Direct mail – here today, here tomorrow

In a recent article, the U.S. Postal Service is quoted as saying the best mail is effective mail. It seems to be self evident, but when you think about it there is some value to be gained by the obvious. Direct Marketers are often asked “what response rate we can expect”. The real question is, “what should we do to increase our response rate”? Not all mailings are created equal and with postal rates increasing, the focus needs to be on making mailings more effective.

It really sounds like a Dale Carnegie sales training course. “If I can increase your results while lowering your costs, you would want to know about that, right”? Today, digital printing and workflows exist to make mailings more effective, lower cost, and deliver better results. Can credit unions take advantage of them? Here are five things to consider when you mail:

1)     Targeting – Direct mail response rates are dramatically impacted by focusing the mailing on those most likely to respond. Even the simplest modeling and targeting techniques will provide positive lift in response rates. In the simplest terms mailing to your universe will hit your target audience, but most recipients are not capable of responding.

2)     Offer – Be clear, be concise and present your offer from your audience’s perspective. What is the rate and how much are you going to specifically save them. Avoid “up to” and “as much as” if possible as they water down the offer. Understand your primary benefit and hammer it home. Another Dale Carnegie euphemism is the customer will always view your offer in terms of “What’s in it for me”.

3)     Creative – Sorry, but effective direct mail is structured and based on well established best practices that you ignore at your own peril. Where creative really drives value is in support of your offer and building relevance with your members. Imagery, tone, and copy all should reflect the target audience’s tastes – not the marketer’s personal preference. Use P.S. to restate the offer and clarify the call to action. Also provide response mechanisms such as PURLS and QR codes.

4)     Cross Purpose – Direct marketing should not be done in a silo. When executing a campaign consider all channels available. If it is a general campaign, invest in point of purchase. Have a campaign page designed to generate interest and results. Specific targeted offers, should consider all touch points for that member; direct mail, email, messaging, call center. And don’t forget the web page.

5)     Measure – it’s not just about response rate and ROI. They may be the bottom line figures we are all ultimately interested in, but there is a lot to learn from your results. Which segment responded at the highest rate? How did each channel perform? What was the most preferred method of response? Do you measure close rate? Marketing generates leads, how many were closed and if they didn’t close, why?

Postage is rising, but the response should not be to abandon direct mail. The goal should be more effective direct mail like the postal service recommends. Don’t panic, direct mail still works. It still generates results, we just need to make sure we are getting the most out of the channel.


John Blom

John Blom

John has 24 years experience in marketing, 16 of which are in the credit union market. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has an MBA from Colorado Technical University. ... Web: Details