Direct Mail Response — What’s the Expectation?

I’ve had many clients ask me, “What kind of response should I expect?” following a direct mail campaign. Like most answers in marketing, I usually say, “It depends.” In the case of direct mail, response depends primarily on 3 things:

  • LIST
  • OFFER
  • CREATIVE

In that order.

Most people want to spend most of their time on the creative. The writing is written, edited, revised, rewritten, tweaked and revised again. The photos are bigger, smaller, moved, replaced, and so on.

In the middle of the process, the offer is changed:

  • Get 10% off with a mention of this mailing.
  • Call within the next 7 days and we’ll include an additional free product, free!
  • Sign up today and pay no interest until 2010!

Last of all, the list is considered. Big mistake. The list is the most important element of any direct mail program.

  • A “house list” of satisfied customers will pull so much better than a “compiled list” created from something as familiar as a phone book.
  • A list that is segmented demographics by zip codes that match the offer and the creative will work much better than one just blanket mailed.
  • A Business-to-Business list defined by SIC codes, # of employees and title of the buyer/decision maker will work much better than a list of the local chamber of commerce (unless local chamber of commerce businesses ARE your target market!)

So you can see why it depends. Does your direct mail have a call to action? A PS at the end of the letter? A “lift note” to fall on the floor with that last little teaser copy to get the interest of the reader? A business reply envelope? A website and phone number for more information? Did the envelope have a stamp or was it metered? Or an indicia? All of these have an effect on your results.

Was this the first contact the prospect has had with your company? Or did you talk to them on the phone last month? Or do they order from you once a quarter?

So what can you expect when you do a direct mail program? Rule of thumb used to be 2 to 5% response… but there are so many factors, it could be much less or much more than that.

Author: Chris Brown

Business owner operating a marketing consulting firm. Online Publisher. Keynote Speaker.