The Magnificient Seven: Tips for Direct Mail Success

By Apr 01, 2009

When marketers design a direct mail campaign, two extremes beckon: that of the scientist, who sets up rigorous multivariate testing campaigns and uses costly mail efficiency consultants, and that of the schlemiel, who practices the “stuff the envelope, lick the stamp” school of marketing.

There’s a happy medium between scientist and schlemiel. The seven tips below give marketers a start toward more efficient campaigns without being overbearing.

  1. LET INTELLIGENCE INFLUENCE LIST CHOICE: A prospect mailing starts with knowing your own best customers first, says Rick Brough, director of consulting services at Transcontinental Database Marketing. Are they concentrated in a few ZIP codes? Do they all have multiple children? Do they have money, are outdoors-inclined and live near large bodies of water? A high correlation of any of these opens up new list possibilities.

  2. TARGET UNDERSERVED MARKETS: According to Direct Marketing Association research, nearly one-quarter of all marketers neglect the Hispanic market. Solicitations both in-language and in-culture (Cubans should be approached differently from, say, Puerto Ricans) are great ways of generating orders and creating brand loyalty.

  3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF POSTAL DISCOUNTS: An up-front investment in pre-sorting activity and a postal consultant who can comment on package design and co-mailing possibilities may yield substantial per-piece postage discounts, per Crystal Uppercue, a marketing manager at EU Services. They may also get pieces into the mail stream — and therefore into prospects’ hands — faster.

  4. USE HOUSE FILES: Mailers should maintain lists of inactive customers, requesters who never made a purchase, gift buyers and gift recipients, according to Michelle Houston, a vice president at catalog consultancy Lenser. Run chunks of these names through an address updating service and mail special reactivation-themed offers to them.

  5. TEST, TEST, TEST: This is Marketing 101. Most marketers fail Marketing 101. Every mailing should include test cells that explore new creative approaches, new package components, new formats — double postcards vs. packages, for instance — or new offers. And if soliciting a house list, remember to reserve a sample that won’t receive a promotion at all for control-analysis purposes.

  6. DON’T MAIL IN A VACUUM: Direct mail efforts should be part of an integrated campaign, one with multiple elements that reflect either a similar feel or similar offers. And a mail campaign, especially to established contacts, can be part of a multi-channel, multi-effort strategy, one in which the timing and order of each effort is moved to provide maximum ROI.

  7. ANY MAILING, EVEN A FAILED MAILING, YIELDS LESSONS FOR A MARKETER: What lists or creative efforts pulled best? What messages generated the most up-front orders, and which ones yielded the best pay-up rates? (These might not be the same.) Analyze, adjust, and re-mail.