By Dean Rieck, direct mail copywriter
People are always looking for the “magic bullet,” that one secret weapon that will instantly improve their direct mail response, with no effort or cost of any kind. 
When you find it, let me know. Then, I’ll give you directions back to planet Earth. 
On this world, direct mail success isn’t about magic, it’s about continually and consistently applying smart tactics, and discovering the right formula for your products and services. Yes, there’s cost. And yes, it takes effort. 
However, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are hundreds of tactics that have been tested repeatedly and proven to work, maybe not all the time, but frequently enough that they merit testing when you’re looking for a boost. 
Here are 99 tactics, both general and specific, you should consider. 
1. Make an irresistible offer.
2. Give away something free to boost response.
3. Prefer a free gift over a discount.
4. Increase the perceived value of your offer.
5. Reduce the perceived risk in accepting your offer.
6. Offer attractive payment options.
7. Use a time limit to increase urgency.
8. Test a two-step offer for high-priced goods.
9. Test a yes/no offer to clarify the buying decision.
10. Test a yes/maybe offer to lower perceived commitment.
11. Dramatize your offer with stamps or stickers.
12. Make your offer tangible with a check or coupon.
13. Create your envelope to get noticed and get opened.
14. Use teaser copy to tease, not tell.
15. Consider using a plain envelope.
16. Try an official-looking envelope.
17. Use a low-key envelope for business prospects.
18. Use your sales letter to sell and your brochure to tell.
19. Make your letter look like a letter.
20. Grab attention in your letter with a short first sentence.
21. Express one central idea in your letter.
22. Write your letter in a friendly, personal tone.
23. Call for action early and often in your letter text.
24. Have a high-authority person sign your letter.
25. Personalize your letter if possible.
26. Use a P.S. to cite a benefit, deadline, or extra detail.
27. Use your brochure to add credibility.
28. Use brochure tables, charts, diagrams, and visuals to support your claims.
29. Design your brochure for easy reading.
30. Use clear benefit heads and subheads in your brochure.
31. Include all features and specifics in your brochure text.
32. Include complete ordering information in your brochure.
33. Test your package with no brochure.
34. Use a stand-alone order form.
35. Restate your offer on the order form.
36. Include an acceptance statement.
37. Make your order form easy to fill out and return.
38. Highlight the deadline.
39. Make your order form look valuable.
40. Refer to the order form as something valuable, such as a “Discount Voucher.”
41. Consider extra order forms for passalongs.
42. Order something from yourself to discover how to make ordering easier.
43. Offer a fax response option for businesses (many still use faxes, believe it or not).
44. Use your order form to highlight last-minute specials.
45. Preprint your customer’s name and address to simplify ordering.
46. Restate your guarantee on the order form.
47. Offer a toll-free number for faster orders.
48. Avoid a two-sided order form.
49. Use the back of your order form for support information only.
50. Give clear, simple ordering directions.
51. Include a BRE if you ask for confidential information.
52. Pay the postage on reply cards.
53. Feature compelling testimonials. 
54. Edit testimonials carefully and honestly.
55. Prefer many short quotes over a few long quotes.
56. Group testimonials to increase impact.
57. Use names, titles, and locations to increase testimonial credibility.
58. Turn a good testimonial into a lift letter.
59. Use a testimonial as a headline or benefit statement.
60. Show people using your product or service.
61. Give case histories of your best customers.
62. Display a seal of approval or rating.
63. Cite favorable reviews.
64. Cite media coverage.
65. Back up your offer with a strong guarantee.
66. State your guarantee in the strongest possible terms.
67. Keep your guarantee conditions to a minimum.
68. Make your guarantee a prominent visual element.
69. Replace your conditional guarantee with an unconditional guarantee.
70. Strengthen your guarantee with a signature. 
71. Extend your guarantee for as long as possible.
72. Make your guarantee look official. 
73. Avoid asterisks and legal-looking tiny type.
74. Reinforce your guarantee with a merchandise return label.
75. Encourage involvement with a quiz or checklist. 
76. Emphasize exclusivity with a membership card.
77. Add fun with a rub-off or hidden message. 
78. Answer objections or highlight a benefit with a lift letter.
79. Increase credibility with a testimonial insert.
80. Answer questions or objections with a Q&A insert. 
81. Prove your product superiority with a sample. 
82. Share supporting information with an article reprint. 
83. Deliver a quick pitch with an ad reprint. 
84. Announce last-minute news with a buckslip. 
85. Offer a premium on a buckslip. 
86. Draw attention with a yellow sticky note. 
87. Include company name, address, and phone number on every piece. 
88. Establish a solid control before testing elements. 
89. Test one element at a time. 
90. Run statistically valid tests. 
91. Retest anything that shows a significant change. 
92. Track results meticulously. 
93. Train your people on the importance of tracking. 
94. Analyze your results in writing. 
95. Use your test results to determine creative strategy. 
96. Keep using your control until you beat it. 
97. Test this. 
98. Test that. 
99. Test the other thing. 
Those last three items are important. You should always be testing something. If you’re not testing, you’re guessing. And guessing has no place in direct mail.