhelming numbers, but usually significant enough to make a difference to the average escape room.
For example, one survey found that the average response rate for direct mail sent to prospect lists (those who have not yet been your customer) is 4.9%. This is beating online mediums such as Facebook where the average click-through on ads across all industries is 0.90%.
Then there’s the fact that direct mail is highly visible, arguably more so than an online ad which a person may simply scroll past. Another survey found that when receiving direct mail, 57% of consumers open it, 48.5% take a glance at it, 26.2% throw it away or recycle, and 24% put it aside to check later. 1.6% of responders even put mail on display which makes it even more memorable.
That last part is important too. Consumers have said that they are 46% more likely to respond to a company that they are familiar with. Direct mail is a great medium through which to build that familiarity.
Brian Sommer reported that his best results from direct mail returned an ROI of $2 for every $1 spent. It’s definitely worth looking into for escape rooms, but you need to do a bit of homework to figure out what will work for you. Brian says that some types of direct mail campaign returned $0 ROI for them, possibly due to the mail going to the wrong demographic.
Direct mail can help build familiarity with potential escape room customers
How to run direct mail marketingFirst of all, how are you going to set up and run your direct mail campaign? For most escape room owners, putting something together themselves would be a lot of work and time that they don’t really have.
The alternative that most escape room owners choose (including Brian Sommer), is to go through a direct mail marketing company. Most of them work by offering some kind of package that you buy. These can range from basic (where they organise the printing and distribution of something you have designed) to more complex or full-service offerings.
When you select a direct mail marketing company, it will usually be a function of your budget, time and capabilities. For example, some will do the design work for you AND organise distribution, while others might leave design and/or distribution up to you.
Below we’ve listed some of the commonly-used companies in the UK and US:
Types of direct mail
There are multiple different types of direct mail to choose from, perhaps a useful place to start is with when to use direct mail. If you want to be able to monitor the success of the campaign, a tangible way of doing so is by requiring that your customers bring in or refer to the direct mail.
In this sense, rather than a simple advertisement, campaigns like coupons or special events work well with direct mail. Brian says “for all direct mailings we offer a nominal discount via a code that we can track.”
Some common types of direct mail include flyers, postcards, brochures, and letters. In Brian’s case, they tried including a coupon in a packet sent out to a targeted area (via Money Mailer) and features in a neighborhood magazine. “Money Mailer had the best results for us,” he says. This was the campaign that returned $2 to the business for every $1 they spent.
Options such as brochures and letters tend to be at the more expensive end of direct mail. If you’re trying it for the first time, something like the coupon book or even postcards can be lower-cost modes of direct mail.
How much does direct mail cost?
The bottom line is that cost will depend upon the size and scope of your campaign, however, we can outline the key components of the final cost:
- The cost of materials and printing. Variables that affect this cost include colours used, the quality of the paper and the size. Companies usually have bulk-buying rates, so bigger orders cost less per unit.
- The cost of mailing out your campaign. One thing about working with a company that mails in bulk is that they usually have access to better rates than you walking into your local post office.
Typically, you will see direct mail companies bundle these costs together so you are presented with a combined cost. For the sake of your own calculations, this makes it easy to figure out what the actual cost is per mailed item you send out.
We asked Brian for his advice on direct mail budget for escape room owners. “Keep the print budget low,” he says. “We saw the best results when only spending around (USD) $300 on direct mail the months we did use it. That would net us $600 to $1200 in sales.
Tips for direct mail successWe wanted to know what makes direct mail successful for escape rooms in particular. Brian gave us a few tips:
- Be careful about identifying your target market first. “Pay attention to where it's going out, and make sure you look honestly at who your customers are,” he says. “For example, the neighbourhood magazines we tried were targeted to households with families that make $100,000 or more annually. That seemed like a good demographic. But when we look at our customers more closely, they are mostly people and families that fall under that income bracket. That's why the coupon packets performed better than the magazines.”
- Make your campaigns trackable somehow, such as by using a unique coupon code or requiring customers to bring in a coupon to get a discount. Without some way of tracking, you have no way of knowing how many customers came in because of your direct mail efforts.
- Target your slowest periods. This means looking at historic data to assess when you have fewer customers coming in. “We mostly looked at our slowest months, then would send out mailings the previous two months”, says Brian. “We'd then take off the months we were normally busy.”
- Be prepared that it can take a little time to see results. “(Run your campaign) at least two months in a row each time you do it,” Brian says. “We saw nothing in our first month, but in the second we usually see great results.”
- Be consistent. “Don’t let there be more than three months between each campaign cycle,” Brian says. Keeping a regular timeline helps to ensure that people remember your business. As we know from that earlier statistic, people are more likely to buy from businesses they are familiar with…
Is direct mail worth it?From what we’ve learned, direct mail certainly can be worth it for escape rooms. The caveat is to go into the campaign with a good plan. This means:
- Clearly identifying your target audience, and;
- Giving them something actionable from it (like a coupon) that you can track.