Direct Mail 101

How many junk emails do you receive each day? 50? 100? 200? More? While many of these communications are definitely unwanted and undesirable, some do provide valuable information about products and services you might actually want to buy. However, more often than not, these messages are deleted along with all of the other unwanted e-mails.

That’s why many organizations are going back to utilizing good old-fashioned postcards, letters and other correspondence via the Post Office. However, while thousands of e-mails can be sent for virtually pennies, there can be a substantial cost in developing a direct mail campaign. Therefore, it’s critical to strategically plan your campaign in order to ensure its success.

Think about the postcards you receive in the mail. Some are inexpensively produced, often by printing in black on a piece of 8 ½ x 11 colored card stock, then cutting the paper into four individual cards. No matter what the product or service that is offered on these cards, do you even pay attention to them? To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Cheap is as cheap does.”

If you’re asking a potential client to spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars with your company, you must make a good first impression. Typically, that means having a graphic artist design your card and having well-written copy specifically for the postcard. Simply putting clip art on a card and using text pulled from your Web site isn’t sufficient. Give serious consideration to producing your postcard in color, at least on one side. Use high-quality paper, not card stock purchased at the local office supply store. This will mean using a professional printer, but that doesn’t mean that your cost will skyrocket. There are many ways to reduce costs, if you take the time to explore them. Professional printers also have the capability to produce your card in larger sizes, and even in special shapes. Remember that the goal is to capture the attention of your potential customer.

Regarding your text, you must always include a “call to action” and give the respondents a specific reason to contact you. “Call for a tour,” “Mention this card for a 10% discount,” “Free food!” – you get the idea.

It’s critical that your direct mail message matches the other messaging that your company has in place. If you’re referring people to your Web site, then what you say on your card must match what you say on your site. For example, if your card is referring to a specific product, then that product absolutely must be found on your Web site!

It also must match the “look and feel” of your other marketing collateral, including your Web site. Consistency = professional. If your collateral is inconsistent, the implied message is that your company – and its products and services – may be inconsistent, too. Using the same images, fonts, tag lines, and so forth can easily accomplish a consistent look.

Sending out just one card is a waste of time – and money. Most experts agree that in order to be effective, you should send out your direct mail at least six times. And, while sending the same card six times may be most cost effective for you, it’s annoying for the recipient. That means developing several different cards, letters or a combination. We also recommend sending these materials out every three to four weeks. That’s not a hard and fast rule, and is dependent on what you’re sending, but if you send items more frequently, you run the risk of appearing desperate.

Finally, the absolute most important part of your direct mail campaign is your distribution list. For some, an existing client database is a good target audience. For others, they will need to purchase the names to send to. Sending to “recipient” or “occupant” is cheap, cheap, cheap. Determine exactly who you want your card sent to, then work with a company that specializes in providing addresses. You’ll be amazed at how specific you can get – and it’s not all that expensive. Isn’t it more important to send to exactly who might purchase your product or service, rather than to waste your money sending to hundreds or thousands of people or businesses that aren’t your target market?

It’s a fairly simple process to determine how many contacts you should send your campaign out to. For example, if you want 300 new clients (or good prospects), you should send to 6,000 names (Five percent of 6,000 = 300). It’s important to note that your goal should be realistic. While it might be nice to get 500 new clients, rather than 300, are you capable of providing your product or service to 500? When determining your response rate, don’t forget to include the costs of the campaign that you need to recoup.

When done correctly and strategically, direct mail can be an extremely effective method of marketing your company’s products and services.

Predictions + Commentary For the 2010 Financial Markets

We’re BACK! I hope everyone had a great Holiday… This year should be a great trading year and we will be adding more content, more trades, more educational tips + advice and other helpful items as the year goes on.

This week’s report will be a special edition with our annual commentary intertwined with our weekly commentary below.

