Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

FE, Education & Business Marketing: Quick, Effective, Low Cost Marketing

Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

Direct mail: How to get more than a 20% response from direct mail

Direct mail really works .. junk mail doesn’t. 

Discover how to get more than 20% of the people you mail responding to you .. I’ve achieved this and will show you how easy it is.


Most direct mail is really junk mail .. it gets less than a 2% response rate and upsets huge numbers of potential customers in the process.  Really well thought out direct mail campaigns work brilliantly well and my most recent campaign brought in just over a 21% response rate.  



The secret to getting great results from direct mail is to focus on the Direct Mail Essential Elements.


Direct Mail Essential Element Number One ….  is to use a pre-qualified mailing list.


Just buying  list from a list provider isn’t enough and under GDPR is very likely to be illegal.  Lists have to be up to date and accurate.  Many lists are several years out of date and therefore not accurate. 

Better still don’t buy a list from a broker.  Either build your own list from people that you have done business with in the past, have visited your website and provided their details in exchange for so information you have provided or get a customer list from someone in a similar but slightly different line.  For example if you specialise in family photography the customer list from the local babywear or pram shop will really identify growing families that might well want family portraits for grandparents at Christmas time.  Just using their list isn’t OK though. It needs to be a list of people that have agreed to receiving your type of promo. The list owner can set this up at the outset. It isn’t difficult .. but to keep within the GDPR rules you have to ensure things are done properly.  


Direct Mail Essential Element Number Two ….. Make letters and inserts eye catching and relevant. 


Our recent campaign for a company that sells bat boxes used an insert that was as black as night and had a large bat flying across it.  We would normally suggest a black leaflet but in this case we wanted the reader to see that this was about bats as they pulled it from the envelope. 


The use of white text on a black background gave great contrast and was easy to read.  Never put similar colour copy on to a coloured background.  So red copy on a green background .. or grey on white, pale blue on dark blue etc are all to be avoided as it makes reading much more difficult for some people.


Also ensure you keep the letter length down to one side …. my American friends tell me that 5 to 20 pages works well in the States but it doesn’t work so well in the UK.  Having said that you should test and measure as many variables as possible because from time to time even the “proven facts” are found to be wrong.


Direct Mail Essential Element Number Three … You need a great offer


What more is there to say except that if the offer isn’t attractive no one will respond!


Direct Mail Essential Element Number Four … Make it easy to respond


How ever great your offer people will soon give up if it is too difficult.  So if you offer to send them a large item don’t ask them to send you a box!   OK so that sounds a bit incredible … no one would do that would they?  Maybe not but I’ve seen several offers that required a large self addressed envelope to be sent before the item was dispatched. 


Even quite simple things can cut the response rate so think about how the recipient will respond to your “Call To Action” .  In our case we asked them to go online and submit their name and address so we could send them a parcel.  We could have suggested they send their details by post but decided that the people we were writing to would respond better online .. and a 21% response rate seems to bear this out.


Years ago not so many people had Internet access so it would have been a problem.  These days not many of us use Fax …. and any Call to Action that requires a Fax reply will get a poor response.   


This page was first written in 2010 and has been updated to comply with GDPR and current practice. 

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