Keys to Successful Direct Mail
Small business owners have more challenges with direct mail than with any other part of the marketing process. Unfortunately, it is also a key to their success.

“The success of your seminar begins with a successful mailing.”
– Doug Dickson, The Art of Seminar Marketing

The reason that so many struggle is that they simply don’t have the background, experience and skill set to create effective direct campaigns.  In general, they are unbelievably talented, well educated on their products, but simply don’t know the secrets of writing great copy, how the eye tracks through a mailing piece and what will get prospects to pick up the phone and respond.

At the same time, they are competing in the mailbox against New York advertising firms with full time professionals who mail every day and are the very best in the world at soliciting a response.
To compensate for a lack of experience, many will “copy” the look, feel and layout of a competitor or colleague. This seldom produces an effective mailer because it ends up looking and reading like every other tired mailing piece. It also creates a huge liability with copyright, trademark and trade dress liabilities. Individuals do get sued and pay damages for stealing other’s work. It just isn’t worth the risk. For these reasons, we suggest working with a professional. It will save you time, money and allow you to focus on your own area of expertise.

Regardless of your choice to use a professional seminar marketing services or not, we want you to be successful. An understanding of the elements of a successful direct mail campaign is important.

1.  Use a Quality Mailing List
Your mailing results can only be as good as the mailing list used to solicit attendees.  We have found that poor quality mailing lists are the number one factor contributing to poor performance.  You can have the best copy, the best offer and the perfect look, but if you mailing don’t get to the right people at the right address your results will be a miserable failure.  We provide the highest quality mailing lists with a guaranteed deliverability rate of 98% or above.

Questions you MUST be able to answer about your mailing list:

How current is the mailing list?
How often is the list updated?
Who compiled the list (actually put it together)?
What guarantee of deliver-ability is provided?
How do know the individuals on the list meet your criteria?
Can the list be edited to remove our clients?
Does the list provide key information such as age, income and net worth?
Does the list also provide telephone numbers scrubbed for “Do Not Call?”
Will an electronic version of the list be provided to you upon request?
Do you have permission to use the list in the future for other mailings?

2.  Have Great Copy and Design:
The wording of the mailer and its layout are absolutely critical.  If you know your mailing list is solid, this is the area to focus upon next.

As your potential prospect reads the mail piece they are seeking the answer to two basic questions: 

Who sent this to me?
What is all about?
You have milliseconds to capture their interest while they scan your invitation for these answers.

Hit the reasons that prospects respond:
1.  Fear.
2.  Greed.
3.  To gain control.
2.  Personal achievement.
3.  Fun and novelty.
4.  To learn something new.
5.  To solve a specific problem.

Secrets to Direct Mail Success:
Have a headline that hits them hard and sparks their interest
A secondary or subtitle should be used to reinforce the headline
Bulleted items should list factors that are compelling to the reader
A brief description of the speaker and his qualifications is mandatory
A pleasing layout that looks “easy” to read works best
Avoid long sentences with flowery descriptions, use text that sounds like you are speaking. Make the text easy to read and flow from paragraph to paragraph.
Limit your fonts to two, three at the most on the page.
Use action words that inspire the reader
Use present tense whenever possible.
Speak to their interests, fears and concerns

If you feel you are not able to write great copy, enlist the services of a professional copywriter or use a seminar marketing company like Seminar Direct.

Maintain a narrow and direct focus. Never forget, with direct mail a 98 percent to 99 percent rejection rate equals success. You need only a few responses out of 100 to be successful. Here’s how to stay focused:

Ask your readers to do only one thing (e.g., ask for information or fill out a survey — not both), so they don’t get confused, which can negatively affect response.

Focus the message on the target audience’s pain-points, not everything you know about the product or service. That means benefits, not features.

Don’t try to handle objections in the mail package.

Avoid the smorgasbord approach to direct marketing — don’t create packages that have something for everyone.

Avoid self-mailers. A letter package will out-perform a self-mailer by about 100 percent. Packages work better because important mail tends to come in envelopes. Envelopes get opened because it’s hard to distinguish the purpose of the communication without going inside and looking through the contents.

