Direct Mail, when done correctly, produces great results. The problem is that most people don’t really understand what direct mail is, and confuse it with plain old mail. Let me briefly explain the difference. Now bear with me; this may seem a bit simplistic but most people actually misunderstand what makes direct mail different from simply mailing out an ad. Consequently, many marketers get poor results from their mailing campaigns. Mail is, well… mail. Mail is simply something that gets sent out to someone. It’s as simple as that. It could be a letter, an advertisement or a catalog. You get the idea. But direct mail is a bit different.
Have you ever reflected on why direct mail is called direct mail? Direct mail is called that because it is mail that asks for a direct response. A direct mail piece can be a letter, postcard, door hanger, brochure, or even some kind of unusual attention-getting item. Crafting an effective direct mail piece is an art rather than a science.
Let’s discuss the factors that affect the response rate to a direct mail campaign. One of these factors is the quality of the list. Another is the timing of the mailing. (In other words, the time of week, month, or year that you mail out a piece may affect the response rate.) In addition, response rates will vary with the quality of the creative copy that you send out. What I mean by that, is that all the different components of the copy in your direct mail piece will affect the response rate you get. These components include the headline, the benefits you create, the credibility you create, and even the paper you use. And finally, the offer that’s presented will affect the response rate.
For success, it is absolutely critical to track each campaign you run as to list service, timing, list specifics, copy particulars, rate of response and sales generated. Improving each aspect of your campaign can have dramatic effects on your sales growth. Keep in mind that having 100 responses and 2 sales is not nearly as good as having 5 responses and 4 sales. So while the rate of response is good to measure, and it is good to get up as high as possible, the ultimate measures of success are the number of sales and the dollars of sales that are generated by your marketing investment.
Next, let’s talk about the components of a well-crafted direct mail piece. It’s important that you craft a direct mail piece that addresses the concerns and needs of your recipients. If you want it to be effective, then don’t send out a vanilla, yellow page-type ad. (If you open up the yellow pages, you’ll see ad after ad of the same message with different company names. Unfortunately, the same thing holds true for many mail pieces.) We often get very vanilla mail pieces. They don’t spark any interest or emotion.
An effective direct mail piece should:
1) Be personalized if possible
2) Be crafted as an ad in letter form
3) Address the concerns of the recipient
4) Be stated in terms of benefits rather than features or advantages
5) Highlight the things that set you and your service/product apart
6) Ask for a direct response from the recipient; and
7) Include an incentive to take action now.
Now many of those list items are things that you would normally say are kind of a “no-brainer”. They’re things that you would obviously address in your marketing piece. Yet piece after piece that I know I receive – and I’m willing to bet you receive – don’t have those components in them. Many of the marketing pieces sent out are focused on the products and services someone is trying to sell, rather than on the recipient, their needs, and the benefits that you and your product and service could provide. In addition, most mail pieces that I’ve seen focus on saving money (which, of course, attracts price-shoppers). So in the rest of this article, we’re going to discuss the components in an effective direct mail piece.
The first component we’re going to discuss, and one which many people believe to be the most important component of effective sales copy, is the headline. Basically, if the headline doesn’t immediately capture the reader’s attention, the rest of your copy won’t be read. The job of a headline is to capture the reader’s attention.
The next step in crafting an effective direct mail piece is to clarify the benefits of what you are offering. It’s important to recognize that a person will be most motivated to act when they clearly see what’s in it for them. People generally are not motivated by the features of a product/service, or even by the advantages. They’re mostly motivated by the benefits that a product or service provides.
There’s one more very important step in creating an effective direct mail piece. You need to get them to respond to you. You need a response mechanism, preferably with an incentive for taking immediate action.
The response mechanism would typically be one of four approaches:
1. You want them to call you
2. You want them to come by your office
3. You want them to email you, or
4. You want them to mail back a reply card
You need to be very clear as to what you would like them to do, and you need to have at least one or two mechanisms for them to respond with. Now in conjunction with that call to action, you should incorporate an incentive to prompt them to act sooner than later. That prompting can be related to a certain date or within a certain timeframe. A couple of ways to add an incentive are, for instance, to offer a free gift or a free analysis. You could offer a free report you’ve developed. What you want to do is give people an incentive to respond to you if they have any interest at all.
So to wrap up, direct mail can be an excellent means of finding new prospects when done correctly. You need to be mindful of your marketing investment. You need to track your expenses, your response rate, your conversion rate, and the sales generated. If you craft a direct mail piece correctly and run consistent campaigns, you can generate a consistent stream of quality prospects.