30 Ways to Improve Response
Ask any direct marketing expertthe single best way to increase response is by using the right list.
If you can find prospects who are truly in need of your product or service, your mailing has a much better chance to succeed. However, it is not enough just to find themyou have to reach them with an effective direct mail package.
Based on creating and evaluating thousands of successful direct mail programs around the world, I have found that there are certain techniques that can significantly boost response.
They are no substitute for a big idea. They are simply ways to improve response to your existing direct mail package, and give you something to think about when creating or evaluating a new package.
Here are 30 tips for better envelopes and letters to get you started.
The Outer Envelope
1. Put a strong message on the outer envelope.
Some direct marketing professionals recommend a "blind" envelope. The evidence proves otherwise. Denny Hatch's book "Million Dollar Mailing$" features 71 of the most successful direct mail packages of all time. Almost without exception, they each have a strong message on the outer envelope.
2. Use the back of the envelope.
It's 50/50 that the envelope will arrive face-up on the kitchen table or the desk. Why not use the back to further entice the prospect to open the envelope?
3. Ask a provocative question.
Once of the world's best copywriters, Bill Jayme, created a famous outer envelope for the magazine Psychology Today. He wrote, "Do you close the bathroom door, even if you're the only one at home?"
4. Highlight the offer.
If you have an irresistible offer, don't run the risk of someone missing it. Put it right on the outer envelope.
5. Put the prospect's name on the outer envelope.
Not just to address the envelope, but to get their attention. We developed a mailing for Bay State gas that targets people who have oil burners. The outer envelope looks like it's smudged with soot. It says, "Hey, Alan Rosenspan, are you still using that dirty old oil burner?'
6. Put their name in more than one place.
Apple sent me a terrific mailing addressed to :"Alan Rosenspan, Art Director. Alan Rosenspan, Account Executive. Alan Rosenspan, Media Director." They wanted to make the point that their computers could be used for a lot of different tasks.
7. Test Federal Express.
It can be expensive, but nothing has a better opening rate. One caveat, however. Make sure you explain why you needed to send your message urgently.
8. Test faux Federal Express.
Several companies offer dozens of different outer mailing devices that look extremely important. You can even come up with your own "express gram." All for a fraction of the cost of Federal Express and other expedited mailing services.
9. Test Western Union.
This is ideal for getting out an extremely timely message fast. It also demands to be opened and read.
10. Use a dimensional package.
Boxes always get opened. Always. Just make sure to include your name and company very prominently, so it won't be confiscated by the local bomb squad. On the other hand, I've never had much success with tube mailings. Once you open them, they tend to be hard to read.
11. Put a pen in the package.
At AT&T, we tested including a pen in a package versus the same package with no pen. We increased response about 50%. Bics are cheap.
12. Put a puzzle in the package.
One of my clients is a software company called The MathWorks. They mail to engineers. They've found that putting a clever puzzle in the package increases response significantly. And they put their name on the puzzle, so they get more exposure when it's passed around the office.
13. Make your envelope stand out.
The average American receives 10 direct mail packages a day. Many of us receive much, much more. So don't look at your envelope up on the wall; look at it alongside a pile of direct mail.
14. Add color to your envelope.
Many companies spend a fortune on color photography on their brochures. But some prospects never even open the envelope...
15. Version your envelope to your list.
Nothing will get a prospect to open it quicker than if it's obviously for them. For example, "Inside: A special offer for people who used to subscriber to Fortune magazine."
16. Test unusual envelopes. We used a mock inter-office envelope for AT&T
Alliance teleconferencing; a paper bag for the "Direct Marketing on a Shoestring" Award show; a clear poly bag for another client.
17. Dominate the mail.
DHL in New Zealand sent prospects the world's largest direct mail packagean envelope over three feet by two feet. Think of ways to make your package the most intriguing, most provocative, most unusual one that your prospect will receive that week.
18. Include a letter.
I have never seen a self-mailer beat a letter package. Ogilvy & Mather Direct did research and discovered that the letter is the most important part of any direct mail package, hands down. I believe it.
19. Make the letter look like a letter.
A letter is not a design project. Too many letters look like flyers or even brochures. It should look like a personal one-to-one communication.
20. Make the letter sound like a letter.
A letter should be personal, private, even intimate. It should be written in a
different voice than the brochure. Think about itit's the only kind of advertising that starts with the word "Dear."
21. Tell a story.
The famous Wall Street Journal letter opens with a compelling story about two young men. One becomes the president of his company, one the manager of a small group. What made the difference? The Wall Street Journal. This letter has been responsible for more than one billion dollars' worth of subscriptionsmore than $1,000,000. a word!
22. Make the letter about the prospect, not the product.
It doesn't matter if you're selling gourmet coffee, satellites or super computerspeople would rather read about what you can do for them than about your product or service.
23. Write the letter in the first person.
Our control package for winning customers back to AT&T began as follows: "Dear Name, I love a challenge. As the President of AT&T's Consumer Long Distance Services, I face them every day. And that's why I'm writing you." It won back over 1.2 million customers without an offer.
24. Start the letter with a short sentence.
The easier you make it to begin reading, the more likely they will continue reading. A heavy block of copy at the beginning of the letter makes it look like too much work to read.
25. Version your letter to your list.
The most successful seminar package I've ever done had four different versions of the letter. One to past attendees, one to no-shows, one to people who had inquired about our products, and one to general prospects. The message was slightly different to each. The letter is also the easiest and least expensive element to version.
26. Add a Johnson Box.
The Johnson Box is the headline on top of the letter. It can include the main benefit or highlight the offer. The research that I've seen shows that letters with a Johnson Box outpull the same letters without by as much as 40%.
27. Treat the reader as a valued customer.
One of the most successful packages for AT&T Winback had this as a Johnson Box: "A very special offer for our most valuable former customers." It worked so well, we tested it on lower value customers. Did it do as well? It did even better.
28. Be sincere.
Forget using jargon or snappy sales talk. A letter should be a one-to-one communication from one individual to another. If it doesn't sound sincere, it probably won't work.
29. Add a powerful P.S.
The P.S. is still one of the first things people read. Use it to highlight the offer, or remind readers of the main benefit of your product. You can also use it to version your letter.
30. Start the letter with a provocative question.
A great letter for Amore cat food began: "If you were on a cruise ship, and a giant wave suddenly swept your husband and your cat overboard, who would you save first? If you even hesitated, have we got a cat food for you."
Alan Rosenspan can be reached at (617) 559-0999, or you can visit www.alanrosenspan.com.