Direct Mail by the Numbers

Posted on Aug 29, 11 in Blog

If you have ever developed a direct mail promotion of your own, you know there are many different facets of the project to manage – from marketing strategy, list generation, creative strategy, print production, fulfillment/distribution and evaluation. Each stage is critical to the successful completion of a project…but not all are equal in importance.

Direct mail is a medium that is effective but unforgiving. How many other initiatives would you consider a “success” with a return/response of 1-2%? That’s the case with direct mail.

It is widely acknowledged that achieving a 100% successful direct mail effort is generally due to the following:

  • 40% Offer Quality
  • 40% List Quality
  • 20% Creative Execution

Let’s review why these areas are so important.

The Offer

Experts believe that the offer is responsible for about 40% of the success of your program.

Think about the importance of the offer. The best direct mail offers have the following characteristics:

  • Relevance
    This means your offer is credible and meaningful to your prospect. Your goal is for the recipient to feel like the offer is perfect for them. Creating a relevant offer takes some work. You have to know the prospect (at least from a demographic/psychographic standpoint) and create a meaningful proposition.
  • Unique
    Make sure your offer is truly a special offer for those that are responding through direct mail. When an offer is “exclusive” the response is better as recipients feel as though there is not another offer of this type available anywhere else.
  • Perceived Value
    To cut through the clutter, you need to get people’s attention. Sometimes the offer may be financial (points/fees/bonuses/etc.), other times it might be a tangible item like a premium. A word of caution about premiums – make sure that they are of high quality and high value. I once saw a promotion offering a free ice cream cone with each new checking account. Come on! If I’m going to go through all that work to switch checking accounts make it worth my while.  That is why some of the most effective checking account promotions today are offering $25, $50 and even $100 for new accounts. Now that’s a real value!

List Quality/Selection

Experts believe that the list is responsible for about 40% of the success of your program.

Clearly, if you can’t get the right offer to the right person (at the right time) chances of success are minimized. There are both qualitative and quantitative issues that impact your success.

  • Qualitative
    Think of your list in a qualitative sense. Identify the following:
    • What are the characteristics (demographic/psychographic/geographic) of the people you are trying to reach and how can you extract these potential purchases from the universe of prospects. Today, there are many different files that can be appended to your lists to help you drill down to those that represent the greatest potential.
    • Who makes the purchasing decisions for the product you are trying to sell? Whom do you want to receive address your offer (husband or wife or both)?
  • Quantitative
    How many pieces should be sent out? How many responses can your organization handle? The worst thing in the world is spending money on a great program and having a bottleneck in the call center and leaving your prospect frustrated and angry.
    Make sure you forecast these numbers in advance to figure out the most appropriate level of outbound activity.

The Creative

Experts believe that creative is responsible for about 20% of direct mail success. However, I would bet most of us spend more time on the creative process than the other two combined .

Why is it that creative is responsible for a mere 20%? It’s mainly because even the greatest creative will have absolutely no impact if it doesn’t contain a quality offer sent to the right person. “Killer Creative” with a marginal offer won’t motivate a purchase.

That’s not to say that creative is less important. Rather, today you have to have great creative just to compete with all the materials that are presented to the consumer. Don’t scrimp on the creative. And make sure the list and offer are both worthy of your efforts.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at .