Direct Mail Today: The Lost Art of the Ask


Direct-mail-today-the-lost-art-of-the-askDogs are better at one aspect of marketing than many business people. When they want humans to respond, they’re not afraid to ask.

Guess what? They usually get what they want. When marketers want humans to respond, they often hem and haw. They don’t want to be perceived as begging. They don’t want to be perceived as being too pushy. And a lot of the time, they simply don’t want to be rejected (something dogs never seem to struggle with). When it comes to marketing—and especially direct mail—asking almost seems to have become a lost art.

Is it wrong to ask for a response when you send out a mailing? You might think so if you look at a lot of what’s sent out. Companies will spend all kinds of time describing the features and benefits of their products or services. They’ll provide testimonials from customers and clients that extol the virtues of what they’re offering. They’ll spend money to get flattering photos of their products. And, yet, too many companies and organizations stop short of asking for a response. But if you send out a direct mailing and don’t ask for a response, you’re throwing your money away.

So what’s the problem? Maybe you aren’t clear on exactly how you want people to respond. You may know that the end goal is to get someone to make a commitment (usually in the form of a purchase). But you don’t have a clear and specific purpose for the mailing. So you sell the product or service in the mailing—even though you know that nobody is going to make a purchase based on a single mailing.

That’s a big mistake. Before you start thinking through graphics and color schemes and formats for you mail piece—before you write a single word of your direct mail piece—figure out exactly what you want your recipient to do.

If you want someone to visit your website, ask them to visit your website—and make it easy for them to do that. And take them to a specific landing page that talks about what was in your mailing. Don’t just send them to your home page and leave them to wander.

If you want someone to request more specific information (a special report or a white paper, or a case study) ask the person to request that report. Again, make it super easy to do. Take them to a landing page that offers the information—and make it easy to download the information. Don’t derail them with a lot of sales talk. Give them what you promised. And make it worth their while.

If you want someone to sign up for a newsletter or a regular email, ask them to sign up, tell them how it will help them, and then make it dead simple to do.

It’s OK to ask people to do something—as long as it’s something that will benefit them. And that’s the key. If you’re going to ask someone for something (their name or email address, or to visit our website, or to come to an event), you need to offer that person something of value in return.

Know how you want your audience to respond before you create your mailing. Then build your mailing around asking for that response. It’s simple! Even your dog knows how to do that!

Direct Mail Best Practices