Step #1: Get a Great List

Research indicates that 40% of a direct mail marketing campaign’s success is decided by the quality of the list of people that you are mailing to. Keep in mind, this number includes customer retention campaigns, with warm leads. For customer acquisition campaigns with cold prospects, this number is likely even higher.

It’s clear that having a great list is paramount to success in a customer acquisition campaign. So how do you ensure that you get a list filled with valid, strongly qualified prospects? Well, that’s very difficult. On average, purchased lists have error rates of around 25% (sometimes unavoidable, due to sudden changes in the prospect circumstances; sometimes due to negligence on behalf of the marketing company).

To help ensure that you get the highest quality list there are a couple of guidelines you want to make sure you follow. First and foremost, adhere to the ethics and laws of information privacy. Only purchase from reputable vendors who are members of Data Marketing & Analytics. There are many questionable grey-market vendors in the list selling business who obtain their information illegally, unethically, or even falsify the information altogether. An upstanding company will yield the best information, and keep you out of trouble.

Secondly, don’t delegate the job of buying a list to an inexperienced person. Before you buy a list, come armed with your own list of potential questions to drill down on any potential problems with the data. For instance, is the list compiled (solely based on research, without any interaction with the prospect) or response-based (based on people who have responded to similar offers in the past)? Response-based lists are widely considered to be of higher validity. Another question worth asking is “Has the delivery rate of the list been tested?” This refers to the percentage of mail that lands at the right address and is not marked ‘return to sender’. 

Buying a list is often problematic, but luckily there are some excellent ways to supplement or even replace a customer acquisition list with your own information. Building your own compiled list is time-consuming, even with the power of the internet, but can still be worthwhile. For B2C, a clever place to start is online communities such as Facebook, where people associate themselves with certain interests, companies, and activities. For B2B, you could start with the old yellow pages but would likely find more success leveraging Linkedin.

 There are also some clever ways to build your own response based lists. When potential leads give you subtle signals of interest, such as making an inquiry via landline phone, liking your Facebook page or attending a free demonstration, the address can be traced and used to send a follow-up mailed offer to try and convert them into paying customers.


Step #2: Hook the Prospect’s Interest in Personalized Printing

In the past, including personalized information in the printed mail was costly because the printer needed to be equipped with ‘printing plates’ for a particular job. Now, you don’t have to feel limited by the need to print a certain quantity, because printing is ‘on demand’, meaning that you can target a very small audience, with highly personalized printing, for the cost compared to any other print job.

 With each piece of personal information you use within a direct mail piece, the response rate increases. That’s why obtaining a great list with as much information on the prospect as possible is so important. Addressing a letter by name alone increases the response rate by more than 100%. And more detailed information could increase your response rate by up to 500%, according to the latest research by the Data Marketing & Analytics.


Step #3: Use a Special Offer to Compel Action

‘Limited time only’ special offers and coupons have proven effective for a long period of time, especially when selling physical products to local customers. Pizza vouchers and clothing catalog sales are still used for a reason. But there is an emerging method being used to ‘turbocharge’ response rates by combining special offers with personalized printing and data analysis, to provide customers with offers that are highly tailored to their past purchases or interest they’ve expressed.

 Google is one company making use of this innovative technique. When a new company or website is registered in Google’s directory (practically all companies are these days), Google mails a postcard including a special to the new business address. Because Google knows the name and website address, this postcard can be highly personalized – think “Dear James, we noticed you launched recently and we thought you might like $100 of free website advertising to help you out.” Google has not released the response rate for this kind of advertising, but one can only imagine it is very high given they’re still doing it.


Step #4: Bring the Prospect to a Personalized Website

Next, it would be ideal if your new lead is directed to follow a short URL or QR code at the bottom of your sales letter which takes them to a campaign specific landing page.  This step has several benefits. First, it’s an easy and unobtrusive step the person can take to learn more about the company. When someone makes the decision to put effort into something, they create an emotional connection to that thing. Therefore by asking the lead to do something as simple as look at a web page, we are gradually building emotional investment in the company.

 Secondly, it is simply the fastest and most accurate way to track responses to the marketing campaign. Unlike postage-paid return envelopes, or even slower methods such as hoping the lead will visit a bricks-and-mortar store, directing the lead to a webpage allows us to start gathering information about the effectiveness of a campaign within minutes of the person opening the letter. This is very useful because is the campaign is not performing, it can be paused and modified with the minimum amount of wasted expenditure.

 Finally, in the modern day, people fill out almost all of their forms digitally and online. People are very comfortable and familiar with doing this, and for this reason, sending a customer to a webpage is the fastest way to get the most useful customer information directly into your database, with a low chance of inaccuracy. Many people even set up their web browser to automatically fill any web form with their personal information instantly!


Step #5: Seal the Deal or Get an Email Address

Depending on how much information is available on the lead, when the customer follows their personalized URL to the website an order form might be able to be almost entirely pre-filled by this stage so that the customer only needs to click ‘Order Now’ to close the deal. For many lower ticket items, the customer may be fully prepared to buy straight away based on the sales letter mailed to them. For more substantial purchases, you can aim to get the customer’s email address or other contact information, so that you consult with them further by phone, email or maybe even… more direct mail!

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