6 Tips for Starting a Profitable Direct Mail Program
Ross Behrens, a freelance marketing writer and a full time account manager with AdSell Companies, offers the following six tips to help you start a profitable direct mail program.
1. Start with a Mailing List
Your best list is your customer list, known as your house list. You can also rent a list from a list broker. Thousands of lists are available, with prices ranging from $30/M (thousand) to more than $250/M depending on the degree of customization. Minimum quantities are usually required. Ask your printing company or mail pre-sort house to process your list using the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS). This will standardize addresses to meet postal guidelines and qualify your mailing for postal discounts.
2. Create an Urgent Offer
Whether you mail a postcard or an envelope filled with materials, make an offer that excites your customer and makes him or her take action. Don't mail a piece that merely informs. Create urgency. Give lots of reasons why your customer must act now. Describe what will be lost if he or she fails to act now. And tell exactly what you want your customer to do. The offer is so important to the success of a mailing that many professional direct marketers create the offer first and then develop the rest of the content around the offer.
3. Know What Works in Advance
How do you know the piece you’re going to mail will work? You don’t, unless you test. Even a small mailing of a few thousand pieces can be a costly experiment if no one
responds. So test mail to a portion of your list. If the results aren’t what you expected, rethink your offer, re-examine your list and test again. Mail to your entire list only when you're happy with the results of your test mailing.
4. Keep Track
Whether you want your customers to respond with a phone call, a visit, or a mailed back reply card, code your mailing. A simple numeric or letter code on a coupon or response device tells you who's responding to what offer. Start tracking your results as soon as the first responses come in. Early on you’ll know what’s working.
5. How Many Pieces to Mail
Use the response rate provided by your test mailing to guide you on how much to mail at one time. You don't want the number of responses to overwhelm you and your sales support staff. But you don't want just a trickle either. If necessary, spread your mailings over weeks so that your responses match your ability to fulfill them.
6. Last But Important
Analyze your results. This final stage of your direct mail campaign—technically called “analytics”—serves as a springboard for future campaigns. Did your results match the projections you made from your test? Did certain demographics perform better or worse than expected? Are there sub-segments you should target differently? Add this data to your customer database and your next mailing will be even more rewarding.
Ross Behrens is a freelance marketing writer and a full time account manager with AdSell Companies, a commercial printer and direct mail production house. He can be reached at 314-378-4877, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.