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Why Direct Mail Works!

Direct mail works in today’s market for a very simple reason—it can be tested. If marketers develop a direct mailer with a poorly executed idea, it doesn’t take long to figure out that it flopped. With today’s digital print technology, direct mail combined with multi-channel tools enables the delivery of identifiable ROI. A number of variables can be tested to determine the most successful solution. The primary reason that direct mail has been (and continues to be) one of the most successful forms of marketing is that it offers the ability to test and measure everything, including envelopes, postcards, copies, offers, and pricing.

What Can You Test?

There are five main things you can test:

  1. The package
  2. The list
  3. The copy
  4. The offer
  5. The price

For package testing, the direct marketer could try a postcard or an envelope mailing with customized messages on the outside of the envelope. The size of the envelopes or postcards could be varied.

You may have an internal customer list that is familiar to you and easily segmented. You might also be going after a new target market, in which case you would need to ensure that the list source is high quality. To test a list, you need to mail to a representative cross-section of the list. At a minimum, the test campaign should sample at least 5% of the list and use every nth name.

The copy needs to resonate with the recipient, so marketers should test copy. To do so, you take some part of your list and mail those recipients one letter or postcard, while simultaneously mailing different copies to the rest of the list and tracking the response rates.

The offer is probably the most important component of the direct mailer. While the word “free” has appeal to everyone, you must determine which offers have the most impact on specific target audiences.

Similarly, you can also test the price. By doing this, you can plot a demand curve for your product and assess what happens to orders as the price moves up and down or as a specific product is combined with bonus offers for complementary items.

Test… Because You Can!

New technologies (encompassing digital print as well as software solutions) have made testing affordable. Today, you can try multiple testing options to ensure that the right message gets to the right audience. It is important to test only one element at a time—if you test price point and method of payment simultaneously, you may never really know what the results mean. Your test can be invalidated simply because you cannot identify which of your variables had the most impact.

The results you get from testing will give you the confidence to implement changes that will improve your overall response. With well-planned testing, you can begin to develop specific performance data on each test you conduct. The bottom line is that there is no passing or failing this kind of testing. You can use the knowledge and insight you have gained to achieve a better response each time you mail.