A new year is a blank canvas. A fresh start for you, your family, your friends, your business, and your MARKETING! With this in mind, I want to give you something that will help you make the most of 2014 - something you can tape to your desk and reference throughout the year to keep your marketing on track.

And thus I give you The 10 Direct Mail Commandments!

1. Thou Shalt Have a Unique Selling Proposition
A USP is phrase that simply and clearly explains why your business is better than your competitors. By taking the time to identify and designate your USP, you will give yourself a crystal clear benefit that will be the focal point of all of your advertising, including your direct mail campaigns.

Read more about creating a USP

2. Thou Shalt Plan Thy Marketing Schedule
If you want to be sure your mailing campaigns go out consistently and on time (and you do), planning ahead is critical. I recommend taking an hour and marking on your calendar every holiday/sale/event you want to promote. Then, go back 6 weeks from each date and set a reminder to order the campaign. This will keep you on a good schedule and remove the stress that comes with trying to throw something together at the last minute (and the rush fees that comes with trying to get the postcards printed in time).

3. Thou Shalt Target Thy Ideal Prospects
Do you know who your ideal prospect is? What do they do for a living? What music do they like? Are they married? How many kids do they have? What do they read for leisure? Or if you're targeting businesses: What are their SIC codes? How much revenue do they produce annually? How many employees do they have? Where are they geographically? Etc!!

Create a complete profile of your "ideal prospect." Include details about their work and personal lives. This is a hypothetical person or business, of course, but by working up this profile you will be better able to intuitively know what kind of marketing message your prospects will respond to. This helps in SO many ways, not the least of which are choosing a mailing list and approving your direct mail postcard design.

4. Thou Shalt Be Benefit-Focused
When it comes to marketing messaging, there are benefits and there are features. "Dolby 5.0 Surround Sound" is a feature. "Feeling like you are actually in your favorite movies" is a benefit. Features make people feel like you are trying to impress them. Benefits help people understand how your product or service will improve their life. Put simply: Benefits sell; features don't.

5. Thou Shalt Not Make False Promises
Don't exaggerate the benefits of your product. Don't claim to have "the best customer service in the world." Don't tell people they can return something if they aren't satisfied and then give them five different kinds of hassles when they try to actually do it. In your postcard copy: Be clear about what your product is, how it will improve the prospect's life, and what (if any) your commitments are to the prospect if they decide to purchase. Hype and unmet-expectations reflect badly on your business.

6. Thou Shalt Always Call Prospects to Action
If you want prospects to read your postcard and them take action, you need to tell them exactly what to do next. Don't beat around the bush. Don't assume they can figure out what the next step is. For the most part, folks are too busy to take the initiative. If you don't tell them exactly what to do, it is very unlikely that they will do it. A Call to Action can be as simple as, "Call today for more information."

7. Thou Shalt Be Consistent with Thy Mailings
Repetition is the key to direct mail advertising. For most campaigns, my company's research shows that 3-5 mailings is the sweet spot. In other words, if you order postcards to promote a Labor Day sale, you want to mail that card to your list at least three times to see an optimal Return on Investment (ROI). That is consistency within a campaign. On top of that, you want to be consistent in terms of how often you mail postcards throughout the year. That is where your pre-planning comes into play.

8. Thou Shalt Follow up with All Leads
Following up with prospects through channels like email and phone may not directly impact your direct mail response, but it sure as heck impacts your ROI. The more leads you close, the more money you will make off of your campaigns. The more money you make from direct mail, the easier it is to be consistent.

9. Thou Shalt Build Relationships with Thy Current Customers
If someone has purchased from you already, they have already taken the most difficult step in the sales process. Don't neglect all of that work you have put into them! Direct mail campaigns to your current customers can help build and strengthen that relationship, turning them into lifetime customers. Show them they get special benefits from being a customer (i.e. special savings, exclusive content, etc.). It goes a long way.

10.Thou Shalt Prepare for a GREAT Year
Lastly, prepare to have you best year ever! If you abide by the nine previous commandments, that's where you are headed. Success won't come overnight, but by steadily employing these foundational direct mail principles, you will see growth every month - and that really adds up!

Best of luck to you in 2014! Feel free to contact my marketing consultants for direct mail advice - free of charge - at any time.
Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a $20 million, full-service marketing company based in Clearwater, FL. She literally wrote the book on postcard marketing, and built her company from the ground up without any outside investment capital. Download her complete 95-Point Total Marketing Checklist today! Please visit www.postcardmania.com for more information. To learn about using direct mail as the foundation of an integrated marketing system, or to find out what it can do all by itself, call 1-866-826-0877.