Direct Mail Today: When Smaller Is Bigger


Direct-mail-today-when-smaller-is-bigger.jpgIt’s pretty easy to buy into the mentality that “bigger is better.” Sometimes that even finds it’s way into thinking about direct mail. Some companies think that if they simply double the size of their mailing that they’ll automatically double their response.

It doesn’t always work that way. One thing is pretty clear, however: If you double the size of your mailing, you’ll double the cost of your printing, list rental, postage, and mailing costs. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll double your response.

You see, it’s really not the size of your mailing list that matters—it’s the quality of your list that counts. If you mail to 50,000 of the wrong people—people who really aren’t interested in what you’re offering—you’re not going to get the response you want. Sure, your cost per piece mailed will be lower, but that doesn’t really matter. You’re much better off mailing to 1,000 people who you know are interested in what you have to offer.

Let’s say you mail to an unqualified list of 5,000 people. Let’s assume your cost per piece is 25¢ (because of the volume). That’s a cost of $1,250. Or you could mail to a qualified list of 1,000 people with a cost per piece that’s 10 times as much ($2.50) for a total cost of $2,500. The bigger list looks like a much better deal. You’re reaching five times as many people for half the price!

But if that larger list of 5,000 people aren’t interested in what you’re offering, your response is going to be low. If you’re lucky and get a .25 percent response, it means 12.5 people will respond. That means your cost per response is $100. The smaller—but much more qualified list will generate a much higher response rate. If you’ve really targeted your list and have a great offer, you might get a 5 percent response—50 people. That means your cost per response is $50—half of what the bigger list costs.

These figures are purely for illustration. We’re not saying you’re guaranteed a response rate of 5 percent. But it’s absolutely true that the better your list is, the better your response will be. So how can you get a smaller, better-targeted list?

It’s important to have a clear understanding of who your ideal client is. One way to do that is to create a customer profile or persona that identifies key characteristics of your ideal customer. Here’s a helpful post that provides assistance in creating a customer persona.

We’ve all heard the adage that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters but the size of the fight in the dog. The same is true of the list you choose for your direct mailing. It’s not how big the list is, but how well that list matches the profile of your ideal customer.

Direct Mail Best Practices