Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 612-278-1568
Fax: 612-334-5879
Cell: 612-760-3700
1109 Zane Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN. 55422
Phone: 612-375-1150
Fax: 612-334-5879
Toll Free: 1-800-230-2828

Branding - 22 Laws Of
Brand Warfare
Creative Coatings Techniques
Desktop Techniques
Digital / Variable Printing
Direct Mail Raise Response, Lower Costs
FSC Certification
For Direct Marketers
In House Mailing Capabilities
Ink Tour
Paper Mill Tour - Coated
Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated
Picking the Right Paper
PDF Formats
PDF Info & Quark vs. InDesign
PODi - Digital Print Success Story
Postal Increases & Requirement Changes
Post it to the Web vs. Print
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
Save Disk Space
Social Media -- The Basics
Social Media vs. Print
Top File Issues
UV Burn
Ways to Save Money
What Sets Sexton Apart?
Why Print in a Down Market?
Why Work With TK?

July 2008 TK's Korner
Direct Mail - Raising Response, Lowering Costs

Many of you may be currently involved in a direct mail campaign or are considering one. In either case...

Here are the 12 Most Commonly Asked Questions:

  1. Is direct mail the right medium? (See case studies below)
  2. 9 Benefits of Direct Mail
  3. How much should I budget for direct mail?
  4. How can I ensure my mail stands out from the rest?
  5. What can I do to make the best impression?
  6. What are the critical elements that I should consider?
  7. How can I obtain the best response rate?
  8. How do I measure the effectiveness of the program?
  9. How important is my mail list selection or database?
  10. Should I personalize or customize?
  11. Paper selection, how critical is it?
  12. What postal regulations do I need to be aware of?
Postal Increase, Changes and Mailing Requirements

More To Consider:

In this issue of TK's Korner, I'll give you helpful suggestions, information along with sources, and case studies to further research questions you may have.

To Start, Let's Dive Into Direct Mail -

Direct Mail deals with building and maintaining one-to-one relationships between brands and customers, with the purpose of establishing an image for the brand and selling products to customers.

Why Direct Mail?

  1. Interactivity is a 2 way communication (push/pull strategy)
  2. Acquisition gives you the ability to attract new customers
  3. Retention -
    • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
    • ROC (Return on Customer)
    • LTV (Life Time Value)
  4. Loyalty Customer Satisfaction!
While the brand perception should be identical, the objectives per target group will be differentiated, and therefore also the investment level, media, messaging and offer.

Media is Complementary instead of replacing one another, i.e., offline direct mail drives web traffic.

Advertisers and consumers prefer a tangible object, something that can be held or touched. People prefer paper to something that exists only electronically.

How many of us read an entire document on the computer screen?

FOLLOW-UP IS KEY to direct marketing activities and therefore direct mail.

  • >> A mailing invites customer to react
  • >> Their reaction is then followed by another mailing
  • >> All of these steps are measured and can therefore guide future action
  • >> By tracking the results, you can easily calculate the cost per response (inquiry or sale).
  • >> This measurability is a major advantage for marketing compared to other communication tools.
Developments in Information Technology have provided direct mail professionals with a wealth of possibilities and have propelled the use of direct mail/direct marketing:
  • >> Increased computer processing power
  • >> Availability of customer addresses
  • >> Software to help identify and select the right customers
  • >> Ability to digitally print variable personalized data
  • >> Expanding number of mass media options.
The Power of Direct Mail to address every customer as one person vs the mass media "One size Fits all". Customers appreciate direct mail when it's relevant, respectful and rewarding to them.

Closing Rates by Selling to People you Know is easier -

  • New Customer = 5-20% closing rate
  • Repeat sale to lapsed customer = 20-40% closing rate
  • Repeat sale to existing client = 60-70% closing rate
Loyalty is closely related to customer satisfaction. Companies need to be better at anticipating consumer questions and complaints.

