8 Ways to Make Sure Your Direct Mail Marketing Is Effective

Get the Most for Direct Mail Marketing

Get the Most for Direct Mail Marketing

Many of you may have tried direct mail marketing only to feel like it was a waste of time, energy and money.  Why did your campaign not perform?  What type of response were you expecting and how did you measure that response.  I am sharing this information with you because I want you to succeed – not just with your direct mail campaigns – but in everything you do.  If you have questions or need assistance, please contact me or leave a comment below.

Here is what you should know about direct mail

The average response rate for the 1,122 industry-specific campaigns that the DMA studied was 2.61%.

Within sectors, nonprofit fundraisers enjoy the most success with direct response, getting rates of 5.35%. Close behind are retail stores (with 3.36%) and establishments selling services to businesses (3.34%).

Manufacturing delivers 3.17%; personal and repair services 3.07%; and travel 2.98%. The two sectors at the bottom of the list — computer/electronic products and packaged goods — still get better than 2% response.

Variable Print Campaigns increase the response rate by up to +5%

(from http://www.directmag.com)

So what does that mean to you?

Have a resonable expectation.  If you send out 1,000 postcards to a qualified mailing list, you should expect about 20 people to respond (don’t confuse respond with purchase).  Make it a variable print campaign and that number could up to as high as 75 people.

Here are some tips to have a successful direct mail campaign.

  • Use a qualified mailing list. Seems like a no brainer, but often companies miss this step.
  • Have a resonable expectaion on the return. Don’t expect a 50% response.  It isn’t going to happen.
  • Take advantages of new technologies to drive up and track your response rate.
  1. Variable printing (where you can customize the message on each card to be relevant to the recipiant) has great power and will increase your response if done correctly.  (Not those stupid postcards you get with a billboard that has your name on it – very, very lame.
  2. Personalized URL (PURL) allows you to add a url to your campaign where recipeients can log on to get thier offer.  For example, you can offer a generic 10% discount for your product or service, but then have a second “Vist http://www.personalizedurl.com and get 20% off!”  When they arrive, you can give them what you have offered, ask them to take a survery, gather more information from them etc.  It is a win-win for everyone.
  • Make sure you direct mail campaign is strongly branded and consistent with other items you may already have out there.  You want your prospects to recognize you and have a sense of familiarity when they recieve the item.  Working with a graphic designer can be a very critical key to this process.  For example, you send out your item, someone goes to your website and they leave becuase they think they are at the wrong place – there is no visual consistency to tie your messages together.

Tips on developing a direct mail campaign2361223017_299381b262

1. Develop A Primary Offer

If you sell something – tacos, make-up or elephant dung – that is pretty simple.  Create an offer that would interest clients like, “Free Taco Tuesdays for Kids”.  If you are in a service industry – accountant, home design, exterminator – this step may not appear easy, but it is!  It is a two step process.  FIRST you have build the value of the service to your audience – then you can offer them things like a free consultation, discounted rate on hourly services, or free evaluation. Here is a good example, “We will inspect your home for pests at no cost and make recommendations on how you can avoid future infestation, while saving you 10% on your first home treatment.”

2. Develop a Secondary Offer

Your primary offer will attract prospects that are ready to do business today or in the near future. However, this represents only a small fraction of the potential market. Therefore, you need to make a secondary offer to attract those prospects who are not ready to buy right now but may have a need in three, six or 12 months.

This secondary offer can be a free booklet, special report, brochure, fact sheet, free gift or other item  the reader can calling or visiting your site or PURL. Going back to our taco example, it could be something like, “Purchase a $25 Taco gift card and get a $5 Taco gift card for yourself!”  Stress the primary offer with strong graphics all over your mailing.  The secondary offer needs to be visible, but think of it as a “P.S.” in terms of the impact it needs to make visually.  For our exterminator your message could be “Call today to request your FREE 3 Simple Steps to a Pest Free Home Guide”

3. Encourage a Targeted Response

How do you want these prospects to contact you?  Phone?  Email?  Decide and make that message loud and clear!  If you want them to pick up the phone – your phone number should be in at least 2 VERY VISIBLE places.  Want them to email?  Same deal?  Want them to visit your web site?  (That can be a slippery slope if you are not using PURL as you are asking for 2 actions – visit web site and then contact us – you may loose some along the way)  But always free free to promote your site by providing your web address.  Those doing research or wanting to learn more about you will appreciate it.  Bottom line –  contact information should always be clear and easy to read.

