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16 Tips to Direct Mail Marketing Success

David James of Bethesda List Center shares his secrets on direct mail marketing success.

1. Do the Math.

Plan your mail marketing campaign as an accountant would. Start by figuring out how much income and unit sales the project must generate to break even. Remember, its money that matters first; percentage response rate comes second. In other words, your campaign might actually be a big money maker, even if it has a low percentage response rate.

2. Always Key Code, Record and Analyze Results.

Assign a key code to each list, record and analyze the responses for each code. You’ll see which files are working better than others. Do this on every mailing. When email marketing, use coded links to a special order page in your web site. Many mailers do the key coding but neglect to record and/or analyze. So, they never learn what works and what doesn’t.

3. Test Everything Else, Too.

Copy, package design, offer, pricing and timing are key elements that can also affect a direct mail campaign. Key code, record and analyze results of each change in your mailings.

4. Be a Smart List Buyer.

Keep in mind a few things when you’re ordering lists:

  • One time use – Lists are for one time use only. The names are the property of the list owner. However, mailers do own the names of those individuals who respond to their promotion.
  • Be flexible – Direct mail lists offer many options; however, all the bells and whistles may not be available on every list.
  • Samples – List owners usually require a sample – even just a rough sample – of what you plan to send.
  • Time – Many lists can be shipped in 24 hours. Others may take a week or more.
  • Minimums – Most list owners require a minimum order of 5,000 names.
  • Prepayment – Most list suppliers require prepayment from first time customers.

5. Build Your Own Mailing List.

Your customers, trade show leads, other prospects, inquirers and former buyers are the feedstock for your own comprehensive own direct marketing list. Be sure to include opt-in email addresses. Many BLC list customers have also asked us to market their organizations’ mailing lists. Got an up to date list of 10,000 or more names? Ask us about marketing your file for additional income.

6. Focus on Your Audience.

Your selling message should address the specific needs and interests of your audience. A good list professional will be specific, too. With the details you give them, they will recommend lists that home in on your best customer prospects.

7. Know Each List Type.

  • Direct Mail – For use in direct mail marketing programs conducted by the marketer. Many of these lists are also available with telephone numbers at additional fees for telemarketing programs.
  • Email – For use in email marketing programs. Reputable and effective email lists use only opt in names. Email list owners nearly always do the mailing for the marketer.

8. Consider Various List Sources.

Keep in mind a few terms when considering lists:

  • Association – Professional or trade association membership buyers. Many of these individuals also purchase other offerings from their organizations.
  • Subscriber – Magazine or continuity subscription buyers. Sometimes offered along with names of expired subscribers at a lower price.
  • Buyer – Proven buyers of a list owner’s product or service. Often offered with a “hot list” or “recent buyers” sub-file at an up-charge.
  • Compiled – Names of prospective buyers compiled by a third party. While not usually considered as productive as association, subscriber or buyer lists, compiled files can be effective.

9. Determine List Price.

Direct mail lists most often have a base price per thousand names, expressed “/M”. Options to select geographic areas, job titles, industries, or to add key coding and the like are additives also priced by the thousand names. Shipping and handling charges are charged by the order.

10. How Mailing Lists Are Supplied.

Today, most mailing lists are sent via email. However, they can also be provided on floppy, CD, Cheshire and pressure sensitive label stock.

11. Get Your Envelope Opened.

A live stamp, instead of pre-printed indicia or meter mark, short teaser copy and name and address printed directly on a closed face envelope will go a long way toward keeping your mailing from landing in the trash unopened.

12. Use Color in Your Letter Effectively.

Try a blue signature and sparing color use elsewhere to emphasize your most important points.

13. Provide all the Product Details in Direct Mail.

Give your reader everything he/she needs to make a decision. Features, functions and benefits…the more the better.

14. Be Extra Brief in email

You have just fractions of a second. Be quick and tempting. Use the subject line as your teaser copy. Link to your home page in several places.

15&16. Use a List Professional.

(This tip has two numbers because it’s so important.) Use a list pro with years of experience, hundreds of regular customers and a solid reputation throughout the business. They should have access to the best lists and work with sources around the world. List professionals can help you find promising new names that you never knew existed. And, they’ll steer you away from those files you ought to avoid. A list pro will also coordinate the time-consuming list acquisition process (ordering, tracking, shipping, billing, etc.) at no additional charge to you.


David James is the President of Bethesda List Center, Bethesda, MD.

2 Responses to “16 Tips to Direct Mail Marketing Success”

  1. [...] quick, readable NextMark blog — 16 Tips to Direct Mail Marketing Success by David James of Bethesda List Center — includes these two recommendations and all the right [...]

  2. Great post…you’d be amazed at how often people sending direct mail use only a fraction of these common sense tips. purchase mailing lists.

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