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Top Tips to Improve Direct Mail and Email Results

We’re often asked whether there are any sure-fire ways to improve client’s direct marketing effectiveness. It’s a difficult question to answer. The problem is that each piece of direct marketing is different in terms of objective, target audience, incentives used, selected communication media etc. The things that make one campaign successful won’t necessarily work on another. Let’s face it, if there was a one-size fits all solution, a brand response expert like BURN would be out of business.

That said, below are 5 key things that more often than not will improve your response rates. The key to success is to test and learn what works for you:

1) Data (how do I improve the targeting of my direct mail / emails?)

This is without a doubt the most influential element in the success of any DM campaign. Carefully select the individuals to whom your DM message will have the most relevance or, if you know, choose those who have historically been most responsive.

First, ensure your data is ‘deliverable’ by running it through the postcode verification system (PAF) and one or more of the movers files available. Then make sure it’s ‘clean’ by removing those on the Mailing Preference Service or deceased databases to avoid offence or worse breaching and DMA or ASA codes.

Undertaking these hygiene checks will have the added bonus of improving your ROI too as you cut the cost of wasted packs from your budget.

2) Personalisation (what effect can personalisation have on my direct mail / email results?)

Obviously, at a basic level, just using named individuals rather than ‘Dear Householder’ will give your results a boost.

But you can go much further than that by using digital print techniques. These allow you to increase the relevance of the messaging by personalising every element of your communication including pictures to a particular individual – one-to-one communications. There are some great examples of this technique around.

The effect of highly personalised (one-to-one) communications on response rates can be staggering. We handle a complex digitally personalised DM and eDM programme for a client in the travel sector which has delivered a 75% uplift over standard laser personalised DM. Yes, it’s more complicated and expensive to implement but the return on investment (ROI) is huge.

3) Timing (when’s the best time to send out direct mail or email?)

Not surprisingly when you receive a communication can influence your likelihood to take up an offer.

Make sure you take advantage of any specific timing opportunities to increase relevance. For example, if you’re trying to win back old customers, why not land the mailing on Valentine’s Day when the messaging may resonate more? Or if you’re promoting a premium sports channel, you might like to land a mailing on the day the new fixture list is announced.

Then there is the issue of what day of the week (or hour in the case of email) is best to send your direct marketing communication. This really does vary. Generally, it’s better to avoid Monday and Friday (as you’ll either find yourself amongst a backlog of communications or landing on a day the recipient is away on a long weekend). That said, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, holiday / leisure brands can do very well by landing emails and DMs on a Friday / weekend when people are in the right mind-set. Splitting your file and testing different send times is the best way to find out what works for you.

4) Response mechanisms (what response mechanics should I use on my direct mail / email?)

It’s amazing the number of people who ignore the importance of providing the right response routes in their DM for the audience they are communicating with. The main options are: web, phone, post and email. Relevance to the target audience is critical.

We had a client in the pay TV sector once who fought tooth and nail to keep a reply paid response card out of their DM pack “as it made the pack look old-fashioned”. We received over 50% of responses through this route despite offering seemingly easier web and phone response routes too. The reason? Their audience had an older age profile and were more comfortable with the ‘traditional’ ways of responding. In the same way, if you’re talking to an audience with a younger profile it may be appropriate to drive people to your Facebook page or to accept text responses. Getting it right can make a big difference.

5) Incentives (what direct mail / email incentives perform best?)

It stands to reason that providing your prospects or customers with an incentive to respond will increase the success of your DM activity. However, be very careful. You want your incentive to stimulate higher responses but it’s a waste of time doing this if those extra responses are simply low-quality timewasters and freeloaders. They could be an unnecessary drain on your resources rather than a benefit to your business.

Your incentive should be strong enough to ‘tip the balance’ of the response decision in the minds of recipients and nothing more. The most powerful incentives are those that add value to the product or service you’re promoting. Clearly, giving away a subscription to the ‘Racing Post’ on registration makes more sense on a gaming mailing than offering a free pair of gardening gloves!

Finally, test and test again. Try different incentives over time to see which works best. And don’t forget, always keep a control cell of recipients who receive a communication without an incentive so you can see the effect that your offers are having.

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1 Comment

  1. peter on August 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    loved the part about ‘tipping the balance’ – that’s a very strong argument, and getting it just right can have pretty huge implications. great article – i’m going to bookmark this site in case i require your services in the future.



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