If you are like most direct mail creative people, you've lost more than you've won.
Some super controls have resisted many attempts to beat them. The discouraging part is that those direct mail winners often look unlikely to win.
They follow the rules, but seem to lack the creative spark that separate them from the pack. So how do you beat them?
I think the secret lies within the offer itself. This is what makes the target audience respond to mail for high response rates. Repositioning the offer may make a big difference. For example, "two for one," "50% off" and "half price" represent the same offer. This repositioning alone may make the difference between success and failure.
Format also plays an important role
Test envelope formats containing a personalized letter and response form with a simple flyer. Stay away from heavy dependence on postcards or self-mailers. They rarely work as well on a cost per sale or cost per lead basis.
Reviewing the poor performers reveal copy and layouts to avoid. You should also look at competitor mailers that repeat. Direct marketers will not remail loosers.
Don't think great design, humor or witty copy like a brander
Concentrate on the recipient's problem and how your product will solve it. Sale with conviction, testimonials and third party endorsements. Use as much copy as you need to answer anticipated objections. Most of all, build urgency whenever possible.
Remember that direct response mail must sell. Do not entertain or impress the audience with flawless prose or award winning design. Focus on the need of an individual recipient and create an irresistible need to respond now.
Avoid stop action copy in the letter that stop the reader in the middle of your message. Mention links, phone numbers and references to other pieces in your mailing at the end of your letter.
Successful direct mail revolves around a central theme or the main selling proposition. Don't try to do too many things in your selling message. Reduce the number of decisions your are asking the reader to make.
Strive for breakthroughs rather than incremental improvement
Breakthroughs happen only by testing significantly different creative executions. Test everything at once without worrying too about what element might make a huge difference in response.
A 25% plus reduction in the cost per sale or cost per lead qualifies as a breakthrough.
In your testing, don't spend too much time trying to figure out exactly “what” made the big difference. Take your gloves off and concentrate on testing different offers and main selling propositions.