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The Direct Mail Doctor examines offers

Posted by Randy Mitchell on December 3, 2014

The Direct Mail Doctor’s virtual waiting room is filled. Patients from all over want to find a proven cure for their direct mail maladies.

But that’s no surprise; the good doctor is definitely on a roll. In his last article, he found the antidote for some sticky issues involving envelope messaging and formats.

Now there are fresh questions and intriguing challenges that will need a healthy dose of direct mail best practices. So let’s bring on the doctor.

Do offers still matter?

Dear Doctor,
My team is considering adding an offer to an upcoming mailing. But frankly, I’m a little skeptical. My biggest fear is that an offer might cut into our profit margin. I’m also concerned that people might not react to offers anymore. In the back of my mind, I can still hear my marketing professor from back in college insisting, “Offers are one of the most important direct mail best practices.” But is that true today? Is an offer really worth it?
– Doubtful in Dallas

Dear Doubtful,
I’m glad to hear that your marketing professor taught you the value of direct marketing best practices. Those lessons are certainly still worth following today, especially when you consider offers.

First and foremost, you should include an offer with your mailing when you can. Remember that the offer is one of the most important variables effecting response rates and gives people a reason to respond now.

What about your profit margin? Well, if the offer you’re currently considering is too expensive, try testing it against a less expensive option. See which one provides you with the best lift and profit margin.

Here’s another important consideration: There are many different types of offers. Your offer can include incentives, pricing or promotions. Pick the one that will have the highest perceived value in the mind of your target audience.

Another one of the top direct marketing techniques is to tie your offer into the call to action. The goal is to make it absolutely clear to prospects that they need to take an action to receive your offer. Building in an expiration date is another proven way to lift response. That’s why you see it in so many direct mail examples. It’s a great way to overcome the natural human tendency to procrastinate.

Finally, don’t settle for a “one-size fits all” offer. One of the advantages of direct mail is that your offer can be tailored to various list segments. Use that to your advantage and best of luck with your mailing.


Too many calls-to-action?

Dear DM Doc,
I’m a designer who is just starting my career in direct mail. At our agency, people treat the call to action like it’s ultra important. They put it all over the mailing. Seriously, does it really need to be in every piece? This approach just seems like overkill to me.
– Newbie in New England

Dear Newbie,
Consider these two facts.

Fact #1: Direct marketing is all about getting people to do something. The primary goal is not to shape perceptions or build awareness. Instead, direct marketing is clear, motivational and immediate. And the element that crystallizes it all is the call to action. That’s why it’s treated with such reverence.

Fact #2: People don’t read mailings piece by piece. They tend to pull a mailing apart and scan the various elements before reading it. So it’s critical to have multiple calls to action peppered throughout your package. That way, readers are absolutely clear about what they need to do no matter what component they’re reading.

Here’s something else you should know about calls to action. Direct mail best practices suggest at least three calls to action in the letter alone. You’ll see them incorporated several times in the body of the letter, in the right rail, and probably even in the P.S.

And every component of a mailing should have at least one call to action. That includes the letter, response card, brochure and buckslip.

Finally, here’s a way to impress the team at your agency. Start referring to the call to action as a “CTA.” You’ll sound like a direct marketing veteran in no time.

That wraps up the caseload for today. But never fear, the doctor will be back soon to answer more direct marketing questions.

Topics: Direct Marketing

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