12 Fast Fixes to Boost Mail Response

In an ideal world, you always would have an adequate budget and plenty of time for all your direct mail tests. But here in the real world, things don't always work out that way. To survive in direct mail, you need a few tricks up your sleeve for improving results when time is short and the budget is lean.

Here are 12 quick and easy testing ideas:

· Change your outer envelope. A new color or a different size may be all it takes to get people to take a second look at a package they have seen too many times. You also can try switching from a teaser envelope to a plain one or vice versa. And faux express envelopes often are worth a test.

· Test a new letter. It can be an all-new letter from scratch. Or a longer version of your current letter with more detail. Or a shorter version with less detail. Or a modified version with a new spin on the headlines and opening paragraphs.

· Remove your brochure. Believe it or not, response often picks up without that elaborate brochure. It may be that removing the brochure simply gets people to read the letter more thoroughly. This does not always work, but as tests go, you cannot get any simpler.

· Include a stand-alone reply form. You should be doing this anyway, but if not, try it. It does not matter whether another piece already has a reply form. This is just a test. And if it works, you can make further modifications later.

· Insert a lift note. This is an easy way to overcome a major objection or highlight a key benefit. Just remember to keep it short and have it signed by someone other than the person who signs the main letter. If you have a celebrity or authority who can sign it, all the better.

· Strengthen your offer. This is where you usually can make the most difference. All things being equal, the best offer you can make is a free trial. The second best is a money-back guarantee. If you do not want to change your offer completely, try turning it into a yes/no offer, or a yes/maybe offer where “yes” is a purchase and “maybe” is a request for more information. Of course, sweepstakes always can add a lift, but your customer quality usually will go downhill.

· Offer something free. It generally is better than discounting your product and gives you the opportunity to use the magic word “FREE.” It can be a gift, free shipping, free add-ons, free subscription to your newsletter or catalog, whatever.

· Add a time limit. This almost always boosts response. You can connect the time limit to your main offer or to your premium. One easy way to add this to a pre-existing package or mailer is to create a simple piece of art that looks like you have rubber-stamped the deadline. It should be ugly and realistic.

· Highlight your guarantee. In a package, you should feature it prominently in the letter, brochure and order form. If your guarantee is strong — and it should be — you also can create an insert or lift note that explains your guarantee in detail. In a self-mailer, you should place your guarantee on the primary selling panel and on the reply panel.

· Build a package around your self-mailer. You will need an outer envelope, basic letter, reply form and business reply envelope. Add your self-mailer as the brochure, and presto! You have a complete direct mail package. It is not an ideal solution but good enough for a quick test.

· Mail your print advertisement. Just print it, fold it and insert it into a plain envelope with a little note that says something like, “I thought you would find this interesting,” or “Try this. It works.” You also might try adding a BRE or reply envelope with a live stamp to help ease response. You may even try adding a reply form so people do not have to cut out the coupon.

· Try the two-step. First mail a postcard or small self-mailer offering free information on your product. Then fulfill requests with your direct mail package. Just make sure to modify the package with envelope copy that says something like, “Here's the information you asked for.”

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