The Truth About Mailing Response Rates (written September, 1989)

Let’s get realistic just for one moment. Shall we? Why do you think that if I mail 10,000, 20,000 or even 100,000 brochures for you, you will be rich? Why do you think you should get even one (1) reply? Do you respond to every piece of mail you receive? Do you even look at every piece of mail you receive? So if you do, that means if I give you a quiz 10 minutes after you looked at your mail, you would remember every piece?

Let’s look at facts, beginning with me (and any other print and mail operation that is honest – I will tell you some secrets later on to help you determine whether an operation is honest or not).

Workings of a Good Print and Mailer 

How do I make money? Good question to start with. Let me give you an example based on a 10,000 piece mailing. I charge $187 to print and mail 10,000 one sided 8½ x11 circulars. Or $374 for a two-sided circular.  It costs me $1,830 for postage (bulk mail costs 18.3 cents per piece to mail because I do my own bar-coding – the bar-coding saves me an additional 4.3 cents per piece. Most bulk mailers in our business get charged 22.6 cents per piece because they do not have bar-coding capabilities). 10,000 sheets of paper cost about $60 (that’s $6 for every 1,000 sheets). To get 10,000 envelopes imprinted and delivered to my door costs me $140.50. But to get this price I have to buy large volumes. I must purchase 50,000 envelopes at one time. 50,000 envelopes costs me $702.50 from a large outfit in Pennsylvania. I in- house my own computer database of over 1.3 Million MLM/MO responsive names. I mail to these names regularly so I keep my lists fresh and updated by constantly adding and deleting addresses. Since I make a full time income mailing to these money making opportunity responsive names, I know for a fact they are great names! Though there is a cost to maintain these names, I won’t include it in my cost analysis because it is very difficult to figure out (computers, hard drives, effort and time of imputing and deleting names, etc…). The labor to collate and prepare the 10,000 piece mailing is approximately $600 (I utilize homeworkers who live near me – they do a great job and they are not that expensive! They are eager and looking for work to do! Try them in your area!).  These are the total fixed expenses that I have. For every 10,000 pieces, my fixed costs total $2,570.50 ($1830 for postage, $140.50 for envelopes, and $600 for labor).

But wait there are more costs that are always variable due to the differences in each person’s order. If I get 10 jobs I must buy 10,000 sheets of paper which will cost me $600 (remember I told you it costs $60 for 10,000 sheets). Add that to my fixed expense of $2,570.50 and you get my total cost to mail 10,000 pieces with 10 circulars. My total cost is $3,170.50.

Now did I make a profit? Yes I have just made a little bit of a profit. 10 circulars at my current print & mail price of $374 would net me $3,740. $3,740 minus $3,170.50 equals my $570.00 profit for 10 circulars for 10,000 pieces. I mail out over 50,000 pieces per month now!! I usually make about $2,850 per month – just from the print & mail advertising.

Keep in mind that this is an example for mailings of 10,000 pieces each. If I get orders for mailing just 2,500 copies of a circular, I make more money. (2,500 two-sided circulars costs $101 per 2,500). So if I get 10 orders for 2,500 pieces each, I will make $1010 (10 times $101), instead of $374. I prefer smaller orders in volume because I make an extra $636 for every 10,000 pieces. Remember this is only an example of how I make money with print & mail cooperative advertising.

Will I be rich? “I don’t think so”, as my 8 year son use to say all of the time. In fact if I did not offer other types of services, such as quality mailing lists, excellent money making dealerships, the best lead generation services in the industry and cost effective creative advertising services, do you think that I would still be in business? Probably not. But by my offering a number of different related services and working as hard as I humanly can, I can make enough profit from each one to make a fairly good living. Plus my offers ride along free in each mailing since others are paying for it to be done.

Factors Affecting Mailings

OK so I showed you how I make money. Let’s see why you won’t make any with anyone else’s mailings, including your own, unless you properly utilize them. The first fact regarding my mailings is that it is obviously being this done by me. The potential customer can see this because my name is on the outside of the envelope. Consequently the first few offers he will see is mine for print and mail advertising and my other stuff. The other offers therefore become extra pieces they may or may not see. The prospect who receives this mailing has made up his mind when he sees my offers whether he will inquire within the rest of the mailing any further or not.

This is completely unlike your own first class mailing, whereby your name is on the outside of the envelope and you have some sort of personalized letter, which usually helps increase your response tremendously.  When I do mailings for you, how can you include a personalized letter? In my mailings, your offer is among at least 15 others. How can it be personal? One problem the potential client has: Who are you? Where did he get your offer from? Why was it sent to him? Why should I even consider this offer? You probably didn’t include your address or phone number, so he has no clue who this is from and why he has gotten it?

