Before starting any new direct mail project, we go through a check list to be sure that we’ve done our homework. This helps establish that the chances for success with this project are high, as well as ensuring that we’re not overlooking a vital step in the process.
You’ll notice the check list reflects our ‘market driven’ philosophy. This means we always identify the market, or group of people we will be selling to, before we come up with the product to sell them.
This technique allows us to always choose markets where customers have money and have already demonstrated a repeated habit of buying products through the mail. By concentrating on proven markets, we’ve eliminated most of the obstacles to success in any direct mail project.
Once we’ve found a market where we know the people have money, all we have do to is find out what these people want to buy, and then give them an opportunity to buy it from us.
Many people who get into direct mail are ‘product driven.’ They come up with a product and then ask themselves, “Who can I sell this to?” If you have to ask yourself that question, you’re in trouble. It means rather than giving people what they want, you’re going to try to force them to buy what you’ve got (regardless of what they want!).
Convincing people to buy something they don’t want is an uphill battle. It’s a loser’s game. Don’t waste your time, unless you just enjoy frustrations and failure!
- Have we defined the target market? (Do we know who we want to sell something to?)
- Do the individuals in our target market have credit cards? (If not, they can’t buy from us!)
- Have the individuals in our target market demonstrated a habit of buying items through the mail? (We want people who already like buying through the mail!)
- Have the individuals in our target market made a recent mail order purchase of an item priced in the same range as our product? (Have they demonstrated they will pay our price for direct mail products?)
- Have we identified the ‘hot buttons,’ the things that motivate people in our target market to make direct mail purchases? (Knowing these sure would make selling them something a lot easier!)
- Do we know what the people in our target market want to buy right now? (Based on their past buying habits and current lifestyle.)
- Do we know the age, sex, and general philosophy of our target market? (Are they men, women, young, mature, liberal, conservative, working, retired, or what?)
- Do the individuals in our target market open their own mail? (Or do they have assistants who do it for them?)
- Can we buy a good mailing list (of recent mail order buyers) for our target market?
- is this a product the market wants to buy? (people buy what they want, not what they need!)
- Does this product stand out as being unique with limited availability? (We don’t want to compete with Wal-Mart or the big mail order catalog houses. We want to be the only source for this product!)
- Does this product say ‘high quality?’ (If not, find something else to sell! We want to be known for having quality products, nothing else!)
- Is this product available to us in quantity? (We don’t want to send out 100,000 letters and get 3,000 sales, only to find out we can get no more than 300 of the product!)
- is this product available to us at a cost that will allow us to make a reasonable profit?
- Is this product UPS shippable?
- Have we actually examined a sample of the product to be sure that it really meets our requirements?
- What is the real reason we are doing this project? (To make money? To learn new skills? To break into a new market? To satisfy our ego?)
- Have we set up a way to identify and track all expenses we incur during the research, development, testing and roll-out of this project?
- Have we run the figures on this project through our direct marketing risk vs. return spreadsheet module to see if this thing is worth our time?
- Do we know the break-even point in sales for this project? (And is it low enough that we can recover our investment even if the project is not successful?)
- Can we afford to develop and test this project without borrowing money? (Never borrow money on a speculative project... especially a direct mail venture!)
- Is this kind of project going to have a negative impact on our personal relationships, physical or mental health, or business reputation? (Sometimes it’s better to just say ‘no.’)
- Do we have time to pursue this project? (Or will it conflict with other commitments we can’t get out of?)
- Have we set a timetable to actually implement each phase of this project? (And does the timetable take into account the seasonal fluctuations in the buying habits of our target market?)
- Have we contacted all the resource people we will need to get this project under way to be sure there are no hidden land mines?
(Resource people include the list broker, the copywriter, the typesetter, the graphics artist, the print shop, the product source, and the order taking service, among others.)
- Is the offer written to appeal to the ‘hot buttons’ of our selected market?
- is the offer written to correspond with market demographics? (Males, females, young, mature, liberal or conservative, etc.?)
- Does the offer compel the recipient to read it, and is it easy to follow and understand?
- Does the offer make the reader want to buy?
- Is the price ‘right’ for this product to this market? (Most people underprice products!)
- Is there a money-back guarantee?
- Does the offer include free premiums to increase the perceived value of the offer?
- Is there anything about the offer that could in any way adversely affect the consumer’s confidence in the company making this offer? (Remove all the reasons not to buy!)
- Is the offer professionally typeset?
- Is the order line phone number easy to find in the offer, and is it correct?
- Is the return address on the envelope?
- Is there a ‘back-end‘ to the offer?
- Are we set up to accept phone orders for this product? (85% of mail orders will be placed over the phone!
- Can we process Visa, MasterCard, and American Express? (90% of orders will be paid for with credit cards!)
- Are our phone lines answered during the hours our customers are most likely to order? (Have we taken into account the various time zones across the country?)
- Does each person taking orders know enough about the product and offer to build customer confidence on the phone?
- Have we set up a procedure to fulfill and track each order we get for this product? (Do we have a good paper trail, and computer data base set up?)
- Do we have sufficient quantities of the right size box and any other packing materials needed to ship this product?
- Do we know the exact costs to ship this product? (And have we factored this in our break-even analysis?)
- Are we paying shipping or is the customer? (This should be clear to the customer!)
- Is this product likely to have many returns? (If so why, and why haven’t we fixed the problem?)
- Have we actually shipped a product to ourselves just as our customers would receive it, and are we satisfied with the way it looked when we received it?
- What size of test mailing are we planning? (1,000 piece is absolute minimum; 5,000 over multiple lists is better.
- Have we ordered the mailing list on tape so we can do an in-house check on the validity of the list before we mail? (Using the wrong list, or a bad list, will provide unreliable test results, and can wreck the project!)
- Are we mailing our test First Class or Bulk Rate? (If we are mailing Bulk have we taken the steps to insure that the test actually gets mailed?)
- Have we alerted our order entry people that the test is about to begin? (Are the order forms ready?)
- What day are we mailing our test? (it makes a difference; we usually mail on Monday or Tuesday.)
- If we are mailing to multiple lists, have we set up our order entry so we can find out which list is producing the order?
Analyzing Test Results
- Did we get any orders for the product?
- Did we get enough orders to reach the break-even point for the costs of the test?
- Did we discover any problems in order taking or product fulfillment processes?
- Did we discover any hidden costs we had not figured on in the test?
- Were there any questions that customers frequently asked about the offer? (If there were, we need to address these in the offer.)
- If we did not get enough orders from the test, are we going to try to figure out why this test did not work, fix it, and then test again?
- Are we being honest with ourselves about the test results? (Or do we want success so bad, we are blind to reality?)
- If the test was good, are we following up with a substantial mailing? (Many people don’t!)
- If we are following up with a substantial mailing, are we going to drop all the letters at the same time, or are we going to spread the mailing to accommodate our order taking and order fulfillment resources?
- Can we handle taking and fulfilling orders if the response rate on the roll-out is substantially greater than on the test?
- Are we continuing to track the income and expenses from this project?
- Are we setting aside money in our bank account to take care of possible returns?
- Have we set up a plan to roll out this offer on a long term basis?
- Are we developing a plan to work the back-end?
- Are we ready to go look for our next project?
Source: 301 Direct Mail Tips, Techniques & Secrets