November Tips: More Effective Direct Mail

Direct Marketing

Branding, awareness building, positioning ... all of these lay the groundwork, but quantifying results is difficult and expensive. Direct marketing, on the other hand, is truly measurable. This is the experienced marketer's favorite sport. The list, creative, offer and response vehicle are each designed to maximize results. And with the speed and beautiful trackability of the Web, marketers are finally armed with the ability to validate the quality of their actions. Online or plain old mail, we love direct marketing.

And this time of year, your boxes (in and mail) stuffed with it. But in the brave new business world, turkeys don't fly, pilgrim. So we've cooked-up a few tasty tips that'll help you rise above the flock and have your sales force giving thanks.

Pull up a chair and get 'em while they're hot.

1. Double-check Your Guest List

First, clean and polish your mailing list. Up to 30% of the names on an 18-month-old list are left-overs. Purge dupes to ensure a fat-free list. Make sure it contains your target audience, the right titles, and falls within your geographic service area. In addition to postage costs, bad lists waste paper, printing and your time.

2. A Feast for the Eyes

It's all in the presentation. Don't over-stuff your mailing with hard-to-digest words and half-baked images. In less than three seconds your recipient will decide to read it, or stuff it. Be creative, crisp and clean. Your recipients have a lot on their plates. If it looks warmed-over and tough to read, your mail piece will be tossed.

3. Serve Nourishing Copy

Nourish your reader's appetite for benefits. Go heavy on content and light on the sauce. Tell the reader up-front what you're serving. Use subheads as appetizers. If you're making a tempting offer, mention it early. Use short, easy-to-consume sentences. Pile-on a hearty helping of benefits and leave your reader wanting more.

4. Don't Overlook Take-Out

Your envelope shouldn't be an afterthought. In business-to-business, standard or card size envelopes draw best. Imprint the name and address directly on the envelope (don't label). More than 50% of upper-level managers have assistants open their mail, and half-again have mail screened. Take care to convey quality and usefulness to the target and the gatekeeper. Generally, the higher up the ladder the more your mailing should look like a personally-typed business letter.

5. Stamps Deliver

Avoid using pre-printed permits (indicias). Real "live" stamps perform best. If forced to choose between meter and indicia, choose meter. If mailing third class, consider bulk-rate stamps. Many companies now prioritize incoming mail by postage class. In fact, studies indicate that 30% of bulk mail to Fortune 500 companies isn't delivered internally. Test First vs. Third Class: Increased response rates may make up for higher postage costs.

6. Shed Unwanted Inches and Ounces

Measure all the trimmings. Make sure your designer knows USPS minimum and maximum size and thickness requirements, and where the rates change. Weigh the combined elements before production. A subtle change in paper stock can have a big impact on postage costs.

7. Timing

Time of year can dramatically effect direct mail success. Generally, for non-seasonal products summer's a bummer. January, September, October and November typically perform best for consumer goods. January, February, September and October rank highest for business products.

8. Dessert: That Tempting Offer

Present a hard-to-resist, risk-free offer. If your goal is quality responses, make a product-related offer that a qualified prospect will value: a free tutorial brochure, product literature, demo disk or sample. If possible, put a time-limit on your offer (rebate, discount, etc.) to encourage prompt action.

9. Many Happy Returns

Make it easy to respond. Include your phone number, fax number, e-mail and web address. Repeat your offer or main selling point on the reply card (in the reader's voice). Detached, postage-paid reply cards pull best. Never ask for a stamp. And consider colored stock. Studies indicate colored reply cards can increase response rates up to 30%.

10. Recipe for Success: Test, Measure, Refine

Following these basic tips will increase your chances for direct mail success. However, the best recipe for your product and market will require some experimentation. Include a mechanism for tracking responses and test different messages and different lists.

For more tricks to creating direct mail that soars email us or give us a call at 703-591-0100 for a no-obligation consultation.

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