Direct Mail for Online Offers? Definitely…

As evident by the numerous 5×9 post cards I’ve been receiving, there are a lot of dot-com firms using traditional postal lists to direct targeted traffic to their sites, to strengthen branding, and to secure direct sales via their e-commerce-enabled web sites.

Direct mail marketing has been around quite a while. It is a mature industry that supports highly refined targeting activities via the tens of thousands of direct mail lists available for rent. Let’s discuss a few pointers that will help you maximize your use of direct mail lists.

Know the source of the list and the actions taken by the individuals on the list. Postal lists are typically generated from public records and/or directories (compiled lists) or from other direct mail campaigns and customer lists (response lists). An individual’s action could be that of a buyer or an inquirer. Stick with direct mail-generated buyer lists, as they tend to yield the higher response rates.

Many postal lists, especially those generated by controlled-circulation publications, are rich in selection criteria. Such criteria help define an individual’s buying influence. For any list that you are considering, inquire about the available selection criteria to refine the rented list so that it best matches your target market. Be careful not to “overselect” a list, as you may be suppressing many good prospects.

Postal lists are typically updated on a monthly or quarterly basis. Make sure you check a list’s update schedule as well as the available quantity for the most recent names (referred to as a “hotline”).

If you are renting names at a business address, make sure to ask for records “with individual name only,” since a business record without a contact person is acceptable on many B2B lists.

If you are mailing to companies, consider placing a “max per company” limit with your rental order. This will minimize the number of mailing pieces that go into a corporate mail room, even if each piece is going to separate individuals. You may select only “one per company” or a “three per company” max.

Know and understand the five factors that affect a direct mail program: product, offer, package, creative, and list.

If you are renting names from a publication, request to omit “agent-sold names.” Agent-sold names are the names generated from bulk, discounted subscription sales from third-party magazine resellers (that is, multimagazine subscription agencies).

If you are mailing more than 50,000 names across multiple lists, consider having a third-party service bureau perform a merge/purge. This will eliminate duplication among lists while also suppressing individual names in your house file.

If you are ordering 50,000 names or more on a particular list and you are planning to perform a merge/purge, inquire about a “net name arrangement.” This gives you a discount, typically capped at 15 percent, based on the amount of duplication your merge/purge facility has identified during the de-dupe process.

To increase deliverability, request records that are Zip 12 encoded. This ensures that the record fully matches the address files provided by the USPS.

Take a “mutual fund” approach to your list media plan. Instead of renting one list of 25,000 records, consider testing five lists at 5,000 names each. A good list broker will develop a media plan that increases the chances your mailing will be a success.

In addition to a compelling offer and well-designed creative, make sure you provide the recipients of your mail piece an email address, a phone number, and a specially keyed URL as ways for them to respond.

Design your offer so that if they are not ready to buy now, they can visit a particular URL to register for “more information” or participate in a product drawing (for example, a drawing for a PalmPilot). This will allow you to generate a prospect file for future conversion efforts. Remember, soft offers create a fast response.

If you are advertising in a print publication, negotiate discounted names with your print media buy!

Take advantage of new lists on the market. Instruct your broker to alert you of new lists so that you can be one of the early renters of the file.

Deploy some time for the keying/tracking system that is localized within each list in your media plan. This will allow back-end analysis on the performance of each list, so continuation mailings can be planned for the best performers.

When considering a list, you may ask your list broker to acquire the “continuation usage history” for a particular file. This will allow you to see the renters that have come back to a particular rental file on a continual basis due to profitable performance.

The tips discussed will help you maximize your ROI when using postal lists within your overall marketing mix. A good offer targeted to the right audience will elicit responses make sure you capture the names and email addresses of your respondents any way you can so that you can build relationships and generate sales on a continual basis.

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