Response Rates of Direct Mail depend on -

  1. A) Address list used
  2. B) Timing
  3. C) Creative execution
  4. D) Incentive
  5. E) Type of product or service
  6. F) Familiarity with product or service
Who Responds to Direct Mail? (in descending order)
  1. Customers - 3 to 8 times more likely to respond or buy
  2. Responders - have not yet made a purchase
  3. Former Customers
  4. Referrals
  5. Other type of product or service purchased
  6. Similar product or service purchased from competitors


There are a variety of opinions on what makes up a successful direct mail program. Listed below are a few of them. You'll notice below that they basically have the same criteria with different percentages.

50-20-20-10 Probability of Success:

  • 40-40-20 Probability of Success:
  • 40%=Quality of List: Better data=Better results
  • 40%=Quality of Offer or Incentive: Is it a good offer sent to the right person?
  • 20%=Creative: Copy supports the imagery
REMEMBER 78% of DM is thrown away unopened. This is due to the average consumer receiving 27 pieces of mail per week. Once direct mail arrives, consumer needs to open and read. The envelope or exterior packaging must motivate them - size, text, pictures, offer or incentive, call to action, etc.

What people tend to do with direct mail -
40% open and read ;-)
20% open only;-o
40% do not open at all;-(

After consumer reads content, we want them to - act, get involved or stimulate them to...

  • >> Respond by deadline
  • >> Early-bird price advantages
  • >> Limited time offers
  • >> Other
It is predicted that .046% is the average response rate for a general broadcast black and white static piece.

How to Increase Response: (from that basis)
Personalization Drives Response - 2004 study
+1% response rate for broadcast black and white, no personal info
+1.5% response rate to black and white, with personalization
+1.5% response rate with 4cp, no personalization
+2% response rate with 4cp, with personalization
+6.5% response rate with 4cp and a deeper personalization, in form of purchase history

Versioning - different groups receive different versions based on criteria, content and language changes for specific audiences. Typically black copy file.

Hybrid - Offset printing plus variable copy.

Customization - Altering each document to meet requirements of a certain group.

Guidance based on a certain criteria. One to four color images change, plus copy.

NOTE It is not the quantity that is sent out, but the number of responses you get back that matters.

Variable Data Results:
48% Repeat orders
34% Faster response rates
25% Increase in average order volume

NOTE when BRC is "pre-completed" with recipients name and address, the return rate increases 13% !

Projection on how to lower cost per response by using VDP personalization

Projection on cost per sale and ROI using VDP personalization

The Database is the Most Important Lever:

  1. must be clean
  2. must be well defined
  3. limited target group=data mined and clearly detailed
  4. will outscore an ill defined, broad targeted group
  5. Drayton Bird's direct marketing expert estimates a good database might imply:
    • >> 6x's higher response rate with good database
    • >> 2x's higher response rate with good offer
    • >> 2x's higher response rate if the timing is right
    • >> 1.25x's higher response rate with good creative
    • >> 1.2x's higher response rate with response possibilities
NOTE 18% of Americans relocate annually, and 2% of your list moves monthly

Mail List Hygiene:

  • >> Merge/purge
  • >> Zip code sort
  • >> Address standardization
  • >> Delivery sequence file
  • >> Delivery points for bar coding, specific delivery points
Budget Allocation for Direct Mail:
Direct mail allocation is on the increase. Today, 25% of marketing communication budgets are spent on direct mail across Europe. One of the largest markets is UK, where direct mail expenditure has grown >165% the past 13 years. It is estimated that direct mail generates $26 billion worth of income for consumer advertisers every year in the UK.
Direct mail, today, has become an extension of brand experience via advertising and packaging. The image expressed through direct mail is consistent and coherent with other means of communication. It adds up to overall brand feeling.


  • You must be testing all the time
  • 3-5% of budget should be towards testing
  • Never send out a non-tested package
  • Always test outside of package, envelope, etc
  • Must be engaging, seductive, motivating
  • Hang offer on outside, lead to inside or other side
  • Would you like ____, then look inside for more, etc
  • Visual supports copy, copy is part of offer
  • How do I make you believe I'm sincere, honest, etc.
What to test:
  1. copy
  2. imagery
  3. size
  4. components
  5. the offer
  6. paper quality (has improved responses by 10-16%) and...
...the best place to start letter copy or envelope teaser.
Learn from what doesn't work, was it the offer, time, copy, vehicle, target.

