Posts filed under Direct Mail

The 3 Most Successful Direct Mail Formats

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

The Classic Package

The Classic Package

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.

  1. A #10 outer envelope with single window 
  2. A personalized one or two-page letter with the address showing through the window
  3. A personalized response device produced with the letter
  4. A #9 Business Reply envelope for the response device
  5. 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 Snap Pac

The Snap Pac

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

The Self Mailer Front Side

The Self Mailer Front Side

The Self Mailer Back Side

The Self Mailer Back Side

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. 


Posted on August 15, 2016 and filed under Direct Mail, Direct Marketing Strategy, Planning.

You Have To Know Who Your Customers Are to Find New Ones

Knowing Your Customers

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.


Posted on May 16, 2016 and filed under Mailing List, Research, Direct Mail.

Direct Marketers Make Stronger Digital Marketers

Digital Marketers

Hiring managers do not understand the strengths offered by experienced direct marketers. I see this in the job descriptions that specify channel expertise. Which one do I see the most often? Digital marketing.

Think about the implications. Would you entitle your new marketing position as "TV marketer", "direct mail marketer" or "print advertising marketer"? Of course not. These roles are and always were too confining. You would instead create roles for "brand marketer", "positioning marketer", "general advertiser", "direct marketer" and so on.

Why limit your marketing scope to specific channels?

As a starting point, let’s first agree on the attributes of a talented direct marketer.

1.    Knows that the goal of marketing expenditures requires increasing incremental sales and profits.

2.    Understands that one-to-one selling drives content.

3.    Designs advertising that track sales to a specific channel mix.

4.    Believes that all customer and prospect contacts should reflect previous purchases and inquiries.

5.    Believes that the contact database drives new marketing initiatives, analytics and program ROI evaluations.

6.   Studies and comprehends the evolutionary nature of the buying process of the company’s customers.

7.    Knows the proper uses of the various channels and tools of the trade including CRM systems.

8.    Focuses on customer needs and response patterns.

9.   Builds close relationships with finance, IT and other top executives.

10.    Supports appropriate personal and staff training at every opportunity.

11.    Insists that top executives and team members support the marketing objectives and keys strategies.

12.    Understands the need to test all strategies rolling out successes and killing failed tests.

13.    Champions both bottom AND top line revenue projections so long as they are achievable.

14.   Uses every available channel to achieve the ROI objectives.

Unfortunately, top job descriptions reflect a channel preference emphasizing digital media. As a result, marketers have little training in database marketing and critical direct response.

What we have today are hiring managers who hire marketers based on narrow parameters. This assures shallow programs with little expansion opportunities.

True expertise in marketing does not rely on the flavor of the day but proven direct marketing methods. The more experience the candidate has with test failures and successes, the better.

Don’t sacrifice true depth of expertise for narrow specialization. Direct marketing experts will handle both the short and long term objectives.

I have always wondered why the term "direct marketers" says "direct mail" channel specialists to so many people.

Experienced direct marketers come with many multichannel experiences. They include traditional media, digital media, print, telemarketing, database marketing and direct mail. Companies need eCommerce expertise, relational database planning, and traditional media know-how more than ever before.

Here's my point. Direct marketers are not media specialists, they are direct marketing strategists. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of all channels.

Direct marketers balance media expenditures for highest possible response rates.

In my estimation, we tend to recommend what we know rather than what the goal demands. Concentrating too much budget on a single channel weakens long-term growth and profitability.

Even direct mail specialists do not know as much about lettershop processes as suppliers. Printers and direct mail package formatters provide the tactical knowledge for direct mail specialists. What about postal regulations? No direct mail expert knows everything there is to know about postal regulations. He also knows lists and creative development that go into beating direct mail controls. Then there is the testing strategy, the analytics, and interpretation of the response information.

In the same way, digital media technicians should not attempt to be all things in digital media. Digital media specialists rely on supplier expertise. What all high-level marketers need is a strategic perspective and not a channel focus.

The successful direct marketer leads the marketing strategy to include the appropriate channels. This achieves the company’s sales and profit goals.

Hiring managers with a single focus on channel overlooks the need for strategic thinking. Hiring managers should broaden their thinking about their marketing candidates. Think big picture rather than a specific channel. In the end, you will be glad you did.

Ignoring this Key Direct Marketing Strategy Assures Failure

Nothing baffles me more than seeing clients refuse to test their direct mail creative work, offers and mailing lists. It borders on stupidity. After testing several thousand direct mail packages during my long career in this business, clients refues to test when they could improve their response rates by 200-600% with smart testing.

7 Ways to Avoid List Related Direct Mail and Email Disaster

Other than the product itself, no single component in your direct response mail or email mix comes close to rivaling the importance of the mailing list. If you go to poorly selected names consisting of individuals who do not need your product, can't afford it or care little about it, then the best offer or creative execution in the world will not make the program successful.
Posted on January 24, 2015 and filed under Direct Mail, Direct Marketing Strategy, Email.