Brawn wins over beauty in direct response marketing. In fact, slickness often reduces response. But all things being equal, make your offer easy to understand. Match it with well thought out benefit copy to show the prospect how to win by buying your product.
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.
For decades, marketers believed that combining messages through many channels increased response rates. During my career, several tests proved that this strategy works most of the time.
These same tests looked at the cost of combining several channels to support each other. I tested these combinations on an A/B split basis against single channel approaches.
For this reason, I think all companies should leverage the Internet when promoting with traditional media like direct mail. Personalized URLS leverage your direct mailing with a landing page to lift response.
Most responses today come through an Internet based application or ecommerce website. This gives the respondent 24-hour access to a user-friendly format to buy your product.
Notice the personalized URL in this direct mail letter.
A pURL enabled mailer merges the domain name with the recipient's name. When typing or clicking the pURL, the displayed landing page contains the recipient's name. You can also insert other relevant information that is available in your database within any landing page.
Here's an example of a pURL landing page.
According to a Boingnet study (a company that provides advanced pURL support and reporting), pURLs can increase response by 3x for B2B campaigns. This higher response assumes you follow up each pURL with a phone call, email. and other appropriate channels. pURLs that are not supported with detailed reporting and response follow-up do not work as well. Here's an instance where automation makes a significant difference.
The following flow chart shows how to set up an effective pURL system that will increase response rates and reduce your Cost per Sale.
With proper support, adding pURLS to your direct mail program does not have to keep you up at nights. Please contact me if you want to test such a campaign for your company. My email is email@example.com.
Self-mailer, jumbo postcard or window envelope direct mail package? How do you pick one? What package should you use to generate leads or sell your product?
Assuming you have determined your offer and selected your mailing lists, then you must choose your direct mail format.
Do not pick your format based on cost alone. The proper format will pay for itself and improve profitability. The trick is to make your decision based on what works most of the time. Do not try to reinvent the wheel until you have tested your direct mail many times.
Your first package format choice
Your first direct mail tests should use the proven envelope direct mail format. It's used most often because it works. The package contains three elements inserted into an outer envelope.
- A #10 outer envelope with single window
- A personalized one or two-page letter with the address showing through the window
- A personalized response device produced with the letter
- A #9 Business Reply envelope for the response device
- An 81/2 X 11 flyer as needed to lift response
More often than not, added package elements will improve response rates.
Your second most successful format choice
The most effective format of all time is the official looking Snap Pac. It contains the same elements as the Classic Package. It usually beats existing direct mail controls using the same content. This rarely happens based on format alone except for the Snap Pac.
My favorite size is the 6 X 9 personalized Snap Pac containing a letter, the reply form, lift note and reply envelope.
Some heavy mailers such as banks, insurance companies, and large associations use this format. Some companies use the Snap Pac as their super control. This means that they have been unable to beat it with repeated tests after many years.
Your third format choice
Only after you have tested one or both of the above should you go to my last format choice, the self-mailer. This mailer is self-contained using no outer envelope.
It consists of a folded brochure with an included coupon or response piece. Postcards of all sizes fall into this category.
Rarely containing letters, these formats work best with existing customers who know your product. Postcards do not create the emotional pull of the letter. Some self-mailers incorporate a personalized letter to create a hybrid package.
Simple postcards work best for couponing and discount offers that need little copy support.
The other options
There are other choices beyond these three formats that meet specific needs.
For example, new perfume introductions may use scratch and sniff to use another sense. A manufacturer of a new flooring material may insert a product sample in a box to flooring retailers. The applications for 3-dimensional formats are endless.
A hybrid Classic Package that contains a solid object the recipients feel through the envelope prompts them to open the package out of curiosity will increase response.
The key point when selecting formats: your first choice is the Classic package first. If that doesn't work, then another less expensive format will not likely make your mailing successful. It's better to concentrate on your offer and list testing rather than cheapen the format.
During a casual business lunch with a CMO friend, he began to go over his marketing plans with me.
"We have hundreds of restaurants nationwide with a well recognized brand. But some stores are not doing well at all. So we need help in developing a distressed store program to improve their sales.
We know most of the store managers are doing a good job. We also know the competition for most of our stores have similarities.
I say direct mail, because we are active in social media and promote special sales by email to participating customers. But our lists are pretty small."
I then asked him if the email list contained customer names and addresses. It did not. Did he know who his customers were? He answered: "Why of course. We know they have families of X size with incomes of X ..."
But my question wasn't whether he had a customer profile, but whether he knew his customers? Does he know their names, addresses, how often they came to his restaurant? How much they spent? When did they come last? Without these answers, the CMO cannot target either his existing customers or qualified prospects.
Why is that so? His organization does not maintain a transaction database.
Direct marketers use the database to identify the best customers by matching them to external mailing lists. This creates a high quality prospect file by finding people who look like the best customers. This process also shows customer concentration by geography. We can then promote to the prospects in areas with the deepest customer penetrations.
A customer database would also allow the CMO to determine why some of his stores are in distress.
Perhaps some restaurants have too few customers. Or their one time buyers who convert to repeat buyers are lower than successful stores.
Some distressed stores may not have enough qualified prospects within their trade area. This means a relocation is in order and spending more money on marketing makes no sense.
When a direct marketer asks if you know who your customers are, he wants to know what your database contains. Does it have the needed information for prospect targeting and marketing program evaluation.