How To Go Above & Beyond the Industry Standard of 1-2% Return on Direct Mail
By Al Lautenslager

Talking Directly To Your Prospect To Increase Their Response

One of the definitions that Webster gives to the word, respond is: "to act in return." Im sure, that in all of our marketing investments, getting a prospect to act, certainly would be satisfactory if not exceptional return. Imagine sending out a mailing and everyone responded. Impossible or impractical you say? Maybe so but just imagine and set that as a goal.

For Webster's definition to come true we must give that prospect a powerful reason to act or in the case of Webster, to "respond". Lets look at a few ways to get off of the industry average response rate of 1-2% and approach that imaginative goal mentioned above of certainly more than that industry average.

Create a sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency not only sets you apart from your competition but also will increase response rate. " Respond before midnight on Friday and receive a special gift…"," for a limited time only we will offer 2 for the price of one, but hurry there are only a few left", are a few examples of creating a sense of urgency.

Offer something for free

One market research company decided to test the use of an offer for a free report against an offer for free entry at a seminar. Both promotions worked exceptionally well. Interestingly, the free report offer attracted 50% more responses than the free seminar offer and even more than the offer not offering anything free.

Understanding what motivates your prospect to purchase will help you formulate your offer. Here are other motivations that increase return on direct mail promotions:

Save money
Increase profits and revenue
Work more efficiently
Increase your productivity
Manage your time better
Experience a true state of satisfaction

One offer that has proven to be highly effective, if you have outside sales activity, is to offer the customer a "free consultation". You're going to call on them anyway, but people like to be offered things for free.

Attach a value of your offer

Make sure you mention the real value of any bonuses that you're offering. That way people can get a better understanding of what your proposition is worth and therefore the true sense of value when doing business with you. Example: " receive 2 for 1 if you purchase this month, an $89 value with your purchase".

Call to action

Along with a sense of urgency, always, always put a call to action in your message. Prospects and customers act better and quicker if you tell them to. "Call today", "fax this form back", "email for your offer", are a few examples of a call to action.

Sometimes depending on your special offer you will attract large numbers of 'unqualified' prospects but this will help you build a database. Other times you will attract smaller numbers of higher quality prospects which increases your probability of turning a prospect into a paying customer, therefore increasing revenue.


Doing the all or parts of the above will increase your response to your direct mail campaign but there are more tips and techniques that will take the response even higher. Consider the content of your message:

A highly effective message will have the following characteristics:

  • Easy to read
  • Offering strong benefits/solutions
  • Organized information
  • Scannable, not long text
  • Graphics
  • Color
  • Simple
  • Attention getting headlines
  • Personalization
  • Call to action

Other content techniques that work are the following:

  • Identify with a problem that you have a solution for
  • Build tempo
  • Include a p.s., which has one of the highest readerships of all direct mail
  • Involve the reader with surveys, questions, contests
  • Include testimonials

Finally make your copy interesting. Chop it up. Fill it with fact. Write it as if you were the reader. Don't bore your prospect. Don't overload it with your offer. Make them want more.

You can see there is a lot that goes into increasing the response of your mail campaign. Treat the layout like you would a design job for a customer. Use borders, highlights, color, bullets, frames, graphics along with all of the above techniques and your return will climb over and above the industry average.

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