'Losers can be winners'

Ask Questions:

  • >> Does it grab your Attention?
  • >> Does it generate Interest?
  • >> Does it stimulate the Desire? to open or look at?
  • >> Does it create a call to Action?
  • Engaging
  • Seductive
  • 1st obligation question - "Why should I...(do what)?"
    1. go to web site
    2. peel back label
    3. try to make people do something that they might not otherwise
    4. etc.
Call to Action:
  • >> What do I want you to do
  • >> Why should you do it
  • >> When>> Instruct customer How you want them to do it (directly vs subliminally)
Return on Investment Info:
  • TV=1 to 5 - for every $1 spent, you get back $5
  • Direct Mail=1 to 11 - for every $1 spent, you get back $11
    Print is still the best way to develop a brand

    Loyalty and Most Trusted Media overall

    Wow, that's a lot of info. Where to start?

    First, you must understand and know your Target Market in order to create and design an offer that gets noticed or acted upon. Who and what is your target market as it pertains to:
    1) Gender2) Age3) Income
    4) Location5) Hobbies6) Industry
    7) Buying objectives8) Likes and dislikes9) Life buying history
    10) Etc.
    The more specific your target, the better the use of your marketing dollars, and hopefully the bigger ROI will be. A mail list company can assist you in obtaining this data. If you need some sources, please give me a call at 612-278-1568. More Information:

    Competition - Answer the following in order to compete:

    1. Who are they
    2. What are they offering
    3. Who are they trying to reach
    4. How are they reaching their targets
    5. How often are they contacting them
    6. How will their offer compete with yours
    7. What ideas can you use and improve on
    Your Product / Offer -
    1. What are you selling or offering
    2. What is special about your product
    3. What makes your offer stand out from the rest ie. capabilities, benefits, design, etc.
    4. What will it do for your target market, write out in short, focused sentences on the benefits and comparisons.
    Once you've clearly defined your target audience, understand their demographics and psychographics, done research on your competition and clearly defined your offer, now you're ready to create something that stands out from the rest.

    Copy and Design -
    Develop a design profile that can serve as a guide. Match the sense of style to those of your target audience and specific image of your company.

    Keep in mind that you'll want to cover it in a less is more approach by telling them:

    • >> Who you are
    • >> What do you do
    • >> Who do you cater to
    • >> What can you do for them
    • >> Where you're located
    • >> Call to Action - State your offer in every element of your package, define what you want them to do and repeat your call to action several times.
    • >> Make it Easy for them to Respond -
      If you want to sell them something, make it easy to order. If you want them to go to a specific page on your web site, make it easy for them to click and go there. (Also include how they can reach you, with your current company contact info).
    Images -
    • Make them Big, Colorful, Eye Catching and Different in some manner.
    • The use of Techniques like spot coatings, foils, etc to highlight specific areas.
    • Black and White Images can be used along with 4color to show a positive/negative situation in B/W.
    • Since it is going through the mail, Coatings to protect the piece is highly recommended.
    Some other TK's Korner issues that may assist you with this section are:
    1. Duotones, Tri-Tones, CMYK Quad-tones
    2. Creative Coating Techniques
    3. Using Desktop Techniques to Your Advantage
    4. Picking the Right Paper
    5. Digital Printing/Variable Data or Business Development
    I hope this issue has been helpful in letting you know more about Direct Mail, what you can do to make the best impression, how you can ensure your mail stands out from the rest and what critical elements you should consider. If you would like more information for your next printed project, to see some of the really cool samples I have or regarding this article, please give me a call @ 612-278-1568.

    You may also find of interest:
    Case Studies
    Postal Increase, Changes and Mailing Requirements
    Tools Folding Options, Binding Options, and Envelope Options

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