Monday, November 14, 2016

Marketing Success Using Direct Mail

Traditional direct mail, email, and social media work best together. All have a place in the marketer’s tool kit. They do not cancel the need for the others, and they work symbiotically like when a postcard is sent offering a premium if the recipient provides an e-mail address or likes a social media site.

Some Prefer Mail

While we acknowledge the importance of email and web-based communication to reach customers and prospects – computers and smartphones alone cannot reach everyone in a business’s target market.

Direct mail is one of the more profitable ways to touch existing and potential clients. It’s a good choice for some audiences, such as older people. This demographic uses online sources, but prefers and responds better to print and mail communication. Young professionals 18 to 34 have one of the best response rates to direct mail campaigns. Part of the reason is that college students and young professionals have been inundated with spam, making their taste for online communication more discriminating.

Direct mail is also a good choice for businesses whose target audience is local. Sustaining membership campaigns, fundraisers, and invitations to events by community-based non-profits are good examples where outreach by traditional direct mail to donors is likely to outperform an email or web-based campaign.

Success in 3 Steps

To conduct a successful direct mail marketing campaign, you’ll need: a mailing list, a mail piece and something to communicate that is of interest to your target audience. We’re making it sound simple, because it really is.

Notice that we said a successful direct mail marketing campaign. If you measure success as the response rate, then greater success comes from a series of mailings rather than a one-time mailing.

 The ideal number of mailings in a campaign is either 3 or 7, mailed close enough together to build recognition in the mind of the recipient. Studies show that the cumulative response spikes after 3 mailings, then reaches a point of diminishing return until the 7th mailing, when response spikes again. Based on this fact, the response rate will be greater if you mail three times to a smaller list rather than one time to a larger list. Said another way, if your budget allows for mailing 3000 pieces, you’ll get a better response by mailing three times to 1000 rather than one time to 3000.

Step 1: The Mail List

The best response rate comes from mailing to those who are already familiar with your business. This can be your customers (active and inactive), prospects who have contacted you, and referrals from customers or friends.

A list you put together yourself consisting of customers, prospects, and referrals is known as a house list. A house list can be compiled from customer purchase transactions, donor records, membership rosters, and similar sources. In general, a house list produces a higher response rate than a purchased list because so many of the individuals on the list already know who you are.

If you want to expand your house list by adding a purchased list, a good technique is to submit the house list for data append. Data append adds demographic information such as household income, gender of the head of household, home value, presence of children for residences, and annual sales volume, number of employees, and SIC code for businesses. Data append creates a profile of those on your house list, and then the profile can be used to select prospective customers whose profile is a match.

Using this technique, you’ll have a targeted mailing list of customers with whom you have an established business relationship and prospects whose demographic characteristics match those of your customers. If the list consists of businesses, you can further refine the list by searching the internet for the business’s website and gathering additional information to help you personalize your message.

As you prepare your mail list, keep this fact in mind: the mail list accounts for 60% of the response rate in any direct mail marketing campaign.

Step 2: The Mail Piece

Whether you are sending a postcard, a self-mailer, or something inserted in an envelope, the mail piece needs to be well-designed so it catches the eye and the interest of the recipient. Seven seconds is the amount of time a recipient looks at a direct mail marketing piece before deciding what to do with it – read it now, set it aside to read later, or discard.

We recommend that you send a full color mail piece. Using full color allows you to emphasize a point and guide the reader’s eye around the mail piece. Another possibility is to use a stark black-and-white design. If you want to try this technique, please consult with us on the best paper to use. Black and white can be dramatic, but it can also look cheap depending on the design, printing process, and paper used.

The appearance of the mail piece accounts for 20% of the response rate.

Step 3: The Words and The Offer

For businesses seeking to sell a product or service, a traditional direct mail marketing piece always includes an offer and a call to action. The offer is worded to motivate the recipient to take action; the call to action tells the recipient what to do and may give a time frame for acting (known as creating a sense of urgency).

Not all direct mail marketing campaigns are launched for the purpose of generating sales leads. Other reasons for sending something through the mail include increasing name recognition or brand awareness, providing information, and making announcements.

Here are some additional wording elements that all direct mail pieces should include:

  • The benefits to the recipient. Persuasive text for a direct mail marketing piece tells the recipient what he/she ultimately wants to know – what’s in it for me. Translate your product and service features to benefits. Overcome problems or fear with a solution. Appeal to emotion. Just remember to clearly state why the recipient should continue to read the mail piece or take the action you recommend.
  • Your company name, logo, and contact information. Your company name and logo are important for establishing name recognition and brand awareness. However, they normally are not placed in a dominant position on the mail piece. Save the prominent location for a reader benefit statement. Be sure that the contact information is easy to find.
  • Return address. Adding a return address implies that your business or organization is established and is committed to transparency in its communications. A return address will help you to keep your mailing list current.
The offer and the wording on the mail piece accounts for 20% of the response rate.

Final Step

We believe that the most important step for success in direct mail marketing is consistency. By using a consistent style in both design and copywriting and mailing regularly, you’ll increase awareness in the target audience and leverage the effect of your efforts. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a direct mail campaign, we would be glad to discuss that with you. Please contact Brigid at 215-923-2679 or And let’s get started!

Q&A: I am fairly proficient at Excel. Can I use it for my mail list?

Yes – provided you understand that even though Excel displays the information in rows and columns, it is not creating the tables of a relational database and so has limitations when it comes to finding and sorting data (compared to a database program like MS Access).

There are two things to be aware of if you use Excel for a mailing list. The first is that it is possible to change the sort order of a single column while leaving all the other columns in their existing order, leading to a mismatch of the address elements in each row. The second is that when you “hide” rows or columns to change how the mail list displays on screen, you are not eliminating the hidden data. It is still there, and so will be included in the file you provide to us for mailing.

What Is Seen First?

When designing a postcard, it is important to consider what the recipient will see first. Mail arrives in a bundle, arranged from smallest to largest piece, and with all the address panels facing forward. Therefore, what the recipient will see first is the side of the mail piece that contains the mail panel. We mention this because most people assume the side without the mail panel is the most important side of the postcard.

There is no requirement that the mail panel take up the entire right hand half of the mail piece. Provided the individual address lines are of standard length, you’ll only need enough room for the outbound address and the USPS-required bar code. By reducing the size of the mail panel, you’ll have space for additional information, a sales message or an attention-getting graphic.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To spend time with family and friends, we will be closed
Thursday, November 24 and Friday, November 25.