Put a Little Zip
In Direct Mailings
popularity of e-marketing, direct mail still works for many
companies. How well it works depends on a number of variables.
It's a game of percentages. Here are six tips to help improve
your company's odds:
"Direct" is the operative word.
A key advantage of direct mail versus traditional
advertising to a mass audience is the ability to effectively
reach people who are good prospects for your product or
service. How well do you know your target market — age,
gender, level of education, marital status, household income,
geographic location, etc.? If you're working with a list
broker, such information helps determine which lists will
bring the best results.
The more specific your list requirements, the higher the
cost. But it may be worth it. A carefully targeted campaign
reduces printing and postage costs and that savings is
magnified over multiple mailings.
The Value of Direct
Based on research
conducted by the U.S. Postal Service, the value of mail
as opposed to other forms of communication is
Value: Mail has a greater chance of
delivering your message, because it is more likely to
reach the intended recipient. Even mail that is
addressed to "owner" or "manager," or another
title without a specific name included will
generally be routed to the right person. You can
add even more value by sending your mail by expedited
Value: Your mail
message has a longer life. Businesspeople keep useful
mail, viewing it as a resource of helpful information,
and even creating a mail
is a resource for decision makers. When it comes to such
decisions as purchases, selecting vendors, or finding
training or professional events, business people
reference their library of received mail.
Value: Mail drives Web traffic,
encourages responses, and build relationships. Used
effectively, mail facilitates comfortable relationships
by providing easy reply mechanisms such as postcards or
postage-paid envelopes, and by motivating recipients to
log onto the advertiser's Web site for more
The bottom line is, businesspeople
value useful mail. If the message is helpful it is often
read and retained as a resource for decision making. The
mailing can be highlighted, saved, and shared with
others who need it.
the U.S. Postal Service Web site, Direct Mail section that
provides many helpful tips and
you maintain your own direct mail database or rent lists of
names, it's important to have current addresses. Watch out for
bargain lists whose principal source of contacts is the
telephone book. A significant percentage of listings are
outdated even before the phone book is published.
Because bulk mail doesn't get forwarded or returned to the
sender, it's smart to clean up your database or list before
mailing. The U.S. Postal Service maintains a National Change
of Address (NCOA) service that it licenses to vendors.
When your list is NCOA processed, business or consumer
addresses that have changed in the previous three and one-half
years are updated before your mailing. It's generally cheaper
and certainly better than doing "Change Service Requested"
(formerly "Address Correction Requested"), which doesn't
provide you updated addresses until after your mailing.
Anytime you can increase the number of pieces delivered to
your target market, you improve the response.
Make the headline count.
Your direct mail piece has about three seconds to
hook recipients. The headline must trigger their "what's in it
for me?" reflex. That's why pitches like: "Lose 10 lbs. in 2
Weeks!" motivate many people to read on. Notice it says
nothing about the product and everything about what the
recipient stands to gain. Many
companies make the mistake of giving up on direct mail after
one or two mailings. A rule of thumb in direct marketing is
that you should mail to recipients, including your own
customers, at least six times per year. Of course, you want to
vary the content of your mailings, but give them a "family"
look so that they're instantly recognizable as coming from
When you're writing
headlines, "benefits" are more enticing bait than "features."
By the way, there's an important piece of direct mail real
estate that often gets overlooked. It's the space on the
envelope or the address side of a post card. There's room for
a teaser, such as "Valuable Coupons Inside." Just make sure
the placement of the phrase meets postal requirements.
In addition to a good headline, your solicitation can
be enhanced with a good postscript. Many people who only scan
letters will read down to the P.S.
Make it easy to respond.
What do you want the recipient to do? Call for
information? Reply to a survey? Order a product? Visit your
store? Too often, direct mailers forget to include a "call to
action." Make it convenient for recipients to act. If you want
them to call, clearly provide the phone number and hours. If
you want them to respond to a survey, enclose a postage-paid
Test everything. Brainstorm
about the many factors that can impact your results. Do test
mailings. Colors, headlines, lists, delivery time, paper stock
and the time of year you're mailing are just a few things to
Before each mailing, take a sample of your direct mail
piece to a Post Office Business Mail Center if you live
in an urban area, or to the person responsible for business
mail in a smaller city. They'll advise you on how to prepare
your mailing to qualify for postal discounts and to ensure
speedy delivery. Always do one or more test mailings before
you invest in a huge direct mail campaign.
Keep in mind that smaller can be
better. Some companies find they get a better
response to offers made on postcards. Postcards cost much less
to mail than first class letters. Plus, they are less
expensive to design and print than a full-blown mailing. The
savings can be substantial.