S&P 500 / DOW / NASDAQ: As we look at the rise off the bottom from the lows of March 2009, a period of pullback/profit taking will be coming. There is no way that the equity market can fundamentally keep going higher without a healthy profit taking pullback. We find it quite amazing that the market has managed to rise even though the country has had all the turmoil in the economy that the U.S. has seen over the past 18 months or so – perhaps a buy the rumor and sell the news situation??? Perhaps all the sellers left and only buyers with itchy fingers and wads of cash in their pocket were left hanging around…who knows… time will tell – it always does.

We do think that we have seen the bottom in the overall Stock Market from the lows of March of 2009 and that the economy will improve from the misery that we saw in 2008 + 2009 and perhaps the market reacted to that, however the market cannot continue its huge move higher without a major pause or a bubble larger than the one that developed 10 years ago will be put in place – which will end badly for the bullish cause. Keep in mind that the DOW moved about 4000 points in about 9 months.

With that being said, how would we handle this? On a short-term trading program – we would ride the Bull Train until the Bull shows us that he has no more horns left, however… we will take profits quicker than normal on our bullish plays and use relatively tighter stop losses. We wouldn’t commit hugely to any long term bull trend setups. On a long term portfolio situation – we would start to move off any margin in our long term portfolios (starting now) and we would take profits on any “iffy” stocks or equity investments if we were in them. We then would seriously consider buying put options that would cover/help protect our total portfolio on any major weekly bearish signals/setups that showed up on the charts. If the weekly bearish setups start to form a solid bear setup on the monthly charts we would start going to cash (not to 100% cash but do some “healthy trimming down) with continued protection from put options (or the equivalent derivative trade). We aren’t talking a total capitulation as we don’t think 2010 will be a total bear year and we would not be shocked if we ended the year marginally higher but the RISK is there AND there is a decent chance that the market will pullback some time in the 1st qtr and linger all year on the bearish side of things.

There is talk out there that if the economy continues its recovery, corporate profits improve and with other factors getting better that those items will continue to fuel the rise in the US stock markets… however, others say that has been priced in (possibly prematurely so) and that valuations can only get so high before stocks become too pricey. Another concern will be how will the markets react to a rising US Dollar? The Dollar has firmed up and it looks like the bear has been tamed or at least slowed down in that market.

The charts, experience and common sense tells us that the US Stock market will finish lower than 10500 on the DOW by this time next year (how far lower – depends on a lot of factors – too hard to tell at this point)… However – you shouldn’t fight the BULL or major trends too aggressively… Play it smart and be agile and you should be OK!

Interest Rate Futures / Mortgage Interest Rates: The 10 year T-notes Futures are in a bearish trend on the Weekly Charts. We think that the 30 year fixed mortgage rate lows from 2009 will not be breached this year and if the 10 year T-Note Yield ($TNX) breaks 4.25 to the upside (the symbol $TNX and the 10 year T-Note Futures have an inverse relationship) that is a confirmation for the bearish cause in the mid and long side of the debt/interest rate futures market. The country is still mired in a national economic situation and the government’s actions are still a wild card but we don’t see 2009 highs being broke in 2010 on the 10 year T-Note or 30 year T-Bond Futures.

US DOLLAR (Symbol: DX): The Dollar’s bottom looks like it’s getting put into place. There is a higher low on the monthly charts and we are waiting for the Weekly charts as well as constructive daily action to give us a strong weekly signal before we declare that the bear is dead for this market… however, it has firmed up quite a bit and November’s low must hold for us to consider this firming up to be a legitimate bottom forming action.

Foreign Currency (FOREX + Foreign Currency Futures): With the Dollar firming up the FOREX market will be interesting this year.

Quick NOTE: The commentary below will be talking about the actual FOREX currency… Keep in mind – Forex’s symbol can have the USD listed first or second in the currency pair which is a major detail. Currency Futures have the symbol setup by having the Currency listed first against the US Dollar – at least the 6 that we trade do… keep in mind – when it comes to charts, trade direction, etc – there may be an inverse situation when comparing FOREX with Currency Futures. This situation occurs because of how the symbol is created and the implications of it.

