Estimating Response to B-to-B Direct Mail
Establishing a Baseline
I often tell new clients that I don't know what a good response is until we do our first mailing.
The first mailing gives us a "baseline" which we can measure future efforts against. If we're pleased with the level of response generated by mailing No. 1, then we consider that a good response for our product in the marketplace. If mailing No. 2 equals or exceeds that level of response, we consider it a winner.
This baseline concept is especially important if your product is not widely promoted through the mail. Magazine publishers and fund-raisers can cite "typical" response rates of 2 percent and
1 percent because millions of such solicitations are mailed every month, so the response rates are pretty well-known. But if you're the pioneer in your field—the first to use direct mail promotion to sell your type of product—then there is no known "typical" response rate you can anticipate; you will be setting the standards.
The nature of the product itself has a dramatic effect on response rates. If it is used by a large number of the prospects you mail to, response will be higher (an example might be selling bandages to hospital purchasing agents). On the other hand, if your product is highly specialized and of interest to only a small portion of the market, the response will be significantly lower (an example might be a specialized type of heart monitor of interest to only one hospital in 100).
Format can make a big difference in how well your mailing pulls. As a rule, sales letters mailed in business envelopes pull better than self-mailers. But sometimes this is not the case.
I like to use letters when I have to make an appeal to the prospects' rational or emotional sides in order to build their interest in the product.
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.