Be unique. You know that old saying, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!” Well, this holds true for direct mail. At the end of last year, we reviewed 20 packages: our 10 best and our 10 worst. The one thing that stood out was this: The best performing packages contained elements that looked very different from one another. They all used different-sized packages, a variety of shapes, paper colors and typefaces. Conversely, the worst performing packages all had very similar looking components. Also, most of the poor performers were packages that closely followed brand guidelines, where a consistent look and feel is highly valued.

Longer letters generally produce higher response rates. When the goal of the longer letter isn’t to provide more information, but to create higher perceived value, you’ll increase the chances that the recipient reads parts of it. Most direct marketing letters tend to be one page or (at the very most) two pages.

The belief is that nobody has time to read a long letter — they’re too busy. This is true, but if you can use the letter to create higher perceived value, you increase your odds of getting the reader to say, “Wow, they’re sending me a four-page letter, so they must have important information to communicate.” Remember, you need only two or three out of 100 individuals thinking this way to be successful. Just this last year, we tested a four-page letter against a two-page letter and got about a 20 percent lift in response with the four-pager.

Repeat your offer throughout all the package elements. If you can count the number of times you mention the offer and call-to-action in your package on one hand, you need to go back and add more. Don’t assume that recipients will work hard to find the offer or call-to-action. Don’t assume that recipients read your mail package front to back. Make it obvious by repeating it throughout all elements — the letter, the brochure, the reply form, even the business reply envelope. We had a client that felt repeating the offer was offensive to the readers’ intelligence, so we tested it. One version repeated the offer twice. The other version repeated the offer seven times. The version that showcased the offer seven times had a 24 percent lift in response.

Provide multiple response options. To lift response, you have to make it convenient to respond to your mail packages by providing multiple options: mail, phone, online and fax.

Testing increases response rates. Testing in-market is the only way to really determine what people will do. Most marketers do not test enough. The excuses are plentiful. Maybe they don’t test because the target universe is limited and mail quantities are small. Others believe that their personal opinion is enough to create a successful approach. The truth is that even with a small mailing you can test. For example, with a 1,000-piece mailing, you have the opportunity to test two to three variables. Your results may not be statistically valid, but they’ll provide directional information, which is better than learning nothing because you failed to test.

Use relevant messaging. When mailing to seniors, telling them that “seniors face multiple challenges” buys you nothing. Your reader already knows it. Instead, tell them something relevant. Express how you understand precisely the challenges that they face, and show them how you can help them overcome those specific challenges.

Mail again to previous responders. Responders from previous campaigns can be low-hanging fruit.
3. Get the Envelope Opened:
There are many strategies to get it done, but getting the envelope opened is the number one goal of every marketing piece.

Wedding style mailers – having an envelope that appears to be an invitation to a party or wedding is an effective technique.

Creative copy – teaser copy on the outside can be unbelievably effective. It must be written well or no increase in opening rates will be seen.

Colored envelopes – colored envelopes are opened more than white.

Handwritten fonts – fonts that appear to be hand written are more effective than computer looking fonts. They work because they feel more personal.
Stamps – using stamps beats indicia imprints or metering. Once again, because it looks the mailer looks more personal. 

Avoid standard #10 envelopes – the standard envelope that all your bills come in is called a #10 envelope. If you want to be noticed you need to be different, use something like a full window envelope, . Don’t use a standard #10 envelope for this reason.

Colored inks – people respond more to colors than they do to black ink. The colors that gain the highest response rates are constantly changing. This happens because colors tend to change like fashion and whatever is different will pull a slightly higher response rate.

Avoid looking like “junk mail”- prospects are experts at sensing whether a letter is direct mail or not. Avoid these tell-tale signs:

4.  Avoid Looking Like Junk Mail

When looking through the mail, prospects generally sort it into an “A” ad “B” pile. One pile is for bills, important mail and things that interest the reader; the other pile is heading for the round file (trash can).  There are a number of factors that readers use to determine if something is “junk mail” or not including:

Carrier Route Codes
Meter Marks
Postmark Cancellations
Black Ink
Computer Fonts
Return Address
Additional Items on Envelope

Review these items carefully so you can avoid appearing as a solicitation and you’ll dramatically improve your results.