Why I Love Direct Mail—and 3 Ways to Improve Your Direct Mail Response Rates

Why-I-love-direct-mail-and-3-ways-you-can-iomprove-your-DM-responseDon’t tell my wife, but I’m thinking about getting a tattoo. You can see it pictured here. It’s not as “out there” as a Harley Davidson tattoo, but it communicates something important: “I Love Direct Mail.”

Why? As a marketing professional, I find there’s something very honest and straightforward about direct mail marketing.  It’s not vague and hard to pin down like branding. I’m not saying that branding isn’t important (it is). It’s just that sometimes, it’s hard to say—at least in the short run—whether your branding is effective or not.

You don’t have that problem with direct mail. It either works or it doesn’t. You know exactly what it costs. You know exactly how many pieces of mail you’re sending out. You know (if you keep track) exactly how many people responded. When someone says, “Do the math!” you can actually do it with direct mail. It’s quantifiable. It’s measureable. It can be very effective, and if it’s not, you can test specific things (one at a time) to fix it.

That’s why I love direct mail. It’s pretty straightforward. Now let me share three things you can do to improve the response rate you get with your direct mail efforts. And since my new tattoo has put me in a rebellious mood, I’m going to share these tips in a negative form.

1. Don’t Mail to People Who Don’t Want Your Stuff

That probably seems pretty obvious, right? But knowing your audience, and selecting your mailing list are absolutely crucial to direct mail success. Here’s a deliberately over-simplified example. If what you’re selling are luxury automobiles, you’re not going to mail to 12-year-old girls. They can’t drive. They can’t afford the product. And they’re just not interested. It’s a waste of time and money. If you love your product or service (and I hope you do!) that doesn’t mean everyone else does. Be brutal with yourself when selecting your list. Mail only to people who have a legitimate interest in what you’re offering.

2. Don’t Forget Why You’re Mailing

You’re not mailing to build your brand. You’re not mailing for name recognition. You’re mailing to get people to do something. What is it you want them to do? Tell them to do it! And then (and this is really important) give them a reason to do it. This is what we call your “offer.” You’re offering something in an attempt to get them to respond to you. Make sure it’s something of value to them. It doesn’t have to be monetary in value—but it needs to be important enough that they will respond.

3. Don’t Confuse “Cute” with Creative

Sure you want your readers to notice your mailing and open it up. And it’s fine if you can do that in a clever way—as long as it’s clear why someone should read your mail. But don’t let cute or clever ideas obscure your message. Your design and your copy should enhance and clarify your message—not distract from it. And don’t ever trick people. People hate being fooled by a switch-and-bait message that promises one thing on the outside of the package and then delivers something different on the inside.

Follow those three tips when you prepare your direct mail and you’ll see an improved response rate. Then maybe you’ll learn to love direct mail, too! (The tattoo is optional!)

Direct Mail Best Practices