4 Principles of Direct Mail Success

woman reading mail

Want an effective and affordable way to communicate with potential customers or donors? Think about direct mail. A good direct mail program can quickly reach the people most interested in your offering, tell them (or even show them) how your product or service will meet their needs, and provide an easy way for them to take action. To make sure your direct mail doesn’t fall flat, focus on these four things:

1. Reach the Right Audience

As my Dad used to say, “You can’t sell sneakers to a snake.” Take the time upfront to identify and target your strongest prospects.

  • Obtain good lists.

    You can rent qualified lists from a number of reliable sources, including list-rental companies, magazine publishers, associations, and local organizations.

  • Maintain your in-house lists.

    Your current customer and prospect list is like gold – if you keep it up to date.

  • Personalize your mailing.

    Which are you more likely to open: an envelope addressed to your name or one addressed to “current occupant”? Direct mail is the place to get personal.

2. Pick the Right Format

There are many kinds of direct mail; a personal letter, a postcard, a catalog, or even a three-dimensional package. Which one is right for your mailing?

  • Consider cost/benefit.

    The cheapest mailing option is not necessarily the best one. Consider the cost per mail piece, how many pieces you will be mailing, and the projected return on your initial investment. If your mailing could result in two $100,000 sales, a $10,000 direct mailing to 20 good prospects might make sense.

  • Assure effectiveness.

    If you’re introducing one product or service, a simple postcard with a picture or testimonial may be the quickest, most effective means to reach your audience. If, however, you’re offering a broad range of products, a full-color catalog may be your best option. Determine the best way to showcase your offering.

  • Include convenient components.

    If you want your reader to place an order, try your new product or send a donation, include a free sample, a coupon, a pledge card, or other easy response tools.

3. Make Your Message Count

You can lead a horse tow after, but you can’t make it drink…unless it’s thirsty. Make your audience thirsty for your product with attention-grabbing visuals and headlines that speak to their unmet needs.

  • Find their “hot buttons”

    Do surveys, interviews and focus groups with customers and salespeople to find out what matters most to the people who buy your products and services.

  • Talk about benefits, not features.

    Use your insights to tell them how you can make their life better or their work easier. Get specific. Explain how your offering can solve their problem or enhance their daily experiences.

  • Include convenient components.

    If you want your reader to place an order, try your new product or send a donation, include a free sample, a coupon, a pledge card, or other easy response tools.

  • Appeal to their emotions.

    Make them laugh or cry, or remember or imagine. Make them care.

  • Make an irresistible offer.

    Answer the age-old question of all readers – “What’s in it for me?” Offer a discount, a free gift, or a no-obligation demonstration. Make it easy for them to give you a try.

  • Create a sense of urgency.

    “Act today! Supplies are limited!”

  • Include a P.S.

    It’s often the first thing people read.

4. Make it Easy to Respond

Once you’ve captured your audience’s interest, make it easy for them to respond – with a toll-free phone number, an interactive website, a simple reply card, or a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Some other things to consider:

  • Ensure a smooth follow-through.

    You got them interested. Now it’s your chance to prove yourself – with excellent service and a quick fulfillment process.

  • Track your responses & analyze your results.

    Use the information to optimize your future campaigns, and pivot when your circumstances change. Build an arsenal of techniques that work for your organization.

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