Direct mail on a large scale will inevitably appear impersonal, but smaller lists can be reached with campaigns that achieve response rates of as much as 50%, according to Michael Kaselnak of direct marketing firm Hoard.
According to Hoard, customers can potentially be faced with up to 3,000 marketing or advertising messages - some big, some small - every day. And it's this that makes a high response rate from any direct mail campaign such a hard thing to achieve. So what can a business do to break through the noise and have its message read by the target audience?
Well, it starts with a technology that's over 2,000 years old: hand-writing. When shouting louder, saturating the media, and sales gimmicks and special offers are all failing, not many people - whether at home or at work - can throw away a genuinely hand-written note.
High returns Kaselnak highlights three examples of clients that have used hand-written notes to produce a surprisingly high ROI on their marketing costs:
- A Midwestern USA restaurant owner sent out a series of hand-written notes to his customers and got a 20% response rate.
- A financial planner in the Northeast USA sent out only 80 hand-written notes to touch base with prospects, and had 6 people call him and 2 of them set appointments immediately as a result.
- A non-profit organisation was able to get 51 donations by simply sending a hand-written note to 'warm' list of 100 people.
The logic is simple: Handwritten notes are special. People can't throw them away without at least reading them. Kaselnak gave The Wise Marketer another example of the effectiveness of a simple note: "Recently I received a hand-written postcard from the hair studio I had abandoned 6 months earlier for one closer to my home. I knew it was probably just them asking me to come back as a client, but did I read it even though I knew it was a prospecting piece? Yes. Would I have read a prospecting form letter or an advertisement from the same studio? No."
Intelligent selection But Kaselnak is not suggesting a mass hand-written mailing to the entire customer or prospect database. The idea is to decide on the aim of your campaign, and then segment your database to identify the best prospects. If you feel like writing (or having your production team write) a few hundred notes, then filter the top 300 prospects for that campaign.
For example, a hand-written win-back campaign could help you recover customers that have already defected to competitors. Perhaps a short note explaining that things have been changed, and that a warm and personal welcome awaits them in their local store.
Tips for a warm letter Kaselnak offers the following guidelines for writing notes that gain high response rates:
- Each piece should begin with your client or prospect's name, not a generic greeting.
- Don't do rubber-stamp hand-writing or signatures. Even computer fonts are too obviously mass-produced. It has to be genuine writing.
- Give your client or prospect a reason to get in touch with you or to come and visit the store
- Put the note on a card that will get their attention (anything cute, unusual, beautiful, historic, featuring children, animals, and so on). Use a picture that catches their eye.
- Hand-write their address instead of using labels or over-printing. Labels and over-printing simply tells them - before they even see your hand-written masterpiece - that you sent the same card to hundreds of other people. You have to keep it personal, even if you are sending it to hundreds of people.
Kaselnak concluded: "You will be surprised at the huge response rate you can get. Do this, and it will be the last time you'll want to waste money on generic form letters and invitations."