A Guide to Direct Mail

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(1) Is DM for you?

(2) Choosing your list

(3) The Offer

(4) Call to Action


(5) The Package

(6) The Copy

(7) Testing

(8) Tracking

History of DM

What is the Call to Action
The Psychology of the Call to Action
Tell them what to do
Response Cards
Who buys the stamp?
In closing

What is the Call to Action
The list is who you are talking to. Te offer is a great deal you have for them a call actions is the close. Thus, the call to action is what it is you are trying to get the prospect to do. oftentimes I will see someone did a great mailing list produce a wonderful mail piece have an outstanding offer, but because their call to action is not clear their mailing falls on its face. It is not so much that people don't realize they can call your phone or visit your website, it's just that unless you actually ask people were tell people what it is they should do, they don't. I'll come back to this concept in a minute the first let's talk about the psychology of a mail piece.

The Psychology of the Call to Action
We've all received pieces of mail that want us to do something. And they're typically covered with act now, supplies are limited, this is a limited time offer, this offer expires soon, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and so long. You probably ask yourself why do people still do this. Everybody knows the limited time offer is probably twenty years. Why do people still use this language in direct mail pieces when you would think it would not be effective because everybody can see right through it. The truth is that these words still increase the response of mail pieces. It might be hard to understand why this is the case, but direct mail test over and over bear out to be so.

I think that mailers speak to people on two levels - kind of an conscious level and an subconscious level. If you covered the mailer with "ACT NOW" over and over again, the conscious mind kind of filters it all out as noise. But there it is, still pumping up the ole gullbile subconscous. Its not the most scientific of theories, but in my mind, it helps me keep things straight.

Tell them what to do.
One trick to a good call to action is to Use action words. Hurry, you must act now. And so on. These words are good motivators, they get people moving. Traditionally in one step mailings - where you are trying to get someone to order something after reading your piece - the call to action revoles aroudn the order form. Order forms are not being used as much lately but there's still the dominant way the people respond to one step direct mail pieces. The call to action therefore is to fill out the order form and mail or fax it in. Of course you put in the language also visit our web site or call our 800 number and so one. But these are all secondarary, and can be found if someone wants them.

If you push everthing, people end up doing nothing. Instead focus on something very specific you want people to do and dedicate all the energy of the mailing be getting them to do it.

Response Cards
If you recall a two step mailing is one where you're not actually trying to get an order right away. A call to action is typicall call our 800 number or fill out our survey, or return the card to get a free samplee, etc. Response cards are big in 2 step mailers.

Let's take a minute to talk about response cards. Response cards are the backbone of the 2 step mailng. Most of them are used to get leads. You get good response rates because you are generally just asking people if they are interested, not asking them to actuallybuy something.

Self mailers, which we will talk about in a moment, can be printed in a number of ways where the clients address is already on the response card. Or, the mailhouse, can glue on a label which can be pealed off and placed on the response card. Typcially, the rule is that you want to make response cards easy to reply to, but not profitable to reply to. For instance, say you are selling swimming pools and you want leads of peope who might be interestedin having one installed. You shouldn't do a mailing that says return this card for a free swimming pool Tshirt. You will get lots of replies - and they will be people who want a free tshirt, not people who want a swimming pool. Instead, offer a free-in home quote and a $100 -off coupon for returnign the card, then make the card easy to return.

Who buys the stamp?
Another issue that comes upon reply a response cards as well as business reply envelopes, is about the envelope people use the mail your form back, is whether they should be postpaid. Anyone can easily get a business reply permit so that the mail that the prospect or customer mails back to you doesn't have to have a stamp on it. On order forms conventional wisdom is that whether it's postpaid or not postpaid the response of mailing is the same. Still to a lot of people they can't stand the thought that somebody fills out the order form and then holds off sending it in because they don't have a stamp handy and that never getting around to mailing it. As I've said, testing indicates that this is not really what happens, but if you're paying an additional 50 an envelope to get orders and maybe that's cheap enough to buy your peace of mind.

For response cards, when you're just looking for additional information from a prospect, conventional wisdom says that if the client has to buy a stamp then the response rate will be lower but the quality of the lead will be higher so that if you are mailing to a large list and want to get a very few highly qualified respondents you typically won't put the business reply on it, but the net effect is relatively small.

In closing
I will close this section out by saying that Direct mail is funny that way. Let's say you do a 90% job - you do 90% of what you are supposed to do in a piece just right. You would expect to get 90% of the orders you would have gotten had everything been perfect, right? Well, what actually happens is that you get very few orders. If the call to action is unclear to some people, it is probably unclear to a lot of them. Thus, little changes in mailings can swing response a whole lot.