Things You Should Know Before Mailing! (written December, 2009)

#1. Know your target market. Who are you selling to? Are they going to be interested in your product? What benefits does your offer provide? A targeted list will probably do better then a non-targeted list. All things being equal, it makes sense that people who have purchased items like yours before will be your best marketing bet.

#2. Know your list broker. There are list brokers and then there are List Brokers. At the least, your broker should be a professional listed in Standard Rates and Data. Your list broker should be willing to take the time to match your offer to a specific list he believes will do the best for you. Anyone can call themselves a list broker and rent you names from the phone book. A professional broker cares about your business. They know that if you do well, you will keep coming back.

#3. Know Your Break Even Point on Your Mail Piece. How many sales must you make to cover your costs of mailing? Figure the cost of the list, the stock used for the mail piece and the postage. You should also figure in your cost of labor, though many marketers discount this cost when first starting out. Quite often, a more expensive product sold to fewer customers will work out much better for you than an inexpensive product that must be sold to many customers in order to reach that same break even point. There are exacting formulas available to figure this out.

#4. While in the early stages of a mail order campaign, you can often make a profit from your initial mailings to lists of prospects who are not already your customers. Ultimately though, even a well-run mail order company can lose money on “the front end”. What you are looking for is a maximum number of customers. Once you have these customers, you supply “back end offers” to them. You may also eventually rent or sell your mail list.

#5. You will always get a higher response to a mailing from those who have responded before. Always re-mail new offers or add-ons to your responders. Once you have a customer or potential customer, hold on to them. Provide them with the product and service necessary to keep them doing business with you instead of someone else. Keep those “back end offers” flowing.

#6. Most of what you have heard as being mail order gospel is wrong. How to do it and what your return will be? No one knows! And that’s a fact! No one can tell you what you will do on any mailing. All they may be able to tell you is what they have done and they may be stretching the truth. Test! Test! Test! You have to test it yourself by doing the mailings and trying the lists and keeping track of what works and what doesn’t. Once you find a list that works, make sure any additional names you rent from the same list are really from the same list and just as fresh, then run with it. You need a broker you can trust to help you.

#7. Believe it or not, what you are doing, what this is, is a real business. Treat it like a business. So many mail order marketers treat what they are doing as if it were a hobby or that “if you mail it, they will come”. These folks are in for a big surprise and for big disappointment. Doing mail order right requires just as much effort as doing any other kind of business. Research it. The library, Internet and local bookstores are your best friends.

#8. Carefully consider if you really want to send bulk mail as opposed to first class. While bulk mail is less expensive, there are two things to consider: First, if you send bulk mail, your letters will not be forwarded. Bad addresses are thrown in the trash. So you will not have a 100% delivery ratio. Second, bulk mail takes a lot longer to be delivered – up to 3 weeks longer than first class mail. If you have a time sensitive promotion, it may be difficult to time it right with bulk mail then. You will need to test.

#9. Your mail piece should be a letter or look like a letter. The chances of someone actually looking at your mail piece are better if it looks like a personal letter. Of course that letter has to be good copy in order to get the order or response. Post cards can work for generating leads or inquiries, but they don’t have the space needed for the length of copy usually used to sell a product. If you print “please forward” on the envelope, the mail piece will be forwarded if there is a forwarding address. Otherwise it will be returned to you if not deliverable to the envelope address.

#10. If you are doing an opportunity mailing, use buyer’s lists from a reliable company that will work with you to improve your chances for success. A “seeker’s list” will not do it for you. These people are usually tire kickers and will waste your time, money and effort.

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