Get Your Direct-Mail Marketing Pieces
Opened and Read

By Landy Chase

It's a ritual that gets repeated in decision-maker's offices everywhere, every day: the fish-or-cut-bait process of sorting the mail.

For most decision-makers, this task is performed by an administrative assistant; others prefer to do it themselves. In either case, the procedure is almost always the same: a brief walk to the wastebasket. A moment suspended it time, during which each piece of mail is held precariously over the “circular file”. A question is pondered: Can I throw this away without opening it? A decision is made. The letter is either jettisoned or retained.

I would gladly trade a winning lottery ticket, without hesitation, for the money that is wasted in this country on just one day's worth of unopened mail. Is your business one of those whose mailings gets thrown directly into the wastebasket?

When it comes to direct-mail marketing, getting your envelope opened is everything. Fail in this first step, and everything else associated with your marketing effort is a complete waste of time. That said, it astounds me how many thousands of marketing people in this country just don't seem to understand the importance of the envelope. They continue to blindly duplicate the same look to their direct-mail materials - a look that might as well have the word "JUNK" stamped across every piece in bright neon lights. The dynamic that makes your envelope so important today is that nobody of any importance has the time anymore to read junk-mail. Period. In between regular mail, priority mail, interoffice mail, email and voice mail, your buyers are totally overwhelmed. They don't have time anymore to leisurely open and look over your solicitation materials. Their first objective with your letter is to find a reason to throw it away.

How do you avoid having your mail thrown away without ever being opened? By using your brain - or more specifically, that part of your brain that controls creativity. By looking at the mail from your recipient's perspective. By asking yourself, what would a piece of mail need to look like in order for me to be compelled to open it? By pondering, what can I do to make my mail stand out from the crowd?

Below are some suggestions that will go a long way towards ensuring that your unopened marketing materials don't end up in the trash:

  • Validate the quality of your database. Sure, it takes time, but what's the point of sending information out to people that no longer exist on the other end? Someone needs to do the tedious task of calling and updating your database information at least once every six months. Don't have the staff or money to do it? Neither does anyone else! Here's what a creative marketer might do: Go to the local college and offer a sales-and-marketing internship to a rising senior who is marketing major. Talk about win-win: For paying the kid beer and pizza money, you get a person who actually - yes, it's really true - is enthusiastic and motivated by this initial foray into the exciting world of sales and marketing - i.e. making outbound calls to update your database. Sure, this go-getter attitude wears off after a few weeks, but why not make hay while the sun shines? Besides, do you know how hard it is for a college graduate with no sales experience to get a job in sales? Regardless of whether you hire them after graduation, the work experience they gained from you will open many doors.

  • Use blank envelopes (no return address). This is a no-brainer. If your recipient doesn't know who your letter is from, they cannot afford to not open it. The mystery of the unknown is the power. It gets the envelope opened almost every time.

  • The Crackerjack Theorem. You can guess where this idea got its start - another example of a unique, creative marketing idea that worked wonders for the sale of the product. If you include a "prize" in your envelope, most people will open the envelope to get the freebie - and, while they are at it, they'll take a look at your information as well. Get in touch with a top-tier sales professional in the promotional products industry, and ask them to recommend a useful item that is light (for postage), easy to fit in a standard envelope, and is large enough to have your company logo, phone number, and email (at a minimum) stamped on each item. Don't you dare try to "haggle" with the sales person over the price of the items they recommend - they deserve every penny, and then some, for their expertise in this area. If you want a lower price, buy in quantity.

  • Hand-write the name and address of the recipient. Yes, this is time-consuming and is impractical if you are mailing in large quantities. It is ideal, however, for a direct-mail campaign that targets a small, highly niched prospect base at the rate of less than 100 pieces per mailing. The pay-off? If you combine this tactic with the no-return-address envelope, you will get - guaranteed - 100% of your mail opened and read. I refer back to my earlier point about looking at your mail piece from the perspective of your recipient. What would you do with a letter that had your name and address hand-written on it, with no return address? I rest my case.

I've heard all the statistics about an "acceptable" return on direct-mail of 2 or 3%, and I don't buy a word of it. Those statistics are for losers. They are nothing but numbers benchmarking the historical performance of unimaginative marketers whose approach, and materials, look lock, stock and barrel like everything that you see every day. So while you throw away their marketing literature, throw away their rule book as well. Do your own thing, and blaze your own trails.

In other words, create your own statistics.

Read other articles and learn more about Landy Chase.

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