In some currencies like the Swiss Franc… the Forex Market has it USD/CHF – ie. US Dollar over the Swiss Franc but the US Futures markets have it setup as CHF/USD – so the charts are inverse. The Canadian Dollar and Japanese Yen are also like that – where the charts on the Futures are “flipped upside down” in comparison to the FOREX Charts. However, the Australian Dollar, Euro and British Pound in the Forex market have charts which look nearly identical to their counterpart in the Futures market. Just keep this in mind as you may see at times that we may “Go Short” the Swiss FOREX and then post the futures equivalent trade which would be a LONG in the Swiss Futures. However, if it was the Euro – you could go long (or short) in either for the same trade – the FOREX pair and the Currency Futures contract trade in the same direction for the Euro, Aussie and BP. It’s not as complicated as it may sound so email us if you have any questions. By the way, most traders don’t trade both markets in the same currency at the same time… some traders trade currency futures and some trade in the FOREX market.

Australian Dollar: Looks Stable and Strong… May see some pullback in the recent uptrend but no major deterioration unless the US

British Pound: Looks Bearish – if the Lows of October 2009 break – the confirmation is in. Volatile markets are ahead.

Canadian Dollar: This looks Bearish and we don’t see any let up in that… the best a bullish Canadian dollar player could hope for is choppy action at this point.

Euro: Tough to call at this point in time. Our take in this currency is that it’s Nuetral and that feeling will turn moderately bearish if the December lows of 2009 are broken.

Japanese Yen: This market is in a bearish trend… We see an attempted firming up process starting to materialize but it’s not there yet.

Swiss Franc: Much like the Yen, this market is in a bear trend, although unlike the Yen – we do see a decent formation of a bottom getting put in place. If the Swiss can break 2009′s lows then all bets are off but this currency is trying to move higher.

Crude Oil: Tough call on this market. A bit volatile… The monthly charts look neutral to me with a bullish bias. The weekly charts point that another good upleg will begin if and when the highs of October of 2009 are broken. Push come to shove – this market probably moves higher.

Grains Futures: With the US Dollar firming up – this market may get a bit wild. I don’t have a clear trend indication at this point on the Grain Future complex. The Weekly charts are slightly bullish and the Monthly Charts are neutral (with slight bearish feel) on Corn, Soybeans, Soybean Meal and Soybean Oil markets. Wheat looks weaker than Soybean or Corn at this moment in time. If December’s lows break, I would lean towards the bearish side of the Wheat market. The weekly charts on Wheat are looking like this market is trying to get stronger but no confirmation yet.

If the grains continue to chop around in the “neutral area” and the Dollar heats up and starts really moving forward – the grain market will probably move lower. There is a lot of “if” in this complex so we would stick to short-term trading if we were you and play the market accordingly. If we get a confirmation through the year on a true Bull or Bear trend – we will obviously point it out in our weekly commentary.

Metals Futures:

Gold Futures:Will Gold continue to move higher? That is the trillion dollar question… Unlike the US Stock market where we feel that the highs for 2010 are probably in for the next 12 months or at the most – aren’t far from their current levels… it’s a tough call on Gold. The Monthly Charts tell us that this metal is due for a pullback however we can’t say that it wont be higher this time next year. We do not see any major weakness, outside of “normal” profit taking in this market in the near future.

Silver Futures: Not as strong as Gold… Potential Double top on the Monthly Charts… We are neutral with a slight bullish bias on the Silver market for 2010. However, we only still hold a bullish bias as the trend is still in place and not because we see a chart that will continue higher with strong setups and constructive action.

Copper Futures: This market is in a super strong uptrend… one must think a pause is near but we wouldn’t “short” this market at this point… you may eventually catch the top or a nice reactionary move lower but you are going to get beat up along the way.

Platinum Futures: Bullish Trend… We don’t see any bearish indications… should trade in a “normal” bullish uptrend on the weekly charts for 2010 – which generally are 3 to 5 week up trends with an occasional 2 to 3 week pause/pullback. The last 13 months or so only saw 2 red bars on the monthly charts so one would think a profit taking period is near, but like copper – you may get hurt trying to find it.

Real Estate: The real estate market is bottoming out however interest rates are heading higher… The good news is that we don’t feel that they will shoot up and mortgage rates are coming off a really low bottom – interest rates should still remain attractive to consumers this year.

