At TMR Direct, we’ve been helping companies and organizations do direct mail successfully for more than 40 years. I can tell you that we’ve never come across anyone who does it just for fun (although, we have seen some pretty fun direct mailings!). Companies and organizations use direct mail because they expect something in return.
Sometimes, however, companies have unrealistic expectations from mailings they do. What can you realistically expect when you send mail?
Unless you have an absolutely stellar list, accompanied by an unbelievable or irresistible offer, that’s presented with impeccable copy and outstanding design, you’re probably not going to get a 10% response when you mail. If you expect one out of every 10 pieces you mail to generate a response, you’ll be sorely disappointed. And if your budget depends on that, you’ll be in trouble. There are a lot of factors that determine what your response will be, but in most cases a two percent response in today’s market is considered pretty good. Again, that’s not guaranteed, but many mailers are delighted to get that kind of response. By the way, here’s a look at how important list, copy, and creative actually are to direct mail success!
When it comes to setting realistic expectations, it’s important to remember that the initial response isn’t the final answer. That’s particularly true when you’re engaged in a new effort. In early stages of your marketing efforts, direct mail is about exposure. It gets your name, brand, and message out to the public. It’s also important to remember that initial response isn’t everything. Marketing (whether it’s direct mail, online, or a combination of the two) is about building an ongoing relationship with potential customers.
These days most people are unlikely to make an immediate purchase from a single direct mail offer. It generally takes multiple touches to generate a response. And not everything presented in a direct mailing will generate a “buying” response. The higher the ticket price, the longer the sales cycle will be.
Still, direct mail can be very effective in generating action. In today’s market, that action is likely to be a visit to a website, or a request for more information. The final result (a sale) may be several steps off. Direct mail is a single step in a longer process. If, however, you’re expecting to generate significant sales from a single mailing, you probably have unrealistic expectations.
What you can expect from direct mail that’s done properly is that it’s more likely to be seen. It has the ability to catch the eye (and involve the tactile senses as well). It tends to stick around (recipients are more likely to hold onto a physical piece of mail than an email), and it’s an effective way to pull interested parties to your website—where you can continue to provide detailed information and build your relationship.