The most complete library of direct mail, Target Marketing Group's Who's Mailing What! Archive, continually monitors the use of premiums. Comparing the first quarter of the last four years reveals that despite the budget crunches many direct mail programs have faced during the overall economic slowdown, the use of premiums has not shrunk. And compared to 2007, when the economy was chugging along, the tactic has actually increased by 15 percent.
In the first quarter of 2010, 20 percent of all direct mail had a premium offer—the exact same figure of 2008. Of course, 2008 also was the year when the economy started going south, so 2009 registered slightly less at 19 percent. But the tactic's resurgence demonstrates that, in the face of economic obstacles, premiums are playing a vital role in direct mail response.
As Lee Marc Stein, copywriter, former columnist for Inside Direct Mail and author of "Street Smart Marketing," once said, "The right premium not only helps you achieve your response objectives, but probably makes sense economically, particularly in lifetime value calculations."
From one of Stein's articles, here are three ways to use the premium that still move the needle on response.
1. Premiums as a reward for fast response
Normally, faster response means more response. You get people who would put your mail aside (and later reject it) to act on impulse. There are two ways to couch the offer: either with a deadline or with a limited quantity of available premiums.
You can give the premium to everyone responding by a specific date (and even to those whose responses arrive within two weeks of that date). Or you can give the premium to the first X number of people responding. This ploy is known as the "Fast 50"; but if you mail large quantities, seriously consider expanding the quantity beyond 50. For a nationally known product or service, people think, "First 50? I have no chance." It's like sending a time-limited offer and giving prospects just a week to respond.