5 New Secrets of Successful Direct Mail
March 23, 2011
By Thorin McGee
"It's not the most exciting medium, perhaps, but I still believe it's the best way to generate new customers," is what Alan Rosenspan, president of Alan Rosenspan & Associates, had to say about direct mail.
Rosenspan knows direct marketing. He's won over 100 awards for creativity and results; taught direct marketing for the DMA, Bentley College and Babson University; and he is a frequent contributor to the research arm of the Target Marketing group DirectMarketingIQ.
Hearing Rosenspan speak about direct mail best practices as part of the All Star Round Table that opened Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk 2011was a rare treat, and one you can still partake in on-demand for free. Few people are more in-touch with the best practices of direct marketing today than Rosenspan, and he shared five new direct mail secrets during the show.
1. Straight Forward Packages Always Work Better Than Creative Ones
"Now I'm a creative director, and I hate that," said Rosenspan, "but I absolutely acknowledge the truth of it is that clarity trumps clever. The more straight forward and clear you are, the more effective you're going to be in direct mail."
2. Presenting Information Visually—in Charts and Graphs—Is Absolutely Essential
"People are not long readers anymore," Rosenspan said, pointing to the current culture as having less time and less patience. "They will read something if it's interesting, but they like their information summarized. They like it illustrated graphically, and that can make a big difference in the response to a package." In this environment, simple, visual displays of information work really well.
3. Envelope and Format Have the Biggest Impact on Response
"This is brand new thinking," explained Rosenspan. "For years and years we thought the letter was the most important element of a direct mail package—which was why [we thought] postcards weren't as effective as self mailers. But we're finding now that envelope and format can actually make the biggest difference in response."
This is especially true of larger envelopes, he said: "One of the things that we're noticing these days is that the larger the envelope, the more effective it works. The challenge is always to pay for that extra cost of making it a bigger envelope, but it tends to be more effective."
Rosenspan also suggested that the outer casing has become so important to success, that it can extend the life of outdated controls: "Sometimes you don't need to create a whole new package. If you create a different envelope for it or a different look for it, you can actually extend the control and build on the control and make the control last longer, and even improve."
4. Highly Personalized, Relevant Approaches Work Best
This was particularly true of his client Lifeline Screenings, which offers patients low-cost medical screenings out of community centers, churches and similar non-medical spaces to keep costs down.
Follow-up packages that lifeline send to former customers draw are personalized to tell recipients that they're due for three tests drawn specifically from those patients' last visits, and Rosenspan credits that heavy personalization with increasing response "five-fold."
5. A Commitment to Testing is the Only Way to Make Sure You Succeed
"If you're not testing and you're not in a continuous improvement mode," said Rosenspan, "you're really stepping back. You're not really succeeding."