Direct Mail

DM is a mixture of art and science. The art is in writing the letter and the science is in tracking the results for better future mailings.

Direct Mail pt. 1:

There are many components to direct mail. This piece is meant to give some general education and provide some best practices for implementing a highly effective direct mail campaign.

At its core, direct mail is pretty simple. You generally have a goal to sell a product, service, or mission. You create, buy, or rent a mail list. You write copy and mail it out. You measure to see if your response covered your costs and, if so, you consider doing it again and maybe in a larger volume. Michael Masterson wrote in his book Changing the Channel that “Direct mail is a mixture of art and science. The art is in writing the letter while the science is in tracking the results for better future mailings.”

The old adage goes, “Copy is King”, but in reality, finding the right mail list is job #1 for any successful direct mail campaign. A great list will still respond to mediocre copy, but a bad list will not respond to even the best of copies. Your house list will be your most responsive and you need to clean it every year. Survey your current list to find common variables to best source rented or purchased lists.

Every direct mail piece needs a strong offer that creates an incentive or reward for responding. Remember to make different offers to current clients than to prospects.

Direct Mail No Background

Famed copywriter Alan Sharpe has 10 rules for a strong offer:

1. Be specific
2. Make it exclusive
3. Create value
4. Be unique
5. Make it useful
6. Make sure it is relevant
7. Be credible
8. Make it easy
9. Create a sense of urgency
10. Include a strong guarantee

Think of your copy as a 4-legged stool; forget any leg and it will be shaky, forget two and it will fall. The first leg is the big idea. What is the unifying concept that holds everything together and best expresses your unique selling proposition? The second leg is the benefit, the promise you make about how your product or service will help the recipient of your DM piece. Remember: the stronger the promise, the higher the response rate! Leg three is your track record. Show proof of your claims (“performance as promised”) and include testimonials. The fourth leg is credibility where you position yourself and your product or service as leaders.

Here are a few tips and some questions for your consideration on your next direct mail project:

  • Envelopes garner a higher response rate than post cards
  • Black ink on white paper has by far the highest response rate
  • Stamped mail outperforms metered and bulk mail
  • Self addressed pieces do better than mailing labels
  • Try to always include a PS with another strong offer
  • Monitor what your competition is doing
  • Stating “No sales person will contact you” will lift response
  • Include cross media info (phone #, website, PURL, 2D barcode)
  • BRC will lift response on return mail
  • Are you taking advantage of your database to incorporate some 1-2-1 marketing?
  • Try to capture email addresses and make sure to send a follow up email to any DM piece to further lift your response
  • Are you including lift letters in your envelopes?
  • If the recipient needs to fill in information on the response, are you using the right paper and did you leave enough space?
  • In a B2B mailing, are you sending out to multiple decision makers at any one company?
  • Do you know what your breakeven point is?
  • Are you testing, measuring and modifying?

Direct Mail pt. 2:

Direct mail advertising is becoming increasingly more effective. Due to increasing rates of spam and consumers’ marketing messages overflowing consumers’ inboxes, a direct mail piece stands out now more than ever.

Be sure to test your campaign before you spend a dime on printing. Using email marketing you can test headlines, design and offers before bearing the costs of actual printing and mailing. The bottom line is to test, test, test!