The second factor affecting mailing response rates is the amount of offers in my mailings. If the potential client starts to seep through my mailing piece, he discovers that he is being bombarded with 20+ money making offers. This is true with every cooperative mailing, newspaper and magazine service! Even though they are all different money making offers, the fact remains that they are actually the same – a money making offer. Which one will he reply to? Probably the one that catches their eye and the one that offers free information! If you got 20 offers in one mailing package or even if you got 20 offers in separate packages, which one would you reply to? That is the million dollar question.

Another factor which is overlooked constantly is: Can you really tell the whole story of a MLM company or any company, for that matter, in one, two, or three 81/2 x 11 circulars? I don’t know what the answer is to that question, but here’s something to consider: How many times have you replied to a 1-page money making offer without first calling or writing somebody for more information? Maybe once? Maybe twice tops? Why then are you asking someone to do the same thing that you wouldn’t answer to? If your potential customer doesn’t have your phone number and/or your address and we know he can’t get all the information possible from your circular, what are the chances that your circular will be looked at seriously, considering there are 20 other offers in my mailings?  Probably file 16. Additionally don’t forget that people like to deal with people – especially honest helpful people! Why not give your potential client the chance to contact you via the telephone and/or mail to further satisfy their questions? Your flyer is not you! Don’t ever think it is! Your flyer is the hook to get people in touch with you! People want to deal with another person just like themselves.  Give the potential prospect a chance to contact you for further information and your response rates will increase! Don’t give them a chance to contact you and your business will never succeed!

Another factor which is always overlooked and it is just plain common sense is the fact that we all get so many offers every day that it is impossible for us to answer them all. For example: How many offers to join into the “next great opportunity” do you get every day? I get about 20 a day! There are 6 mail days per week.  So I estimate that I get at the very minimum 6250 “fabulous” opportunities every year. Last year I did not answer one of them. Not one! How many did you answer? Would you say less than 10? 10 at the most?  Well if you answered ten that means you answered .0016% of all the “fabulous” opportunities out there.  .0016%!! Are you any different than the type of individual you are trying to get to purchase into your promotion? If you don’t even answer 2/10% of the “fabulous” offers you get, why would you expect any better response from a mailing to the same type of people as you? Common sense and promotion does work hand in hand. What would attract you to join into something and then target your potential customers and recruits the same way. Simple! Boy I really do wish things were that simple!

There, of course, are many other factors; such as: the time of the year your offer is mailed (do you think your potential customer reads more in the winter or the summer? When are you available more?); how much money are you asking for? (would you send $5 or more to someone who sends you an uninformative circular?); do you think the fact that bulk mailing 20 offers has proven to get a smaller amount of response than mailing 1 offer first class mail has anything to do with the response rate you might get?; also since every offer is unique and so is every mailing list, don’t you think this could affect responses?

I’m sure there are many more factors, but I’ll leave it at this for now. I just wanted to show you that it is important to understand that there are many factors involved with mailings and getting responses.

Making Use of Print and Mail

OK – now that I’ve completely turned you off, let me show you how I believe you should utilize my services so you will make money! The first thing you must understand is that you can’t make money from my mailings (or anyone else’s for that matter). What! Why use my service then? Good question! You should utilize my services and other cooperative mailings, such as magazines and newsprint publications as you would the classified section of a “major league” publication. We all learned a long time ago that in order to succeed with classified advertising, we have to try and generate the lead and then follow it up with good promotion material. However this article isn’t about the follow up material you should send. I’ll save that for another time. This is strictly about making use of print and mail. My services and all the others out there like mine, are supposed to be utilized to generate a lead – a qualified lead! When you generate qualified leads and follow them up with good promotional material, you are truly building a business. Pick up any advertising book and it will advise you to generate leads from classified advertising. Well classified advertising has many ads together – right? Doesn’t my mailings have many ads together? Don’t newspapers and magazines have many ads together? Do yourself one favor right now. Stop reading this article and go to your local library.  Look at the “major league” publications, like Money Making Opportunities, Income Opportunities, Spare Time Magazine, etc. Just look at the last 12 issues of any one of them. Chart which ads are in every issue of every publication. This research will be your most valuable learning experience ever. It is worth it for you to do it!  Don’t just take my word for it. Seeing is believing! Anyway after you chart which ads are in every issue of every publication, take a look at the ad itself. Not one of them ever ask for money up front! Let me repeat – not one of them ever ask for money up front. Every ad asks them to fill out a coupon and send it in for further information – completely free of charge! What does this tell us? Well maybe the “big boys” know what they are doing? Maybe they tested and researched the fact that not enough people will send in their money first!  Maybe it is better to generate the lead and then follow it up? What do you think? I know what I think. Look at all my ads in all the “major league” publications. Look at all my postcard mailings to “non-customer” lists I mail to. Every one of my ads invites a prospect to contact me for free information regarding my opportunities and my services. I have been in business now for many years. I’ve survived through the good times and the bad times. If you don’t learn anything from this article, then just take me up on going to your local library and proving it to yourself. Let’s look at some factors you need to do when you develop inquiry generating ads and flyers.

