11 Direct-Mail Pointers from Ed Burnett

Code customers and prospects separately

A mailing to your customers probably will out-pull a promotion to cold prospects by as much as 10 to 1. Yet many advertisers combine the two audiences under a single code. Such a mailing’s combined response may be 1.1%—which conceals valuable-to-know facts.

Test new packages against an existing control

Include your control package in every new package test, even if you feel positive that a new effort will beat a former winner. It is a better-than-even bet that the old mailer will win.

Mail inquiry responses independently

Many advertisers pool inquiries and respond to them at the time of their next scheduled mailing efforts—perhaps months later. This wastes an asset that declines rapidly in value. Respond to inquiries quickly and often.

Never sit on “hot” names

Many mailings to costly “hot-name” lists bomb simply because the advertiser takes too long to mail them.

Do not merge “friend-of-a-friend” names with ordinary prospect lists

Mailed in their own flight, “friend-friend” names can double response—almost to the rate of your customer file. Mailed with a prospect file, they will generate ordinary responses.

Don’t price by the seat of your pants

Advertisers often guess wrong about what the market will bear.

Drop marginal lists pronto

When tempted to re-mail to a marginally responsive list, do so only if you can somehow improve the original list.

Avoid needless merge-purge

If your duplicate clean-up can save you only 1%-2%, the cost of catching the dupes probably will exceed your saving on postage.

Make sure business files include SIC codes

Use of SIC codes can slash the cost of prospecting and list rental.

Do not overrate first-time orders

Second and subsequent orders create a customer. The first order only creates a sale.

Never use multiple signatures on a letter

Direct mail is most convincing, Burnett advises, when it creates the impression that it is a one-to-one communication with the reader.



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