How to make direct mail more effective

Make an irresistible offer, state it in the first paragraph and repeat it four times. The more believable it is, the more likely it will succeed. According to a Yale University study, some of the most persuasive words are: discovery, easy, guarantee, health, love, money, new, proven, results, safely, save, you, free, bonus, success, order now.

Spell out the benefits of your product or service. You should be seen as offering something different than your competitors. Find a unique benefit to highlight.

The more times you mail, the better your response rate. For the highest response rates, The Direct Marketing Association recommends mailing four times. At the every least, you should follow up your initial mailing with a personal phone call or a second mailer within two weeks. A one to three percent response rate is considered standard.

Match your mail piece to your message

Letter – the most common form of direct mail is a letter with an order form or business reply envelope. Letters should be personalized and include a postscript (P.S.). A stamp will also increase its chance of being read.

Brochure – great when you want to include pictures, testimonials, examples or a large amount of copy. Remember, a two-color brochure always gets a better response than a one-color brochure. Put your selling message and prime benefits on the front cover. Most people won’t read past the cover unless you’ve piqued their interest.

Catalog – according to a Gallup survey, 36% of respondents buy from catalogs because of convenience. Seventeen percent perceive the prices are lower. Catalogs are also more likely to be saved and have a better change of being read.

Postcards – postcards have a sense of urgency and informality. Double postcards are easy to use: just tear off the return postcard, check the boxes, and put it in the mail. A postcard mails first class for less than a letter goes bulk rate, so you receive greater delivery at lower costs.

Self-mailer – because they tend to be shorter and less involved, they are generally easier and quicker to produce. They require no outside envelope or collating and stuffing, so they are less expensive to produce.

Grab and keep your reader’s attention

  • Sell the benefits and do it in the first paragraph
  • Be lively. You can’t bore a person into buying. Keep them interested by asking questions, giving examples and using testimonials.
  • Repeat your main offer and the major benefits of your product at least three times.
  • Your works should be honest and believable. Underline the words or use a second color to make a point. Handwrite a short note in the margin.
  • Vary the length of each paragraph.
  • A two-page letter gets a better response than a one-page letter a four-page letter works better than a two-page letter.
  • Personalize your message.
  • Involve the reader by asking them to check boxes, answer a question, fill in the blank, jot down some numbers, circle words. Other devices such as stickers, stamps, rub-offs, cartoons, or embossing are techniques for improving response rates.
  • Envelopes that work best are ones that have multiple windows, are oversized, mailing tubes, brown paper bags, and ones with creative teaser copy on the front.

Motivate the reader

The most important element of your offer is the product. In addition, you may include a giveaway or other promotion to get people to look at your mail piece more closely.

  • Offer a premium. These include free newsletters, pens, and other attention getters.
  • Offer discounts for ordering within a certain time limit or for volume orders. Like 10% off when you buy 3 or more books. A free car wash after ten visits.
  • Offer payment options. If you are selling to businesses this is a must. A credit or bill-me offer has been know to improve results. Installment payments can also improve results.
  • Offer a free trial period or a demo.
  • Buy one get one free. This proven technique is often used by restaurants to attract new customers.
  • Run a sweepstakes or contest. The more creative the better.
  • Offer rush services, discounted or free shipping. People appreciate fast service, especially when buying seasonal products.

Target your list

Try mailing to brand new businesses or new movers to the area. They groups tend to make the majority of their purchase decisions with the first 60 days. Reach them first and you can win their loyalty and business for many years.

Discover who your current customers are and market to more people or businesses just like them. Market to groups with whom you have a proven track record.

Try a new market. If you know who your customers are you also know who doesn’t buy from you. You may be able to pinpoint/find a niche or area that you haven’t yet targeted.

Calculate the success of your direct mail

Response rates vary on the product, the offer, the look of the mailer and your list. The industry standard is somewhere between a one and three percent response rate. Sounds low? Wait.

Ask yourself – does your customer buy more than one of your products in his/her lifetime? The test of success depends on how much a customer is worth to you over the next 5, 10 or 20 years. Keep in mind that one new customer is a potential referral source to many other new customers.

Here’s an example: Let’s suppose you sell fishing lures to camping stores. You want to send a catalog to all camping stores within a certain distance of your distribution center. Your mailing list has 860 camping stores. It will cost you $4.65 to mail each one.

Total cost is $4,000. Using the industry standard, you’ll get 10 customers. Is it worth it? Yes. The average camping store buys $200 in products each year and they typically buy from you for ten years. So the lifetime value of one new customer is $2,000. Your $4,000 direct mail cost just turned into $20,000 of revenue.

Direct mail works because in many cases one new customer pays for the entire mailing. Remember that you will get undeliverables. The industry standard is 5-10% undeliverable. For better success, ask when the list was last updated. Also, buy lists straight from the source – the people compiling the information will have the best accuracy.

Ten successful uses for direct mail

Here is a checklist of the most important uses of direct marketing. Review the list and mark those items that apply to your business. It’s the quickest way to see other direct marketing opportunities you may not have considered, and help you use direct mail to its fullest.

You can use direct mail to:

  1. Increase volume of sales among current customers
  2. Cross-sell additional products
  3. Build or improve relationships with customers and prospects
  4. Acquire new customers
  5. Establish a referral program
  6. Sell your products directly
  7. Persuade dealers to stock more of your product
  8. Obtain qualified leads for your sales force
  9. Test and measure different offers
  10. Survey your prospects and find out what their opinions are

Remember this simple rule. Keep your name in front of your existing customers. That way, they won’t forget about you and go somewhere else. Mail six times a year to your active customers. For your very best customers, visit them in person at least once a year to wine and dine them.

Three reasons to use direct mail

  1. Speed
  2. Focus
  3. Measurability

In today’s fast-paced marketplace, you must respond more quickly to problems and opportunities than ever before. Other forms of communication can take months. With direct mail you can get a message out within days or hours.

Plus your dollars will be spent more cost effectively because they are concentrated on your top prospects in a personalized way. You choose exactly who you want to communicate with. You have much more control and focus with direct mail. Naturally, this increases the effectiveness.

Better yet, the results are directly measurable. Many of our customers test different approaches to determine what will work best.

Information derived from the Complete Marketing Sourcebook, written by John Kremer.