Structuring a Direct Mail Offer that WORKS


Structuring-a-Direct-Mail-Offer-that-WORKSPart of the key to knowing how to structure the offer in your direct mail campaign is having a firm grasp on the response you want. Often, the required response to an offer is something of an afterthought, but by making it a forethought you can more accurately predict the outcome.

It’s impossible to predict with total accuracy the response to any offer, but over the long history of direct mail certain “givens” can help you structure an offer that recipients find hard to ignore.

Identify your Desired Outcome

What do you want people to do once they receive your mailer? Typically desired responses fall into categories such as:

  • Interest – you’re looking for lead generation so you can follow up.
  • Direct orders – you want people to buy something immediately
  • Subscriptions – you’re asking for ongoing payments in return for memberships or magazines
  • Increased footfall – you want people to visit your shop or venue, so you’re offering coupons for discounts
  • Donations – you’re a nonprofit or charity, fundraising or raising awareness

Having a clear idea of what you want people to do on receipt of your mailer helps you structure a clear, unconfused offer. If people have to go back to the beginning to understand your offer, you’ve lost them.

Understand the Commitment You’re Asking For

Levels of customer commitment vary from offer to offer. If you’re offering a download in return for an email address, for instance, customer commitment is low and the response will likely be high.

On the other hand, asking for a phone call is a greater commitment because people understand there will be a sales element to the call. They need to set time aside to either make or receive the call, and response rates will likely be lower.

This doesn’t mean one type of offer is better than another. Understanding the level of commitment you’re asking for, however, can help you structure the offer to emphasize its value.

The Value of Simplicity

Keeping the message and presentation simple fosters good structure. Easy to read, jargon free, clear and concise messaging increases engagement. A simple letter that clearly communicates your offer and what you want in return, can often bring a higher response than complex or sophisticated communications.

Quick Structuring Tips

  • Keep letters to one page – the more accessible you make your direct mail offer, the more people will actually read it.
  • Reduce risk – either through the level of commitment needed from recipients, or the simple swap of an email address for more information on the offer.
  • Make it time relevant – deadlines create a sense of urgency and can prompt a faster response.
  • Banish dictionaries – use everyday language. Research indicates most of us read at an eight-grade level so keep things simple.
  • Don’t forget the CTA – what do want people to do? State it clearly and boldly, and don’t be scared to repeat it in a postscript if you’re sending a letter.

Direct Mail Best Practices