Some of you will laugh at the very thought of direct mail, but I can assure you, it’s a great source of connecting with prospects and existing customers allike. Particularly in our overly-junked-up-email world where people tend to pillage their inboxes and delete anything that doesn’t require a personal response. People respond completely differently to direct mail, that arrives on their doorstep, than they do many other forms of media. Direct mail can be as basic as a postcard or a letter on letterhead, or as complex as a full “shock and awe” box that has lots of stuff in it that gets your prospect really engaged like CDs, DVDs, MP3 players books and just about anything you can fit in the box.

I sent out about 18,000 direct mail pieces last month, and I learned a few lessons, just like I always do. Maybe I can save you a few dollars, and a few lessons by sharing some of the most important things I’ve learned over the years about direct mail.

Below is a list of 10 very important things you should look at when sending out direct mail.

10. Differentiate Your Marketing Piece – if it looks like everything else, it’ll get handled like everything else (put in the trash)

9. Your Mailing Should Have a Single Purpose – don’t ask your reader to do too much, they simply won’t. If you ask them to download a report, then go to a different website, then call your 800 number, then…. get the point? One thing. Really. One thing is all you should ask them to do.

8. Provide Several Ways for Prospects to Respond – Give them every conceivable way you can think of to reach you. Phone, email, fax, carrier pigeon– whatever it takes! The worst thing that can happen is that your mailing piece gets your prospect all hot and bothered, but at the time they want to respond, they can’t. For instance, what if they are reading your mailing piece but have to run out the door to a meeting. If you only give them a website, then they’ll have to wait until they return (which will probably never happen). If you give them a phone number to call, they’ll have the opportunity to call you while they’re running out the door on their way to their next meeting. Seriously think this through, mailing is expensive, particularly with stamps costing almost 50 cents each, you don’t want to blow any opportunity you get for someone to respond. (and YES many people have tested it and time and time again LIVE stamps outperforms metered mail or bulk mail. Buy crazy looking themed stamps, and put as many as you can to get to your postage amount. 2-4 stamps, crooked (seriously), makes it look like you really wanted this piece to get out to the person opening it.)

7. Measure the right metrics – ROI is all that matters. It doesn’t matter what percentage of people respond, or how much the mailing cost you to send out. The only thing that matters is if you made money in the end or got new leads to work (whatever your goal from the piece is).

6. Test, Test, Test, Test…. – you get the picture. Simple things like how many people are in a photo, whether they are male or female, old or young can change the response of a piece. There is no magic answer, just test.

5. One Mailing is NOT Marketing – one mailing is a test. On average it will take you 7-9 times to get a prospect’s attention. Don’t mail the first piece, get no response and then give up. Whatever the response on your first piece, it will usually increase exponentially on each additional piece.

4. Include a “Call to Action” – You’ve got to tell people what to do when they read. Don’t just tell them all about your products and services, you’ve got to give them written instruction on what to do next. For example: Call us today for a free consultation and a complimentary $50 gift card just for inquiring! Or something that tells them exactly what to do. If you don’t tell your prospects what to do, they won’t do anything and they’ll move onto the next piece of mail in the pile.

3. Keep a Recognizable Element to All Marketing Pieces – if you’re going to all the trouble to mail people multiple times, make it known that you’re the same person or company that’s been trying to reach them, and that you continue to try. If you send out 7 – 9 pieces that don’t have a common element, you will not have as good of a chance at being recognized. Think about it, wouldn’t it peak your interest if you saw the same logo, photo or slogan in your mail box 5 or 6 times in a short period of time?

2. Personalization – How many mailing pieces do you read that say “Dear Valued Prospect/Customer/Client.” Right, none. Don’t be lazy, don’t be cheap, personalize as much as you can. You can certainly personalize letters, and now even graphic postcards are becoming easy to personalize. If you need a source for this, let me know. Also, I’ve been testing Personalized URL’s or “purls” for short, that contain the prosect’s name in the web address, for example: and then I send it to John Doe. The good news here, is with any proper Purl system, whether John Doe contacts you once he reaches your site or not, because he entered in his unique url, you get a record of his visit. So, even if he’s shy and doesn’t respond, you know he was interested enough to visit the site and then you can take a few more shots at him with follow up letters. This is a great strategy to pare down a list. Suppose you have a starting list of 2000 people. If 3% of the people come to the Purl page, that would be 60 people. It’s a lot cheaper to pound away at 60 prospects that have indicated they are interested, than it is to keep mailing to 2000 people who you have no idea are interested or not.

1. Don’t rely on one marketing Method – Direct mail is a great COMPONENT, not the single solution. The same can be said for Websites, SEO and Pay Per Click, Email, Ezines, Display Ads etc. Use multiple media and track their responses separately. If you want the easy way to do this, assign different 800 numbers to each piece of media (1 for the website, 1 for the postcard, 1 for the phone book ad, 1 for each magazine or newspaper ad that you place, etc) then check out my good friend The ROI Guy at – tell him I sent you. Richard will take care of you!

Feel free to let me know your thoughts as well as if you have any tips I might have left out by commenting below.