Keys to a Successful Direct Mail Piece

Focus on the list! It is the most important component.

This is the #1 most important and crucial item in direct mail. The stronger your data and list can be targeted, the better the response and ROI. If you sell curling irons, you don’t want to send your mail to a group of old bald guys, right? There is more to list data then just age. We can target by income, net worth, home value, age, gender, ethnicity, education level, marital status, and more. Targeting means a strict commitment to analysis not just before the mailing, but also AFTER. The more data that can be compiled, the stronger likelihood of success in the future when used properly.

Grab their attention. Make them want to open it.

In today’s marketing climate, we receive dozens of direct mail pieces each week. While imitation may be a form of flattery, the fact is that once  certain styles catch on, multiple industries start piling on and sending similar looking pieces. There was a time that a simple non-window envelope with a return address was intriguing enough to open. Then every State Farm agent starting using that method and consumers sniff out sales letters in a snap. The “Snap Pack” perforated check mailers used to be amazing for Beltone years ago, but now many industries use “Health Notification” or “Important Announcement” in a snap pack designed to look like a paystub, and consumers are tipped off as to it being a sales piece. Keeping fresh approaches to mailers, with the intention of grabbing someone’s attention long enough to want to open it is crucial. We usually have only 2 seconds to draw them in.

Have a strong call to action. Give them a reason to call.

As important as any component in the actual mailer, you must provide a powerful message designed to make your audience take action. That action could be to call, stop in, make a purchase, etc. That action call must create a sense of urgency and provide some incentive for the prospect to contact you.

Creating a sense of urgency does not simply mean to create “this week only” events, but rather to find a way to create a deeper sense of urgency the prospect will feel, but conclude on their own. Today’s prospect is not as susceptible to responding to “One week only” events in non-retail products as they once were. (Mostly due to the overuse of forced urgency). Creating a coupon, gift certificate, or promotion with a fairly short, but not impending expiration date provides the incentive in most cases.

The urgency is created in the mind of the prospect because of the story you tell with your advertisement. In the end, if the prospect calls because he “just doesn’t want to go another day without hearing his grandkids” AND realizes there is a limited shelf life on the offer, we create the perfect scenario for a potential sale. Of course, we cannot always make everyone think this way.

Another method of urgency creation is providing them with a gift card or gift certificate. Our nature is that when someone gives us a gift card or certificate, that is $$ and we feel obligated to spend it, whereas a coupon sometimes is more easily discarded. Again, this doesn’t apply 100% of the time, but in marketing there are no absolutes.

During certain times of the year, a retail style approach using “while supplies last”, creates a real and believable reason for a special promotion or discount. Closing out old inventory is common in many businesses and commonly accepted by consumers. This is critical, as too frequently promoting “Biggest Deal Ever” and “One Week Only closeout” sales can have the opposite of the intended effect, and come across as not believable if not implemented properly.

Avoid Hyperbole and Misleading Offers

When putting together a successful mail piece, the overuse of hyperbole and offers that are “too good to be true” can be deadly. Avoid using too many generic superlatives like “Amazing” “Incredible”, or making claims that would be difficult to live up to. Also, offers that sound too good to be true often are. Today’s consumer is more aware of this. The discerning prospect reads much more into the offers than in day’s past. If you say “Free”, then something better be free. Don’t use fake checks or look-alikes. The mainstream ad community has moved past those types of mailers and onto gift card and gift certificates to replace those. The overuse of check-like pieces has caused the reaction and reputation of the piece to fall downhill over the past several years.

Talk benefits and outcomes, not features

When talking about and marketing a product, it is easy sometimes to overstate the features, but not tie them enough to the benefits and outcomes. A strong mail piece does not assume the prospect has a frame of reference to understand how a feature could help them. We must tie the product to a benefit or outcome. For example: Cross Link Directionality. Putting that verbiage in a mailer would only be relevant if we have the space to detail more about it. Most of the time, we don’t have that precious space. The feature means nothing by itself. The benefit is that you don’t have to adjust your aids as you travel into different environments. The outcome is a more confident individual that feels no fear in going to a party, then walking with their loved one along a quiet path afterwards. More simply, a better , simpler life! That sells. Save the feature talk for a one-on-one in the office.

Post Mailing Analysis

As vital to the process as the pre-mailer work is what happens after. You must track and measure your results, collecting as much data as possible. The more data you gain, information you have to analyze, the better your decisions will be next time. No matter how trivial it could seem on the surface, every piece of data about respondents to your direct mail is important. It may not be used today, tomorrow, or even next year…… but one day it could come in handy. Why would we work so hard to put out a direct mail piece, spend top dollar, then stop just before we crossed the finish line? We shouldn’t. A good direct mail provider will want the data and should expect to both provide and receive performance analysis.