One fact is you need volume – you need to let your “circulars circulate”.  You have to give them a chance to get out into as many people’s hands as possible. So how’s about giving the interested prospect free information?  I do mean free – no obligation information!  All too many times I see people asking for a dollar.  Though a dollar is not that much money, your responses are going to be decreased tremendously. Give them free information for a large self-addressed stamped envelope.  A LSASE will “qualify” your lead and your postage back to them won’t cost you anything.  So instead of requesting your potential prospects to send you $15 or be committed for the rest of their natural life to the MLM program you are working, how about creating a fresh circular telling your prospect about what you have to offer, why they should use your services and ask them to fill out a coupon, which you should put on the bottom of your circular. Ask them to send their name, address and phone number.

You want to create a circular that is not misleading, and not too wordy, but has enough information to distract “the wackos” from replying. A wacko to me is someone who answers everything that is free and does nothing but complain!  And yes by giving away free information, you still will get “wackos” replying to your ads from time to time, but that is part of “the game”. You will have to deal with “the suspects” if you want to get “the prospects”.

Oh so what is your complaint now!? It’s tough to create a brochure? It costs money to typeset a brand new brochure?  Let me ask you something.  Why are you in business?  No one has ever given you anything for free or made something easy for you to do. So what makes you believe that you can join into some program or type your name over someone else’s on brochures that have been in existence since the beginning of creation and make enough money to live on for the rest of your life? You got to be fresh – be creative – be original – be unique!!  Have you ever noticed that the guy’s “who make money in business” are the ones who create the circulars other people use? And yes – make sure you use an 8½ x 11 circular to generate inquiries.  Don’t think you can skip some key points and still utilize my system. You can’t! Shape up now or ship out!

A simple way to “sharpen up” your existing circular is to add this sentence at the bottom of your flyer: “Still Unsure? Then send me a large self-addressed stamped envelope and your phone number and I’ll send you more information on how to make your life more rewarding by joining into my promotion.” By adding this sentence at least you are not going to eliminate the potential clients that are “turned off” by the fact you are asking for money up front.  Next you better get to work on your follow up material. Make sure it compels them to purchase, but that is another book and another advertising lesson. This lesson is to generate leads!

You have me mail out 10,000 “inquiry generating” brochures. What should you expect? Well as long as your circular has been professionally typeset, relatively worded well and truly has an offer people will want to be involved with, you may figure a minimum of 1/2 %. If you use my mailings and get less than that, don’t use my mailings any more for that offer or for any similar ones. Obviously if your offer doesn’t do well, my mailing list or mailing format doesn’t lend itself to what you are offering. You may also want to consider using the same promotion but promote it differently. Many times, “the way” you promote has as much to do with the success of your offer as the offer itself. I know for a fact the list I am using is the best I can find. I’m mailing my own offers in my mailings and I am making a full time income, so that’s proof in the pudding that I believe in the lists I use and they are working. What I am saying is that if your offer does not do well, the mailing list for that particular offer may not be good and if you get 1/2% or more, continue to use my service every month and get as much volume as you can.  Keep in mind that each offer is different and just because you did well with one offer, doesn’t mean you will do well with another. This is how to utilize my mailing service and how you make money. This is how to utilize all advertising services! Test, test, test!! Don’t you see how simple it is?

What’s your complaint now? I mailed 10,000 “inquiry generating” brochures for you and you got a 1% response? That’s great! Oh it isn’t because you didn’t receive any money.  What do I have to do?  Teach you about the birds and the bees? The success or failure you put into any program you are involved with is 99% dependent on the work you put into it! There is no magic. Work and there is a good chance that you will succeed. Don’t work and you won’t succeed. Thinking that a 10,000 piece mailing will make you rich is a “pipe dream”. But you can make a lot of money if you know how to and if you know what you are doing.  You now have 100 hot leads!  Follow them up with a mailing and a phone call. These people have requested information from you and asked you to call them up. If you can’t close on 25% of these people, give up and go into another field! The key is that you must follow up on these leads more than once. Call them, hound them and mail to them every two weeks for at least three months!  Plus make sure you send them a personal letter. Do not send them some crappie looking form letter that you duplicated from someone you don’t even know or ever spoke to. Use your head!  Be fresh and creative.

