Here are some things you can do to make your direct mail pieces better:

1. When you write the advertisement, write it from the reader’s (customer’s) perspective. Answer the question, “Why should I do this?” It should clearly state why the customer should take action. The direct mail piece should include benefits and what those benefits mean to the customer. Take out any references to features.

2. Eliminate the phrases “I, we, (and) us.” The words “you and your” are much better, since you are targeting readers and their needs rather than your own.

3. Use simple, active words. No technical jargon. Remember, customers do not have our expertise in our field. They care most about getting their problem fixed right the first time. And of course, your employees have to be courteous and competent.

4. Always include an email address or web site where they can reach you. Some people would rather reply this way than talk on the telephone. This also gives them an opportunity to talk to you when they want to. If they are going through their mail at midnight, they can contact you then.

5. Once you have written the direct mail piece, give it to people who have no vested interest in your business for comments. Do they understand it? Does it make sense? Would they react positively to the piece? Incorporate their suggestions into the advertisement.

6. Make the piece memorable. Use colored paper or colored envelopes. Do something different so that when clients receive it in the mail, they remember it.

7. Address each envelope by hand and put a stamp on each one. Don’t put your company’s name in return address section. The return address stickers that look like personal address stickers are best. People will open hand written, stamped envelopes.

8. Mail on Mondays and begin following up on Wednesdays. Don’t mail the pieces so that they’ll be received on a weekend unless you plan to have someone in the office to answer telephones. If customers get the direct mail on a Saturday, they are likely to call on a Saturday. If they don’t call on a Saturday, they are likely to forget about it before Monday. If you put an e-mail address on your direct mail literature, they might email you instead. However, it’s better to have direct mail received during the week.

Finally, one of my favorite direct mail pieces has always been the postcard. In light of the recent anthrax scares around the country, you may want to seriously consider this option. Recipients don’t have to open an envelope and they do read them. Even if they are going through their mail and know that the postcard is “direct mail,” they will still turn over the postcard and read your message. Make it good!

But remember — direct mail needs to be followed up. A customer service person should call a few days later or you should mail multiple pieces. In some areas of the country, telemarketing laws have become very strict. But it’s a good way to follow up as long as you obey the law.

Make sure that you spend the time to do more than one piece. Multiple pieces, over many months, can be more effective than sending out only one. Direct mail can be very profitable. yes, it’s more expensive to reach each person than either radio or television. However, with direct mail, you know you are reaching the right person.

Copyright 2001, Ruth King. All rights reserved.