If You’re Speaking to the Right People, You Don’t Need to Shout

Woman Shouting with BullhornA client asked me last week what the average response rates are for a direct mail campaign. Hmmmm? That’s a bit like asking about the average rainfall in a British summer – estimates could vary considerably depending who you ask and what their expectations are. According to recent Direct Mail Association (DMA) figures, traditional hard copy mail outs can expect to garner an average response rate of 3-4%, while email campaigns have an impressive open rate of almost 20% with a click through rate hovering around the 6% mark.  But, as any marketer will tell you, statistics can be deceiving.  All these average figures depend on whether the activity is consumer or B2B focused (consumer mail outs tend to have a higher response rate), and will vary according to sector, messaging, creative and call to action. Perhaps most significantly of all, response rates will rise or fall in direct correlation to the quality of data used…..send the right message to the wrong people at the wrong time and even if it’s the most creative and powerful campaign ever devised it will not generate results!

The alarming thing is that many companies are happy to spend large sums of money on designing their direct mail but, when it comes to purchasing, validating or cleaning the list they’re sending it to, there’s a tendency to cut corners.

With direct mail, as with so many other things, failure to prepare is preparing to fail – so ensuring that your database is as good as it can be is a fundamental element of success.

It’s not a one-off job either. Cleaning your data is like cleaning your house – a good spring clean is great once a year but it’s a lot easier to do if you keep on top of the cleaning process all year round. If you want your direct mail campaigns to work harder and achieve a greater response rate you should:

  • Know who you want to target and make sure your database fits that demographic
  • Buy in data from a trusted source, validate it and combine it with your existing database of prospects and customers
  • Segment your data so that you are targeting campaigns accurately not simply doing a blanket mail out of everything to everyone
  • Track response rates and clean up your data as you go along
  • Add in new contacts as they arise
  • Set yourself a realistic response rate goal and keep adapting your database until you start achieving it

There will always be some sectors that achieve better direct mail response rates than others but aiming for above average is a good place to start. Target the right people with the right message at the right time and you’re already on your way there.