Can we guarantee that you really will double your response rates in your next direct mail campaign?
No we don't always get it right - but we do most of the time.
So does that mean the theory is wrong?
We think not and this is why.
The biggest problem we have is that many of our clients don't have time to get everything sorted out properly. They want a campaign up and running within weeks - and we can do that - but that does not normally give us enough time to consider a whole range of factors that are special to their promotion.
What you find here is a complete set of instructions on how to make direct mail work - in general. What has to happen next is that these instructions have to be applied to your specific area of work. These factors will include:
- What the opposition are doing in terms of their products
- What the opposition are doing in terms of their advertising
- How the market is moving - do people still want your product? Is there a new edition out? Is what you sell now seen as dated or out of fashion?
- What do we know in detail about the potential customers - have we really got their profiles right, and understood their needs? Do we know what language style to write in?
The point is, if we do not have adequate information in areas such as these we will have to make guesses. Now there is nothing wrong with that when one has a bit of time. For example, in a recent job we had a list of 5000 potential customers to write to. We came up with eight different ways of approaching this list, divided it into eight, and did eight different trial mailings. The results ranged from a very acceptable 1% (acceptable because the profit per sale is high) down to zero.
Now doing those tests and finding the one approach that gave us 1% took around 7 weeks in terms of basic research, writing, printing, mailing and getting the results in. It also cost quite a bit - the mailing cost around £2000, without taking into account the writing of the letters and the design of the leaflets.
Sadly, many of our clients don't have that much time - they want the mailing out now. We apply all the general parts of the theory, and make guesses on the rest, and get it right about 80% of the time. So 20% of our clients in such circumstances are not happy.
Now this should not be taken to mean that they lose a fortune. What we always do is try to persuade them to mail as small a number of potential customers as is meaningful - sometimes as small a list as 300. Such a mailing will cost them around £200. Our creative fees might be another £300. Which seems a lot for a small mailing, but then you should remember that if the mailing made one or two sales then a little of the development cost comes back. And what's more if a the problem appears to be with the creative element we will re-write our work for another trial at no cost at all.
Often we say to people, send out a trial of 300 with your original mailer, and at the same time do another random trial with our promotion - let's compare the results. Such sampling is what direct mail is all about. But sadly, not everyone takes note. Here's how it can go wrong...
The client took our letter and mailed it out with their brochure. There was no comparable run of the letter on its own or the brochure on its own. So when the mailing failed to produce the right results we had no indication what was wrong. Was it the letter, the brochure, the combination, the fact that a rival had mailed just before, the fact that their service is now seen as being last year's model... We have even had situations in which the mailing coincided with the company upgrading their website - which was fine except that the upgrade didn't quite work, and potential clients couldn't find their way around the website any more. Without any comparison mailing it is impossible to know what is going on.
So there we have it - a totally honest answer. We don't get it right all the time - but we believe that mostly when we don't it is either because we simply don't have enough information about the product, the people, and the competition, or because something else is changing. Of course, you could say that is just an excuse. But I would say, at least we come clean and admit we don't always get it right.
Now move on to the Theory section.