2010 should be a decent real estate market and if you have the cash or credit to use – we would recommend looking for bargains to buy in the residential real estate market. How the summer real estate market performs will be a really good indicator on the overall health of the US Real estate markets. Many large markets across the country do well during the summer and many times it’s a great indicator on the health of the overall real estate market.

Some regions of the country still have some additional room to move a bit lower and there are still many places with inventory issues due to the foreclosures that continue to hit the market but buyers are coming back and the lenders seem to be loosening a bit. HOWEVER, keep an eye on FHA mortgages – we wouldn’t be surprised to see the FHA mortgage market seeing some major negative news coming out this year. Lenders did tighten up in 2009 but the FHA mortgage market picked up some of the slack of the type of mortgage clients that people said shouldn’t have gotten a loan but got one anyways through Fannie Mae in past years… ie. FHA was giving loans in 2009 to people who may not be able to adequately afford the home if using the standards that people said Fannie should have been held to in previous years… if the job market doesn’t improve and the economy has another major misstep (or the recover stalls badly) FHA may take some heat and FHA mortgage defaults may be the financial news of 2010! The good news for this FHA situation is that it looks like FHA/Lenders have taken steps to tighten up the guidelines in a fairly reasonable way over the last few months… will it be enough or done in time??? We shall see.

Bottom line – if you need to buy a home to live in and can afford it – we would buy in 2010. If you are looking into buying real estate as an investment – we would start looking for deals and if the price seems right, location is great and the deal seems good – we would go ahead and buy the rental house. We think that the worst is behind us… the market probably has 1 to 3 years left to fully be out of the woods but the national US Real Estate Market probably has bottomed out and if it hasn’t… it’s really close to it. The problem if you wait is that no one will waive a white flag and tell you its OK to buy a home… and by the time you realize it – the market will have moved higher… The risk of missing the move is higher than the possible loss of doing nothing in our opinion – so we think it’s a cautious buy at this time – with the caution being that you need to buy the home right and in the price range that you can afford!

We will make this article Free for all, if you want to check out our normal weekly reports with specific trades using easy to follow entries and exits – sign up for our Free Trial at InsideTheMarket.

Using Sub-Sellers in Your Network Marketing Business

Network marketing is a product driven business. Money is made when products are sold. The company makes money when products are sold and the distributor makes money when products are sold.

This business is all about selling products and finding new customers to purchase the products.

Sub-sellers are a wonderful way to sell more products to more customers with very little work on your part.

A sub-seller is someone who doesn’t wish to be a distributor for the company but loves the products and uses the products. Over the years I’ve found people with many reasons for not being a distributor. They are afraid of the taxes at the end of the year. They don’t believe their $200 per month is enough to make it worth their while. They don’t have a supportive spouse. There are just numerous reasons why someone might not want to be a distributor.

If someone says no to becoming a distributor, I always offer them the opportunity to sell the products as a non company distributor.

Each month, sub-sellers get new catalogs. Most often ten catalogs are sufficient for them. Often they are taking the catalogs to work only so three might even be enough. The discount given to sub-sellers can vary depending on how much you’re making. You might also want to give them more if they sell more. For example you might want to give them 20% for sales of $250 or less and 25% for sales over $250. Again, depending on how much you make you might offer them 30% for sales over $500.

Over the years, I’ve also offered my sub-sellers any demo products I didn’t want at my discount. This allows me to see the product without having to order them myself. The person buying the product is thrilled to get it at cost so it’s a win-win situation.

I prefer just one check from the person I know so the customers of the sub-seller write her their checks and she then writes me one large check to cover the amount of the order. Or she can give me a credit card and I’ll place the order with her credit card.

If you have just four people selling underneath you and they each sell $250, you’ll consistently have $1000 in sales each and every month. In most companies, this will put you at the top of the commission scale and will qualify you for company incentives. This means that any products you sell will be at the highest commission level.

Try asking a few people if they’d be interested in taking your catalogs to work with them. You may find your business exploding.