Estimating Response to B-to-B Direct Mail
The question: "What kind of response can I expect from my lead-generating mailing, and what percentage is considered good for business-to-business (B-to-B) direct mail?"
This is one of the most frequently asked questions in B-to-B marketing. Let's see if we can shed some light on the topic.
The number of inquiries produced per thousand pieces mailed varies dramatically depending on a number of factors, some of which we'll discuss shortly. However, based on recent results, we can make the following generalizations.
If your mailing has a hard offer, you can expect a response rate in the range of 1 percent to 1.5 percent. I define a hard offer as any response choice that forces the prospect to try the product or have direct contact with a salesperson. These include meetings, demonstrations, presentations, so-called "free consultations" (sales meetings in disguise), demo diskettes selling for nominal fees, and 30-day trial offers.
On the other hand, if you have a soft offer—such as the offer of a booklet, gift or special report—you can expect a response of 1 percent to 4 percent; some mailers with good offers and highly targeted lists can get 5 percent or more.
Some practitioners object, stating that percentages are irrelevant and that sales results are the only true measure of direct mail success.
The problem is, sales are more difficult to tally in lead-generating programs than in mail order. One reason is that the direct mail piece does not do the whole job of selling; many other factors contribute. What's more, many companies don't have an adequate system for tracking leads through to sales and reporting on the results.
Still, if you're able to track sales, then percentage response may not be as important to you. One of my clients, for example, sells a product so highly specialized that his percent response is miniscule—a small fraction of 1 percent. Yet the large dollar amount of each sale more than pays for the cost of mailing large quantities to get those few hot leads.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.