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Techniques, Traditional Marketing

Direct Mail Marketing

Many people believe that traditional marketing has no place anymore with all the electronic options now available. Having used both successfully, I believe the combination of the two is the best marketing approach to obtain the highest response rates from your efforts.

So how do you improve the success rates of your direct mail?

One of the biggest advantages of direct mail is the ability to personalize your mailings. The traditional-size, No. 10 envelope package is still one of the best direct mail marketing tools to use. In the past, many experts explained that the best successes came by using a plain envelope (closed faced envelope, with no window) and by making the direct mail package look like a personal letter (even to the point of hand addressing the letter—have you ever addressed hundreds or thousands of letters?). That means not printing your company name or logo on the outer envelope; just using your name and return address.

To convey an even more personal look, it was always suggested to use a live postage stamp instead of a postage meter or preprinted postal indicia, which screams “bulk mail.” Although I agree with using a stamp instead of metering or an indicia, I disagree with using a plain envelope. Why would someone want to open up something from someone they don’t know? You need to give prospects a reason to open the envelope or you are just wasting your time and money.

With the advent of variable data printing, it is now easier than ever to customize mailings to the recipient and add teasers on the envelope to entice them to open the envelope. You don’t want to sell on the envelope, just intrigue readers to open it to find out more.

Any element of a mailing can be personalized, from the outer envelope and sales letter to the order form and even the brochure. Personalization can go far beyond the prospect’s name; it’s limited only by the information you have in your mailing list or database.

Another successful approach in your communication is to use the recipient’s name as often as you can in a direct mail marketing piece. People like seeing their name in print.

So how do you improve the response rates of direct mail campaigns?

Remember that direct mail is only one approach in your marketing campaign, and until you test your direct mail piece, it will be nearly impossible to predict the response rate. Many factors contribute to the success of the mailing and none more so than the mailing list. Most small and even some large businesses will send out quantities of hundreds or thousands, not hundreds of thousands or millions. Given the smaller mail quantities, your ability to conduct several direct mail tests is limited. Test the most important factors that can affect response rates, not minor factors like whether to use a regular or commemorative stamp or a white envelope.

The most important response-boosting factors to test are:

  • Lists: Using a list that you have generated over time and kept updated is always the best, but if you purchase a list, try purchasing lists from different brokers for the same target audience.
  • Pricing: Pricing does not always get the highest response. Test a higher price against a lower price offering and evaluate the results.
  • Teasers: You can lift response just by testing a new outer envelope teaser or a different headline and lead for your sales letter.
  • Offers: Varying the direct mail offer can boost response rates and orders enormously. Test different offerings.
  • Format: Copy presented in different formats can generate different results. Try a traditional No. 10 direct mail package versus a jumbo package, or a postcard (one of my other favorite and inexpensive marketing tools).

Here are common errors to avoid with your direct mail piece:

  • Bad List: The better the list, the better the response.
  • No “Can’t Resist” Offers: Some offers are better than others. Make yours better than others.
  • Not Testing: If at first you don’t succeed, try-try again—but change it.
  • No Reply Form: Unless you are mailing a postcard, including a reply card, fax-back, or order form can lift overall direct mail response. You need that call to action and an easy way for recipient to respond.
  • Bad Copy: Promotional copywriting is an art—get professional help.
  • Not Tracking: You need to track where your leads come from, otherwise how do you know how best to spend your future advertising dollars?

Business owners today have more choices than ever for promoting products and services. Only through experimentation will you learn which media works best for you.

Direct mail may not be the right medium for every growing business, but unlike many options available, it is still relatively inexpensive to test.

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