Mailing Myths (written March, 1995)

What is the biggest myth regarding direct mailings? “An average mailing will bring about a two percent return” “A mailing should be in a certain percentage of return.”  Obviously the biggest myth regarding direct mailings has to do with what percentage of return you might get. The real truth is that when you mail a brochure or have someone else mail it for you, nobody knows what percent of response should you get? So there is no answer to this question – and that’s the answer: nobody knows!

No matter what anybody might tell you, the only true way to find out what response you will get from a mailing is to simply to mail it. Then you’ll know. And you could mail the same exact flyer to the same type of lists over and over and over again and again and again and you will always get varying response rates. Always! So “asking” someone or “guessing” certainly will not give you the answer you are looking for. There are way too many variables involved. For example:

#1) Is the mailing list you are mailing to, qualified buyers or qualified lookers?

#2) Is the mailing piece itself professional and being sent to the right type of people?

#3) What time of the week are the pieces being mailed – by bulk mail or first class mail?

#4) Was the mailing list compiled recently and are “nixies” eliminated?

#5) Does what you’re trying to sell match up to what these names have purchased?

#6) Are you asking for money or just a response for more information?

#7) Is it easy and safe for the potential customer to reply – does he have your street address and telephone number?

#8) What is your profit margin and break-even point?

#9) Do you have customer service set up to handle these calls for information?

As you can see, we have just touched the surface of a direct mail concern. With so many varying factors affecting your response, how can we evaluate and maximize our response? Well for starters most people expect far too much for the dollar spent. Thus is especially true when you deal with cooperative mailers. For example, how could anyone expect to get as much in return for a $20.00 investment that would cost them hundreds to do themselves? It simply is not logical. It won’t happen.

The fact is that the very best mailing campaign you can possibly be associated with is the one you do yourself. You are doing the mailing to a specialized list of interested prospective buyers. There is no substitute for this kind of quality and specialization. Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive and most time consuming direct mail program anyone can undertake. Usually costs are the primary factor for determining whether you use a cooperative mailer or whether you mail your circulars yourself. No matter what, the better the direct mail campaign for you, the higher the costs.

The success or failure of a circular can never be guaranteed. When a person does direct mail, he can only put the buyer and the seller (the actual circular) together. Another fact about advertising is that just because you have an ad or circular that has done well for you in some mailings, doesn’t mean it will do well in future mailings or in someone else’s mailings.

First of all, no matter who does your mailings, you should always “key” your circulars to “test” accurately and track the response rate. Secondly, you must allow enough time for the processing, printing, and mailing of your circulars. By using bulk mail, your response rate can be delayed (lag time) up to 10 weeks! Third, and probably the most important, if you are serious about direct mail marketing, think in terms of reaching millions. That is what selling by mail is all about!

Doing mailings in the “hundreds” just does not reach the volume needed to ensure the best results. That is another myth! It takes scores of thousands to really do the job right. Some people expect to do well with a 1,000 piece mailing. Most experts will agree that you need several thousands as a minimum mailing for a decent “test mailing”. To expect good, accurate results for a mere 1,000 or so, is simply not logical. No matter who mails for you, all you need to do is to allow enough copies to give you a true, accurate reading of the “pulling power” of your circular. Mail it to as many thousands of prospects as you can. Keep accurate records. Use different mailing lists for the same offer. Try mailing on different days of the week & by first class & bulk mail. But whatever you do, do not expect any offer to be an instant success – these are few and far between. Allow time for your circulars to be mailed.

And one final thought to keep in mind. Even though your own mailings may be the best you can do, you still may want to use professional direct mailers as a low cost method of reaching potential buyers. They can certainly help you build your business by putting you in contract with known buyers and eager opportunity seekers. Test a few mailers to determine which one serves your purposes the best. Just be prepared to allow your circular a fair chance. No business can be conducted without a certain investment. Selling by mail is no different. Expect fair and honest service, but “do not” expect the impossible! Remember – the more you mail, the more likely you are to receive orders!

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.