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How to Know if Direct Mail Will Work for Your Business

Here's a great lesson that applies to direct mail. Ready? Some people say one thing and do the opposite.

In other words ...

One shouldn't pay attention to what people say they'll do as much as what they actually DO.

For example, it seems most readers of the National Enquirer don't want to admit they read it. Just ask people, "You read that tabloid stuff?"

"No way! Not me."

Maybe they're afraid of looking silly to others? Maybe their embarrassed to admit buying a paper with headlines like, "Brad Runs To Jen As Angelina Lays Down The Law."

Perhaps they fear people will think they're too shallow? Un-sophisticated?

Doesn't matter.

What matters to the National Enquirer, of course, is that millions of readers each week buy it. Whether folks admit to reading tabloids or not there are a whole lot of those papers being sold. So the old rule applies? Don't pay attention to what people SAY they do as much as what they DO.

What's this got to do with direct mail?


If anyone should LOVE direct mail it would be a magazine editor. Direct mail is used to sell millions of magazine subscriptions each year.

But check out what William Baldwin - - editor of Forbes magazine - - wrote in the July 4th 2005 issue:

"The junk mail industry, says Chana Schoenberger in the story beginning on page 90, is giving a new lease on life to Xerox. This firm sells a $500,000 color printer ideal for customized advertising circulars.

Junk is a lucrative sector of the ad business, with a $51 billion annual volume that dwarfs the outlays for magazine advertising. Lucrative, and wasteful. I don't know if the catalogs I get from Land's End cost more to make than the shirts, but surely they weigh more.

Between printing and mailing it costs at least half a buck to send a first-class pitch to someone. If 90% of the recipients chuck the envelope unopened into a wastebasket, then the pitchman is spending $5 just to get one advertisement read. Isn't there a better way of getting people's attention? ?"

Now? please ignore the fact Mr. Baldwin writes this even as he gets a Land's End catalog in the mail.

This means, of course, that either he, or his wife probably bought something from it. Which is why he continues getting a Land's End catalog in the mail regularly.

Also ignore the fact that direct mail sales letters have been used to launch prominent magazine-publishing empires over the years.

Mr. Baldwin says direct mail is lucrative (for the "junk mail industry") yet wasteful (for those using it) at the same time. Am I missing something here? Doesn't he know much advertising is "wasteful", and direct mail sellers only mail things out over and over again because it's profitable?

How many advertising dollars are spent (and wasted) targeting people who won't buy because they're not the right audience for the sales pitch? How much ad money is wasted paying for commercials on T.V. nobody watches?

Direct Mail is Targeted Marketing

There's no better? or more cost efficient way? of reaching those most interested (and most likely to buy) your product or service than direct mail. And after you reach the person most likely to buy you're able to hit all their emotional hot buttons. Give them all the reasons they should buy from you. Tell them your story. Person-to-person.

Is there any waste? Sure there is.

People live busy lives. Even if your sales pitch reaches the right person it may not reach them at the right moment in time.

They might not have time to read it today. Or this week. They might not be ready to buy again. Your pitch might end up in the trash before it even gets read.

Overall ... doesn't matter. Know why?

Because if you've mailed correctly a certain percentage of prospects are going to read your pitch. They're going to respond they way you want them to.

They're going to buy ... or call for more information ... or send for the free sample. You're going to be offering people something they want. Maybe even something that makes their life easier. Or helps them out in some way. Or lets them be more productive. Or enhances their quality of life somehow.

So how do you know if direct mail is good for you?

Well ? despite everything you may have read about response rates ? the test is simple.

First thing though ... forget about the fact everyone says they don't like getting "junk" mail. The majority of people who get lots of "junk" mail (and say they don't like it) get on mailing lists after buying something through the mail.

Now ?

Determine beforehand if a mailing can make money on paper ... then do a live test mailing. If, for example, you get a 16% response rate but your overall mailing costs exceed your net profits then your mailing is a failure.

Bottom line ? if your net profits from a direct mail campaign are a lot higher than your costs to do the mailing then you've got a winner.

Some direct mail companies run successful advertising campaigns with less than a 1% response rate. They mail millions of ad pieces. But their mailing costs are low relative to their huge profits - - even with low response rates.

Response rates aren't nearly as important as actual profit margins.

Small businesses usually can't keep mailing costs extremely low. If you don't mail tens-of-thousands of pieces you won't be able to get letters and envelopes printed in bulk for pennies-a-piece. Don't let that bother you.

If the numbers work ? and your product or service is priced right ? then maybe only a few orders out of every 100 sales letters will make money.

So what are you waiting for?

Sit down. Work the numbers. Do a test mailing.

I bet if you think about it hard enough you'll be able to figure out a way to make direct mail work for you. If you need some help contact me. And don't worry about what people say. Pay attention to what they do.

Joe Farinaccio is a direct-response copywriter. Joe specializes in writing sales letters and direct mail packages for small businesses. To learn how you can do direct marketing for your business, or get help with your sales letters and direct mail packages visit his website at

Todays News by officejax free advertising and ad exchange solutionsMORE RESOURCES updated Sat. March / 24 / 2018

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