More Factors Affecting Mailings

Now some other factors to consider for getting responses are: #1) your offer – is it good? Do you really feel it is worth the money? Now that you know exactly what your customer is getting, would you purchase it?  #2) the time of the year – holidays are slower times than the rest of the year. Face up to this fact. You still should promote during these slower times, but responses usually are lower. #3) did you make it easy and safe for your potential customer to respond to you?  Does he have your phone number?  Address?  Come on!  Would you join into an MLM program or send $500 for a service if you couldn’t speak directly to someone regarding your order and your questions? #4) how much money are you asking for? Would you send any money to someone you don’t know or can’t contact? #5) how are your mailings being made? Are they being mailed with other offers via bulk-mail?  Common sense tells me that if you hand address envelopes directly to people who know you and send them a letter via first class mail, your response rate is going to be better. #6) is your offer on the front or back fold?  This is overlooked most of the time, but if your offer is being folded and there is another offer on the back side, which way is your offer? The front will generally out pull the back! #7) is your circular being mailed in a tabloid format or singly? Tabloids usually are kept a little longer than single sheets of paper. This can generate a few additional sales later on. Keep these concerns in mind when you have a mailing done.

Please also remember! You will never know what average response you should be getting for your offer until you mail out thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of pieces. Every offer is unique and so is every mailing. Mailing your offers out to as many people as possible is the best way to see what your average should actually be. This is called testing. You may find some offers are better than others. Stick with the good ones, but by golly, keep testing! When you advertise, there are no guarantees of responses. Advertising is not a science. It is a calculated risk. But by testing you are reducing your risks. When testing your offers, always use a minimum of 5,000 circulation. Anything less is not giving your offer a fair chance to circulate.  You should follow these “three rules of advertising”: First, you test your offer.  Second, you re-test it again.  Third, you then re-test it further.

How much is your business worth to you? My business is worth everything to me!  That is why I am constantly testing and refining my flyers, brochures, catalogs and articles. It is a non-stop function of my business. It also should be your non-stop function.

Since there are many variables involved with obtaining response, you may conclude that most (more than 95%) of all advertising fails! Why? I believe it is because of research and homework. Too many people believe hype!  They don’t do the testing they need to see if the offer they are mailing is worth it. They just believe what the guy selling them the information tells them. When their offer pulls like garbage, who do they blame? The guy who did the mailing? Why don’t they blame themselves for not doing the research and homework necessary for their success? Here is a ridiculous concept for you to analyze. If someone tells me they should pull a 2% response from every mailing they do, including mine, I first ask them “have you tested this?”  If their answer is “that’s what I read is the normal average response rate”, I tell them this: If you should get a 2% response from all the mailings done for you, that means they would get 20 responses out of each 1,000 pieces mailed. Now I tell them if there are 20 offers in my mailings, then shouldn’t they divide the 20 responses by the 20 offers, which would equal one offer per 1.000 then? I wait and listen while they think of a reply. This obviously is knucklehead logic. My point is that the reason advertising fails is because they don’t use advertising logic. The previous example is logical. Is it realistic? No it isn’t because too many variables play upon your offer when it is mailed. My suggestion is that you read up as much on advertising as possible.  Read books and take courses. Work with advertising professionals like myself. Learn about your business.  What better investment can you make other than yourself? Keep in mind that advertising is taught in all major Universities at all levels – you can get a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree, and a Doctorate Degree. Why then does anyone feel that they can join into some program, invest very little money and become financially well off? This is the same reason advertising fails. People do not do enough background (homework and research) effort and work to make it succeed!  Follow my three (3) rules of advertising and give yourself a little time and effort and this will be a large step in the right direction on the path to success.

Advertising is not easy! Advertising can be frustrating!  Be patient, work hard, test your offers and continue to learn about your business!

I also promised you a guaranteed way to make sure your offers are being mailed out – right? Well it’s your right to contact the post office of mailing and find out if the person who has done the mailing for you mails what he says he mails. Write the post office and ask them. It’s that simple. Some post offices will ask you for a small handling fee, but either way, it is your right to get any bulk mailers postal statements for the last three months for free. Go for it. If everyone would verify bulk mailers mailings, we could eliminate all the crooks in this business and inevitably, no response to your offers. How can you find out where a mailer mails from?  Easy! Call them up and ask them. If they don’t give you the information you want, don’t use their service.  See how simple that is. I guarantee all legitimate mailers will gladly give you the information you ask for.  It is the crooks who won’t.  Or you can ask the mailer to send you copies of their postal receipts that they get from the post office certifying they did the mailings.

Here is another quick tip from your Uncle Larry: When you write to a post office for information, use this format: Dear Mr. Postmaster: I am contacting you because I would like to verify how many pieces that _________ mails from Permit #______.  I am interested in becoming one of his customers and I understand that I am entitled, under the Freedom of Information Act to get their last 3 months’ worth of postal statements free of charge. If I am in error, please tell me what the fee will be. I ask that you expedite this for me. Thank you very much. Always be courtesy when writing people for information. You catch more bees with honey.

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