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13 Reasons People Will Open Your Direct Mail
DMA07: At the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference, the secrets to reaching consumers in the real world.
Posted Oct 16, 2007
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CHICAGO -- No matter how quickly technology is pushing us toward a digital world, marketers continue to actively rely on direct mail. In fact, advertising spend on direct mail is second only to the money spent on television, according to a presentation by Robert Coen of Insider's Report here this week at DMA07, the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference. Customers, too, continue to enjoy receiving mail, according to experts at the conference. One of those experts, Nancy Harhut, managing director of relationship marketing at Hill, Holiday, a Boston-based communications agency, shared with attendees 13 tips for improving your direct mail campaign. Studies of human psychology have uncovered various ways people act in automatic ways, Harhut told the audience. For instance, she said, if faced with an entryway on the left and right side, most people have a tendency to go right. Similarly, people have learned how to automatically recognize and respond to what they think is junk mail. Therefore by leveraging the reflexive impulses of human behavior, marketers can optimize their direct mail campaigns. Here are Harhut's 13 tips about those reflexive impulses, how they can affect campaigns, and what you can do about them: 1. People respect authority: Make your mailings look professional, serious, and official -- whether through key phrases such as "important information enclosed," delivery by respected carriers like Western Union or FedEx, or even the use of high-quality envelopes. 2. People respect authority figures: Unsure of what to do, people tend to trust those who seem to know. Have quotes from famous figures endorsing your product, or simply have a famous client's name on the outside of the envelope -- both result in increased response rates. 3. People are naturally curious: Present your campaign in a unique way and customers will be attracted by its original presentation -- and, thus, interested in what's within. 4. People make very deliberate assumptions: The people that Harhut calls "gatekeepers" are those who filter each mailing before it reaches the intended recipient. They, like most people, can immediately recognize what seems to be junk mail. Marketers have to get past that barrier to entry by appearing important and relevant.
  • Make the mailing personalized.
  • If the mailing is a fulfillment request, be sure to note that clearly on the envelope.
  • Have an official-sounding sender or title, such as "Doctor John Smith," or even "From the Office of the Director of Marketing."
5. People are inclined to touch things.
6. People are drawn to attractive keywords: The most enticing word to consumers is "free." Other words that make consumers feel like they're being introduced to something new include "introducing," "announcing," "finally," "now," etc. 7. When people say "no," it can really mean "tell me more": People often reject an offer because it doesn't solve their problems, but if after they say "no" you come back with a different approach, they may become interested. 8. People respond to compliance triggers: People have been trained to view certain things as signifying an automatic "yes," Harhut says. Coupons are often understood to provide savings whether or not the amount saved is specified. People like to understand why they are being asked to do something, but they don't always bother to listen to what comes after the word "because." Studies have shown that by simply hearing "because" after a request is often enough to stimulate a "yes," she says. 9. People are most interested in themselves: Present your campaign in terms of how the customer will benefit, not in terms of how you are helping them:
  • Tell them how to succeed.
  • Present them with an offer.
  • Flatter them.
  • Deliver good news.
  • Make them feel superior.
  • Tell them something that seems as if it were exclusively meant for them.
10. People make decisions based on both rational and emotional reasons: Appeal to the emotional and they may justify it with the rationality of your offer. They are also more likely to respond when trying to avoid pain, and the nuance is critical; as an example, "Are you losing customers?" is more effective than "Are you getting enough customers?" 11. People feel obligated: Give people a complimentary gift along with the message and many will feel obliged to give something in return. 12. People want what they can't have: People are often charged into action when they think something is "for a limited-time only," "expires soon," or is for just "the first 1,000 customers." In fact, when a limit is imposed on an offer, customers who were already inclined to buy are often compelled to buy more. 13. People do what people who are like them do: People are more likely to think they're missing out than revel in the fact that they are the maverick. Along with a campaign, present an extensive list of customers who have aligned with your company. Regardless of whether those clients are influential individually, the sheer volume can be enough to be convincing. The DMA07 conference continues through October 18.

Related articles: Market Watch: Database Marketers Mine for Perfect Customer Segmentation The applications of database marketing used in direct mail are being applied to other channels, such as upselling and cross-selling on the Web or in the contact center. Marketers Talk About Targeting Nirvana Future of Information Summit 2006: Panelists discuss segmented marketing, customer influence, and 'the desire to be entertained.' Marketers: Find Your Reach, Reach Your Finds DM Days '06: A deep look into the best and worst ways to develop marketing strategies in the digital world. DM Days: On Marketers and Politicians DM Days '05: Bush's former commerce secretary opines on marketing and suggests that some privacy legislation will be refined over time. The Three Rs at DMA Days DMA05: Keynotes detail the importance of relevancy, responsibility, and results -- all ways for direct marketers to win customer confidence and build trust. CRM 'At the Highest Level' During its first round of product direct mail campaigns, LifeWay Christian Stores saw a 400 percent lift in average response rates with a high of 30 percent on some mailings. What Can Direct Mail Do For Marketers? The U.S. postmaster general speaks about how traditional marketing can enhance the Web and other, more advanced ad mediums. Direct Marketing Trends for 2006 More companies are turning to the Web for targeted marketing efforts. The Most Effective Direct Mail Campaigns Well-targeted mail campaigns are increasing in-store traffic. Don't Trash That Catalog Just Yet It's not surprising that the USPS would publish results emphasizing the importance of direct mail, but independent marketing strategists continue to validate mailings as an important part of a broader customer strategy. Feature: It's Showtime! Direct mail is a key component of entertainment companies' customer initiatives. Feature: The 2003 CRM Elite To overhaul its direct mail process LexisNexis brought the management of its mailing lists in house and turned to its long-term CRM provider SAS to cut costs and improve efficiency. destinationCRM.com: Pitney Bowes to Acquire Group 1 Software "One of the immediate benefits of good customer data is lower marketing direct mail costs," one analyst says. A First-Class Ticket to ROI Using survey data to create more effective direct mail campaigns. A Marketing Marvel With Annuncio Live, Lucent Technologies creates a productive "one-to-one" marketing machine. Marketing Man The DMA said in 1999 that the direct marketing industry would be $1.5 trillion worldwide, of which about $800 billion is in the United states.
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