By Circulation Management
One of the keys to a successful direct-mail campaign is personalization.
Customers have come to expect a high degree of personalization in direct mail. According to the U.S. Postal ServiceĀ®, customized mailings garner a six percent to 17 percent average response rate. Personalized mailings can achieve response rates between three percent and five percent. Mass mailings only garner a one percent to two percent average response rate.
Once you’ve got your campaign lined up, you still need to consider the following variables:
1. Develop a Mailing List
You can either develop a list from your subscriber base, or rent one from a list broker. And don’t forget to run your lists through the National Change of Address (NCOA) service. This process standardizes all of the addresses so that they conform to postal service guidelines. It also corrects the addresses of people who have moved. Using NCOA will ensure maximum deliverability.

2. Create a Mailing Piece
You need to create a direct-mail piece with a strong offer that will spur the recipient to action. Don’t create a direct-mail piece merely to inform. That’s what your brochures are for.
3. Code Your Response Vehicle
However you ask recipients to respond, make sure you code your mailing. Coding provides a simple device for revealing just who has responded to which mailing and which offer. It makes individual responses much more valuable, since you can easily tabulate the different codes to see what’s working the best for you.
4. Test Your Campaign
Even a modest campaign of a few thousand pieces can run up the budget with
mailing and duplication costs. So you should always test mail a portion of your
mailing list and check the results.
5. Run Your Campaign
Keep your mailing pace in line with your ability to handle the potential responses. Your test mailing will give you some sense of the rate of customer response. Use that as a gauge for how many pieces you should mail in a given week. Mail only those pieces you can support with your sales effort.
6. Handle Customer Responses
You can’t handle the fulfillment end of a direct-mail campaign without considerable planning. If you are mailing out a sample copy, do you want that handled from your main offices? Many mail-order campaigns depend on fulfillment houses, which handle the logistics of sending out materials in large quantities. You provide the products and the prospects, they’ll take care of the rest.
7. Analyze Your Results
This is perhaps the most important, and underrated, aspect of the campaign. Did the final results match what you expected from the test? What parts of the demographic responded better than expected? Are there subsets of your target audience that you can focus on in future mailings? Every direct-mail campaign you run should contribute not just to your sales figures but to enhancing your customer database as well.

—Source: Excerpt from Circulation Management “Cutting Your Direct Mail Production Costs 2006” white paper (www.circman.com)