4. Establish Credibility

Prospects want to deal with businesses who are experts in their field or marketplace. Here are some techniques that can build this sense of credibility into the direct-mail package:

  • Add a few quotes from happy customers, it makes prospect comfortable about what you offer.  “Taco Palace has the friendliest staff and tastiest food.  My kids won’t eat anywhere else!  Thanks Taco Palace!”  “Bob’s Bug Bashers provided fast and professional service, they showed up 20 mintes before my dinner party to remove a dead rat in the wall.  I will alwasy use Bob’s Bug Bashers for all my bug bashing needs!”
  • If there has been positive press, you may want to add that too.  “Taco Palace – Voted Houston’s best Taco 3 Years in a row!”  “Bob’s Bug Bashers received the award for most bugs bashed in 2007.”
  • Name drop (if it is relevant – and true).  “Oprah’s favorite taco spot in Houston!” “Bob’s Bug Bashers services the homes of Mayor John Doe and rap star Real-E!”
  • Include associations you are a part of including the Better Business Bureau.
  • Make sure the direct mail item is consistently branded with what prospects have seen before from you.  This increases reconition and builds consumer confidence.  (Just putting your logo somewhere does not count)

5. Use other promotion techniques to build your reputation

Direct mail is effective for generating immediate leads, but it is not the primary tool for enhancing credibility. To build a professional reputation, get involved in your community, get local press from the newspapers, join associations and volunteer your time.  Make visable donations to causes you feel strongly about – in your business name – not yours.  You can also use social media and social networks as well as blogs to build credibility.  Get endorsements for people others respect. Performing these activities will lead to a higher response to direct mail because the recipient will have already heard of you when he receives direct mail piece.

6.  Stay Visable!

Plan on doing at least a 2 part or 3 part campaing.  If your offer is time sensitive and ends in four weeks – send out a mailing three times reminding them that the deadline is approaching for you offer and to ACT NOW.  If your offer is no

t time sensitive you’ll want to stay “in their face”.  Maybe they accidently threw away the first post card you sent out, maybe they were meaning to call and forgot.  Either way, staying in front of your prospects is a way to build recogntion and credibility.

7.  Have a Great Design


Your direct mail items needs to be effectively designed.  A graphic designer is the best person to do this for you (your sister’s son who has taken a few college courses, does not count!).  They will know the best techniques to make your direct mail piece stand out from the rest of the mail.  They will know how to emphasize your primary message and secondary message.  They will add credibility to your business by making you look professional. They will know the best ways to visually communicate your message with the greatest impact.  Working with a graphic designer does not guarantee results, but it increases them.

8.  Understand the Printing of your Direct Mail Piece

How will it be printed?  Is it going to be full-color?  Glossy?  How big?  How will the size effect your postage?  What is the best method for printing that is the best value?  Establish a relationship with a qualified printer and they will be able to guide you through these question and make recommendations.  A qualified graphic designer will do the same.  For my clients, I turn-key these types of projects, not only providing the design services but the printing as well.  This benefits them in two ways.  First, it allows me to make recommendations on the design and the ENTIRE project that fit my clients budget.  If a client says, I want a JUMBO post card that is full color with lots of zing – I don’t design one until I know they understand that a JUMBO post card will cost more postage, that full-color can also add additional expense, etc.  This is part of a qualified consultation – one each of you should be getting if you work with a designer.  Second, it allows my clients to focus on the business of doing their business.  We work on the design, they finalize the artwork and BAM in a few days the final printed items arrive on their door step.  Find someone that you can develop that kind of relationship with. If you don’t have someone you know and trust, contact me.  I’ll be happy to assist you!

Happy Direct Mail Marketing!

Did you find this article helpful?  What questions do you still have.  Please leave comments below.

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20 Responses

  1. I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

  2. Thanks Ben! We can all work together to share knowledge that will help us succeed!

  3. I fail at point Number 7. It’s a bit of a shame really. I have tried looking for people to design for me but everytime someone does something i am never happy with it. It’s pretty hard to find someone who is willing to do a good design for cheap nowadays, i don’t want to be spending $$$$, nothing much you can do though.

