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Direct Mail 101

Some direct mail pointers -- Smart and Simple...


  • List offer compatibility – take into consideration how your “control offer” compares to the subscription offer of the list you are renting.  If you have a control offer of $39.95 for 12 issues, while the subscription offer of the list you are considering to rent is $9.99 for 12 issues it may be difficult to pitch your offer.  If you decide to pursue a list with a much higher price, you will need to approach those prospects with other benefits beyond pricing.

  • Stock changes - Reduce paper stock weight (not quality) to shave off some production costs for “non-critical” components without sacrificing appearance and readability.  Minor changes to components should be tested to see if response is affected.  If you see response has not declined, you found a way to save some money on production while keeping response rates consistent.

  • List fatigue – it is important to allow continuation lists sufficient time between mailings to prevent list fatigue.  Keep in mind how often a list is updated.  Ask your list broker when the list was last updated and if it was a long time ago, consider passing on the list.  Recency is key to list success.

  • List testing – it is critical to consider testing new lists to see how they react to your direct mail package.  Make sure to review the list usage which gives you an idea if a list may work for you.

  • Test Smartly – don’t just test anything based on a “hunch” or “personal bias”.  Consider the effect of the concept being tested on: (a) the practical applicability at rollout should the test win; and (b) the impact on production efficiencies, execution logistics and costs.

  • Track your orders properly – a minor mistake in your back end analysis may cause a significant misread of the results which can adversely affect future mailings.  If your direct mail drives customers to your website, make sure you are able to track the direct mail website respondents so that you can determine how well your various lists performed as well as overall campaign results.

  • Coordinate mailing to magazine production schedule – This happens to be one of the biggest errors we bump into as circulation professionals!  It is critical that when you schedule a direct mail campaign that the timing is coordinated to the release of an upcoming issue.  Coordination with the production schedule is imperative when the offer is a RISK FREE offer.  Just imagine if a prospect responds to a RISK FREE offer and he/she has to wait 8 weeks for an issue !!!  This would kill final pay-up and thus net response!

  • Message consistency – all components have to work as a “Team” approach pitching a consistent message that highlights the “benefits of subscribing” and the “great offer” which can’t be ignored.

  • Watch the bottom-line – all lists and test panels should be analyzed not just on their net response rates (paid orders) but most importantly on their individual P&L within the campaign.  Some lists or test packages respond very well, but their related costs may be so high that the net (negative) revenue to acquire each order can be prohibitive to sustain in future mailings.

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