How To Create a Successful Direct Mail Campaign from Start to Finish
Many of you have heard this before, but if you haven't, the three keys to success you're your direct mail efforts are:
- The List
- The Offer
- The Creative
Before you embark on your direct mail project, do some pre-mail analysis and planning - as well as some very specific direction to your designer. Some things to consider include:
The list you mail to is absolutely critical and accounts for approximately 40% of the success of your mailing. Unfortunately, the list generally gets the least amount of attention before a mailing. If you're using your own customer list, be sure you have 'scrubbed' your list and eliminated any bad addresses - or updated any addresses that have changed due to customers moving, etc. There is a NCOA database (national change of address) that any good printer or mail house can run your list against to check for any address changes. People on this list get there when they fill out those 'change of address' forms at the post office. There are other software programs that most mail houses and some printers have that will check the address formats you have in your list to make sure they are valid USPS 'mailable' addresses. While these services may cost you a little money, they are definitely worth it. Ultimately, it will cost you less to clean up your list than it will to mail to undeliverable addresses.
If you are renting a list for your mailing, make sure that the source is a good source that will provide good, 'clean' addresses that will get to the intended audience. Make sure that your list source is constantly updating their lists with address changes and eliminating bad, undeliverable addresses. Ask them when the last time their list was updated. If it was more than a month ago, you might want to dig a little deeper. Most reputable list sources are constantly updating their lists and records. They too know how important good, clean lists are. Get a mailing list quote
Whatever the direct mail piece, you should always, always include some sort of offer or incentive to take an action. Couple with the offer is the "call to action" itself where you tell your recipients exactly what they are supposed to do after receiving your direct mail piece. Often, businesses will turn their creative execution (and copywriting) over to a designer or agency that may not be as familiar with the keys to direct mail success. And the work they produce, while visually attractive, may be missing critical elements. Be sure to work with your designers and make sure they understand that the creative they come up with emphasizes the offer and includes a call to action. It is your job to provide the content for the offer itself - and make sure you give it your best shot. Don't expect much response if you're only offering $1 off your next purchase of $100 or more. Make the offer as attractive as you can while still being profitable. You may need to experiment to get the optimum balance between response rate and profit margin.
There are a few critical elements of creative that I'll touch on here. The first is the 'format.' Evaluate the product you're trying to sell and the audience you're targeting. Should you try to sell 6-pack of soda to a general consumer audience using a 9x12 envelope with a letter, and a brochure? It's probably not the right printing format for your product and audience. Should you try to sell a yacht to an upscale audience with a 4x6 postcard? Again, this probably would not be the best format. However, I repeatedly see the second example come through our press room over and over again. Budget conscious businesses are skimping on their format trying to save a buck - but killing their response. Trying to sell a product that costs $5,000 that, given the price tag, would be a "highly considered" purchase, you just can't communicate or "sell" as much as you need to in a 4x6 postcard format. Don't focus on cost of the printing first, focus on the format that will best present your product or service. Once you have chosen the right format, then you can look for ways to cut costs and get the best return for your print investment.
Another key element to the creative is that often takes a back seat to the visual element is the copy. Headlines are absolutely critical at communicating your product and/or service and your offer. This space gets wasted more often than not by someone who doesn't understand the significance of the offer. It's simple - use your headline to communicate your offer and your product/service. I should be able to read your headline and know what you're selling and what the offer is. It may take a little time and some word-crafting, but keep at it till you find the right mix that communicates everything you need - in as few words as possible. The second most important piece of copy on your mail piece is the call to action, which I touched on in the "offer" section. Make sure your call to action is clear and concise. Don't confuse the recipient with too many response options (phone, fax, email, web address, etc.). Make sure you point them in one primary direction for the best response. And don't forget to check and re-check your contact information before you mail. It's an expensive mistake to provide a bad phone number or miss-spell an email address.
Give your mailing the "billboard test"
Regardless of the format of your mailing (letter w/ envelope, postcard, package, etc.), give a mock-up to a non-biased third party for their review. Let them look at the piece for 5 seconds and only 5 seconds (roughly the amount of time you have to digest a billboard as you drive by one on the freeway - hence the 'billboard test'). Take the mock-up away from them after 5 seconds and ask them:
- What is the product or service is being sold?
- What offer is being made?
- What are they supposed to do as a result of getting the mailing?
If your third-party tester can correctly answer these 3 questions after reviewing your piece for 5 seconds, you have accomplished your goal. If not, it's back to the drawing board.