  4. Josh, I can contact you and walk you through if needed. Just let me know. I’m here to help!
    There are lots of great designers out there who can help you for less than you might think. I can always point you in the right direction. Great design does not have to be expensive. I can even quote a project for you if you just want to look at numbers. Let me know and Good Luck!

  5. Awesome post. If everybody followed these tips they’d do so much better, even in today’s economy.

    Keep up the great work!

    Jeremy Reeves

  6. great article on direct mail!

    Check out my direct mail blog sometime


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  8. Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

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  10. PURLS
    (Personalized URLs)

    The Personalized URL (PURL) is a very powerful Direct Marketing tool. Used in conjunction with Variable Printing Data, PURLs can help you surpass your most ambitious marketing goals. A PURL is really just a simple, personalized website. By adding a PURL (such as CustomerName.GrowYourBiz.com) to a Direct Mail piece, you can create an incomparable cross marketing campaign. As noted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), a PURL can:
     Increase response rates by as much as 400%
     Reduce cost per lead by 50%
     Secure invaluable information about each customer
     Convert prospects into loyal customers
     Enhance your Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
     Equip your sales force with highly qualified leads
     Track and measure campaign responses in real-time

    Additionally, recent industry studies reveal that nearly half of direct mail recipients prefer to respond online. In fact, one quarter of recipients will only respond on line. Metro Data & Mailing can help you capture these valuable leads by creating a PURL to reinforce every direct mail piece created through our Variable Data Printing.

    Considering their widespread reach, PURLs are certainly one of the most cost effective means to increase response rates. In fact, they can easily fit into virtually any marketing budget at just a few cents apiece. Metro Data & Mailing can help you create hundreds or thousands of customized PURLs in record time utilizing your customer database or mailing list.

    PURLs will also help propel your marketing efforts to the next level. You can secure information not available through conventional campaigns with a single, general web site link. And you can use this information to determine the effectiveness of your marketing, learn more about your customers, provide your sales force with hot leads and grow your business.
    Two Great Resources for PURL’s are:
    These systems are far more sophisticated than other software out there, fully customizable, and far less expensive as they are the creators, not distributors.

  11. Purlem (http://purlem.com) is a simple way to get up and running with PURLs in only a few minutes. Give it a try for free!

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  14. First off great post! It is very helpful… I am a recent graduate from VCU and currently a marketing intern at Convergent Technologies Group. We are a Richmond Va based solutions provider for big and small business in the IT field. Currently we are in the makings of launching a direct mail marketing campaign for K-12 videoconferencing with virtual field trips. I am currently the only one working on this initiative and am in need of some serious guidance!!! As a recent grad I have zero real work experience, feel overwhelmed and a tad like I don’t really know what Am doing from time to time. My boss doesn’t have much experience in marketing as well so I don’t really have a strong role to follow if ya catch my drift!! I am thankful I found your post it will be very helpful from this point forward. However I have all kinds of questions from the design standpoint…How big should my direct mail piece be? How much content vs pictures and offerings? We are thinking of making it a 5 piece campaign to be sent once a week for 5 weeks…What is the most cost effective way to go about this? Have any suggestions for a designer or qualified printer I could get in contact with that could point me in the right direction? We want to stress the importance of the benefits our customers will receive from purchasing the videoconferencing units. How much information is to much information? Would a newsletter format be effective in addressing this? I am starting from the beginning and do not know how to effectively go about this!! As you can see I have a lot of questions!! I really enjoyed reading your post and look forward to hearing from you soon if you have any insight into any of my questions. Thanks and Take care!

  15. However I have all kinds of questions about direct mail from the design standpoint…How big should my direct mail piece be? How much content vs pictures and offerings? We are thinking of making it a 5 piece campaign to be sent once a week for 5 weeks…What is the most cost effective way to go about this? Have any suggestions for a designer or qualified printer I could get in contact with that could point me in the right direction? We want to stress the importance of the benefits our customers will receive from purchasing the videoconferencing units. How much information is to much information? Would a newsletter format be effective in addressing this?

    Katherine, You have a lot of great questions and my recommendation to you is to work with a qualified studio or designer who understands direct mail marketing (as well as email marketing) and printing and can make the proper suggestions for you.
    Blueleaf Creative is a great resource to help you. You can also learn more about postcard design, and postcard printing. Why not contact us and see how we can help? If we can’t, we’ll point you in the right direction to help you find someone who can.

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