1. Start with an effective mailing list. You might have the best creative design and copy in the world, but your campaign is destined for failure without a solid mailing list. Make the appropriate investment from the beginning—even before you write or design the piece. Don’t overlook the many benefits of developing a list of established customers and prospects.
2. Test. Test. Test. This is one time that experience does not predict future results. Instead, test everything you do, including your customer list. Trial and error make it possible to determine what works—and what doesn’t.
3. Personalize your communication with a letter. Whether you’re reaching out via email blast, landing page or regular mail, always include a letter. Recipients are more inclined to respond to communication they perceive as being more personal. Not sure that’s the case? Then test it against letter-less mailings and measure the difference.
4. Use features and benefits where appropriate. While it’s true that benefit-driven copy is often the preferred approach, it’s even more important to tailor your message to your audience. That’s because in some instances features outweigh benefits, especially in B2B environments where the topics may be more technical.
5. Give them an offer they can’t refuse. Every direct marketing campaign should include an offer, and it must be a good one to elicit the desired response. Free sample? Premium service? Better guarantee? Whatever you decide, make sure your direct marketing package sells the offer and not the product or service. Make the offer enticing, easy to find, and as simple as clicking the mouse.
6. Develop a desirable product or service. Your direct marketing campaign may rock, but without a good product or service to back it up, failure is inevitable. Make sure you’re pitching something that people either need or want.
7. Write copy with your audience in mind. Think about the recipient of your direct marketing piece. Determine that person’s problems, concerns and daily issues. Then approach him or her with honest, believable content that addresses those needs in easy-to-understand language that gets right to the point.
8. Write direct marketing copy—not a corporate piece. Make a conscious decision to create content that doesn’t bore the recipient with wordy corporate jargon. Too much corporate language turns the reader off, which in turn lowers your response rate.
9. Cover your copy bases. You may have only five seconds to grab your recipient’s attention. To ensure success, include enough information to answer questions quickly and efficiently. Place a heavy emphasis on eye-catching headlines and subheads that stand out. Craft each word carefully.
10. Get to the point. Don’t burden your letter with wordy openers that attempt to be clever. Instead, trim it down and supply the key information up front. It’s been said that 90 percent of all direct marketing would be more effective without the first sentence or first paragraph.
11. Form a good marriage between copy and graphics. Don’t let one dominate the other. Instead, create a seamless blend of words and illustrations that draws the recipient to the offer.
12. Pay close attention to color schemes. Color can significantly impact the recipient and affect how he or she might respond. That’s why it’s important to consider several things when selecting the right colors for the piece, such as the season, audience—even the type of product or service.
13. Don’t save the best for last. Time is critical, so knock their socks off in the beginning. Have a great offer? Share it up front. Got an incredible product or service? Let them know about it from the get-go. Ask the burning questions, dazzle them with the facts, and pique their curiosity right away.
14. Include a time limit that matters. An offer with a clearly stated timeframe is much better than a vague, barely believable approach. Instead of saying “Limited time only,” create a sense of urgency with “Offer ends August 31, 2011.”
15. Capitalize on the power of a postscript. It is an extremely effective way to summarize your offer and recap your message.
16. Grab the recipient’s attention with an unusual shape or unique illustration. This is an effective way to ensure that your piece stands out from the rest of the pack.
17. Use your direct marketing real estate wisely. Certain areas of any mailing are associated with high readership—near the recipient’s name on the front of the outer envelope, the back of the outer envelope, and above the salutation. Consider this an opportunity to place key information where it will get noticed.
18. Create a clear call to action. In this digital age, submitting a response is easier than ever before. Provide your recipients with a menu of response options that are relevant and easy. It’s as simple as determining the desired response behavior and then tailoring your call to action accordingly.
19. Make it easy to respond. Closely pair the recipient’s name with the opportunity for a positive response. This is best accomplished by teaming up powerful icons to create a headline that encourages visual lingering.
20. Include an easy-to-follow roadmap. If recipients have trouble following your instructions and aren’t sure about how to respond, you’ll lose their attention in a heartbeat. Use clear directions and structure the campaign in a straightforward manner.
21. Determine if your direct mail is getting past the gatekeeper. If you suspect that your piece is being screened by another individual, conduct a follow-up test to determine if this is the case. Remember, your piece is intended for a specific audience.
22. Check for obvious mistakes before sending. It’s easy to overlook unsuspecting errors. But nothing kills a campaign quicker than printing the wrong reply phone number or forgetting to include an important link. Check and re-check for any possible errors to ensure that the entire campaign runs smoothly and effectively.
23. Review your own samples. Seed your list with the names of everyone on your team to ensure that everything is being delivered as it should. It’s the only way to determine unforeseen problems, like a postal barcode that covers up key information.
24. Track accurate results. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to ensure that your results are statistically valid. Errors can surface easily when data is being collected and calculated, so maintain meticulous records throughout the campaign.
25. Re-think your product or service. If you’ve conducted a seamless direct marketing campaign and your results are less than you expected, it may be time to re-evaluate the product or service you’re selling. Direct marketing doesn’t work magic; a good product or service still has to deliver.
Direct Marketing Success Story: Glencoe McGraw-Hill
Clay Creative was charged with the task of creating a dimensional, direct-mail piece that targeted teachers. The goal was to generate interest in a new language arts textbook by first offering a free interactive CD-ROM. A business reply card gathered additional information about the recipient, including the option to obtain a free sample of the textbook and permission to contact the recipient via email.
To gather initial input for the piece, Clay Creative organized teacher focus groups where they shared four mock-ups of the mailer. Based on the teacher input, the professionals at Clay Creative suggested an eye-catching, dimensional piece in an unconventional size. Careful attention was given to color, shape and content, ensuring that all components came together to create a piece specifically formulated for the target audience.
“This has been one of our most successful lead-generator campaigns in over 10 years, bringing in more than 1,000 responses almost immediately. The piece has also captured the attention of other departments because of its intriguing design.”
Rugenia Henry, Marketing Manager, McGraw-Hill Education