- There are four important
elements in a "Direct Mail Package" and
close attention must be paid to each: (Before
anything, of course, comes the essential
"idea" since the conceptual strategy is
- the graphics
(carrier) which must be opened by reader -
i.e., "what does it look like?"
- the offer: the way
the proposition is phrased - i.e.
"what's the deal?"
- the copy: the
compelling description that gets the reader
to buy or act - i.e. "how is it
- the list: the
targeted audience most likely willing to buy
or act - i.e. "who is it sent to?"
- Perhaps the most important
element is the list since an excellent offer, with a
striking carrier and compelling copy if mailed
to the wrong list - can be a disaster. Others believe
copy is most important, but don't let ranking bother
you since each element is important. Take all
reasonable steps to get, use and keep the most
accurate and up-to-date lists possible to increase
your margin of success. Set up a system to add names
and keep'em current.
- Heed "Daly's Law"
- "Everything takes longer and costs more!"
So, it's wise to start a project in ample time to
make all elements come together in an easy manner.
Use a "reverse timetable" to plot what
needs to be done and when. For instance, you probably
need to order lists first. Then, don't forget the
envelopes, printed stock, other enclosures, etc.
Allow time for delivery and return action plus
- Direct Mail is a demanding
taskmaster, so if it fails it's probably you who
missed somewhere, not the medium. If possible,
"test" some or all portions of your program
so you can alter methods if needed.
- Writing compelling Direct
Mail copy only seems simple so don't be deceived.
Heed basic principles of writing to a single person
in a simple, straightforward manner - yet with style.
For success, remember the 3 "S's" of
successful copy are:
- Long copy is not necessarily
bad, in fact it can out pull short copy. Focus on the
main message you intend to convey. Never forget you
want action to occur...NOW. Be sure the copy answers
the always-asked questions: "What's in it for
me?" Always keep the reader's perceived needs in
mind. Do the necessary research to determine them.
- Closely analyze your
potential markets and your offer so you can hone
lists and copy to target your approach. Though you
mail by the thousands, remember Direct Mail is more
akin to a rifle than a shotgun. Write your copy to be
read by one person at a time.
- Remember Direct Mail is a
substitute sales representative. Where an in-person
sales representative can immediately answer
prospects' questions and overcome objections when
raised, Direct mail copy must anticipate all aspects
and insure logical points are covered.
- Incorporate an action device
- coupon, order form, reply card or envelope, phone
number - to make it easy for recipient to take
desired action.. Repeatedly tell recipient what
action you want and make it simple to do. Put nothing
in the way of getting an order or response. Use all
action devices cited.
- A letter almost always works
better in a Direct Mail package than a package - even
a catalog - without a letter. Don't worry if the
letter repeats what's in the catalog, brochure or
order form. It's there for a different purpose. The
sales letter is a one-to-one communications to
explain and sell, to get the recipient to act. The
postscript is often the most-read part of the letter.
- If all elements of package
are good, it is imperative repeat mailings be made.
It's difficult to wear out a good list and, unless
mailings are overdone, you can't wear out your
welcome. Let statistical probabilities and the laws
of economics work in your favor rather than allow
difference about making frequent mailings deter you.
A common error is not to mail often enough or to a
- Keep detailed records of
everything you do. Follow a "systems
approach" so you know what happened, when and
why. That way you can repeat successes and avoid
failures. Sometimes the difference of a tenth of a
percent or less is all it takes to tune a marginal
performer into a winner.
- Study all elements of your
package so you can know what's working. Is it the
price? The geography? The timing? The phrasing of the
offer? The list? The copy? The product? Which of
those myriad elements, in combination or without one
element, makes the critical difference in the return?
Analyze your records closely and continually until
you know why you're winning and can repeat success.
- Keep current with changing
postal rules, rates, regulations and procedures.
Regularly monitor your procedures to insure you're in
- Save, subdivide and study
the good Direct Mail you get to learn what to do -
and maybe what not to do. Remember some of the things
that appeal may, in fact, be "tests" that,
when results are known, are failures. Never
underestimate need for simplicity and complete
- People who take actions by
mail are different from those who don't. Thus it is
wise to isolate them so you can easily re-mail with
new or different offers. Remember the axiom:
"People who buy by mail...buy by mail...buy by
mail..." Best lists are of mail buyers of
similar products or services who recently purchased
in same price range.
- Do what's necessary to make
your mail stand out, even "look peculiar"
since it has to fight all types of competition. If it
doesn't get opened, looked at, and read...there's no
chance it will bring the action you want. Clever
"teaser copy" on outside of carrier can
- Wise mail merchants work at
differentiating between "suspects,"
"prospects" and (best of all)
"customers." Once they can distinguish
names on lists among those three categories they are
able to achieve cost efficiencies that novices can
only dream about. So keep good records of what
happens and when it happens with mailings to a
particular list with a particular offer. Capitalize
- Testimonials can be
effective promotional tools, especially if they're
heartfelt and cogently express what the average user
might feel about a product or service. They're even
better when offered by celebrities or persons
well-known to the audience. Treat testimonials like
the jewels they are and gather more.
- There's no such thing as a
"normal" percentage of return that's
universally applicable across a wide range of
products and services but, over time and by keeping
careful records you can determine what some norms are
for your offer(s). Goal then is to "beat your
best"...if only by 1/2 or 1/4 of a percent!
- In producing Direct Mail
programs these seven words may be cliché - but only
because it's true: "Nothing is as simple as it
seems." Continual care needs to be exercised at
every step of the planning and conceptual stage,
though any step in the conception-production process
can become critical if close attention isn't paid to
what's happening. "To error is human." Yes.
I'm aware of the error but that's the exact spelling
of a sign I spotted in a printer's window and I
reproduce it to emphasize how vital it is that
extreme care be given to this facet of production.
Proofreading in a professional manner is essential.
- Direct Mail Copywriter John
Yeck long ago cautioned me to be aware of these two
"sinful" acronyms: KISS and CIPU. The
first, "Keep It Simple, Sweetie" describes
how to tell your message, while the second cautions
us to avoid lapsing into business or industrial
jargon which "we" understand but most
everyone else doesn't. CIPU stands for "Clear If
- While the Power of Mail will
long be with us (even though the nature of the Postal
Service might change) wise direct mailers see
themselves practicing in the fields of "Direct
Marketing" or "Direct Response." They
become knowledgeable of the synergistic value from
use of print media (magazines, space ads, newspaper
inserts, etc) as well as electronic media (radio
and/or TV) to supplement their mail promotional
efforts. The combination can be powerful.
- Continually study and be
alert to what's happening in this dynamic medium. It
may seem that not much is new, when in fact, there
are subtle but important shifts in many of the areas
delineated in each of the four elements cited in