4 Direct Mail Tips for a Great Yard Sale

One of the best things about this time of year is that it’s perfect for yard sales. But judging by what I’ve seen around suburbia over the last few weeks, a lot of folks are missing a good opportunity to unload their old stuff and make some money. If you adapt some tried-and-true direct marketing tips to fit your yard sale, you can attract lots of prospects, and then, get them to buy.

One of the best things about this time of year is that it’s perfect for yard sales. But judging by what I’ve seen around suburbia over the last few weeks, a lot of folks are missing a good opportunity to unload their old stuff and make some money. If you adapt some tried-and-true direct marketing tips to fit your yard sale, you can attract lots of prospects, and then, get them to buy.

Catch their attention. Like a great teaser on an envelope or a good subject line, your sale sign should be just as hard to ignore. You don’t really need posterboard — an 8-1/2 “x 11” sheet of paper, in a bright color, is good enough. In block lettering big enough to be easily read by someone on foot, bicycle or car, announce the street address, date and time. Maybe insert two or three keywords like “furniture” and “clothing.” That’s it.

Post it on telephone poles on the heavily trafficked streets near your home, and to be more helpful, draw an arrow on it to point people in the right direction. To help guide them further, hang some balloons or maybe another sign with a big “X” on a tree or utility pole closest to your house.

Also, going multichannel couldn’t hurt. List your sale with some specific details about what you’re selling on Craigslist and in local newspapers. And, for a personal touch, hand-deliver your sign to your neighbors.

Think like a retailer. Like a well-organized catalog or website with lots of high-quality photos, you need to place your merchandise so it can be easily seen. If at all possible, don’t use the ground, which can be difficult for some people to bend down and reach.

Borrow some tables if you don’t have any. After making sure everything is clean, group like items together, such as books or housewares. Retailers, no matter how many ways they sell, sort clothing by size, and you should, too.

Some things, like furniture or appliances, are big and attractive enough to be put up front by themselves. A kid at a small table selling lemonade, water or pretzels is another great way to generate traffic and further sales.

If you’re worried that you don’t have enough to sell, you probably don’t. So, bring neighbors and relatives in to be part of your sale. It’s like those co-op mailings everyone gets; the greater the variety and amount of goods that’s out there for buyers to see, the more likely it is that people will stop, then linger.

The offer rules. Maybe you have some idea of what your market will bear. So make it easy for everybody by charging a flat rate price for things like silverware, or CDs ans DVDs, and clearly mark individual ones for the rest.

But, as in direct mail, if you’re not getting enough (or any) results, dramatically improve your offer. Try “buy one, get one” deals for big volume items like baby clothes, and get ready to bargain further with larger discounts. That is, unless you really want to haul everything back to the garage or attic.

Like any good marketer, you’ll also want to give people options when paying you, so they don’t walk away. You’ll need to have small bills and coins on hand to make change.

Sell the sizzle. One great marketing rule is to talk about benefits, not features. Present yourself as having the answer to what other people need. Be polite and friendly as potential buyers approach you. Try not to be demanding or hovering, as that tends to scare people way.

Instead, BE the testimonial. That still-in-the-box belt sander over there? “I only used it once and it did a great job of refinishing my dining room floor.”

And show — don’t just say that your stuff still works. Run a heavy-duty extension cord to your house so your customers can try any electrical items before buying.

End your day on a high note. Of course, you can sell your leftover stuff another day. But instead, maybe donate them to the Salvation Army or Goodwill stores, or list them on Freecycle. Chances are that someone will be able to use them.

Be a good neighbor by taking down all of your signs after you pack up. Then, sit back and reflect: You’ve enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine, cleared your clutter, maybe made some new friends, and hopefully, brought in some decent money. Not too bad!

What ideas do you have for successful yard sales?

Paul Bobnak is the research director of Direct Marketing IQ and runs the Who’s Mailing What! Archive. He can be reached at pbobnak@napco.com.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Sears Experiments With a New Google Email Tool

The most interesting news of the week came to me via an email alert from Chad White, research director of Smith-Harmon, a Responsys company, and founder of the Retail Email Blog. The alert said Sears was testing a new Gmail functionality and, in the words of Chad, “was pretty cool stuff.” It directed me to his blog posting on the subject.

The most interesting news of the week came to me via an email alert from Chad White, research director of Smith-Harmon, a Responsys company, and founder of the Retail Email Blog. The alert said Sears was testing a new Gmail functionality and, in the words of Chad, “was pretty cool stuff.” It directed me to his blog posting on the subject.

Knowing that Chad is an authority on email — and a very smart guy — I decided to take a look.

Sears, according to Chad’s blog post, “will be wrapping up beta testing of a potential new Google offering called ‘Enhanced Email,’ which allows a form of browsing to occur within an email viewed within Gmail.”

In a limited test of the functionality last month, White wrote, “Sears was able to include seven ‘pages’ containing 20 best-selling products that its Gmail subscribers could browse using the navigation within the module without leaving the email.”

Here’s where it gets even cooler: When a subscriber hits the “next” link in the module’s navigation, White wrote, “the current set of products slides out of the box to the left and the next set of products slides in from the right in one smooth motion.”

Pretty cool, indeed.

For his blog post, White interviewed Ramki Srinivasan, the manager of email innovation at Sears, who said the set of products for the browsing module is displayed at the time of open, not the time of send, “which allows the information to be as current as possible.” He also said the test saw “higher opens, clicks and revenue per email,” but stressed that it’s too early to make any final assessments on the functionality.

In closing, White said Enhanced Email is just one more sign that the inboxes of the future will allow much more activity to occur within them. As a result, marketers will have to come up with “new ways of measuring email success and of thinking about email strategy, particularly the relationship between email and website landing pages,” White said.

Have any of you experimented with Enhanced Email? If so, would you like to tell us about it? If you haven’t yet tried it, are you interested in checking it out? Let me know by leaving a comment here.