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Why Your Direct Mail Isn't Working by Lisa Packer

Disappointed with your DM results lately?

With the demise of consumer telemarketing at the hands of the "Do Not Call" list, more and more businesses are turning to Direct Mail to take up the slack. Which means your prospect is getting a lot more "junk mail". Unfortunately for all of us, not all of it is well-written.

In fact, if what's been showing up in my own mailbox is any indication, a whole lot of it is down right boring.

"How is that bad for me?" you say. "If the other mail is boring, that's less competition for my letter, right?"

Wrong. Because every time one of those many letters convinces your prospect to open it - only to disappoint him with a dry run-down of features or a load of hype - it gets a little bit harder to convince him to open the next one.

In other words, even weak competition can hurt you. The only way to make it better is to stand head and shoulders above with a laser-targeted, irresistible offer, and a package that hooks your prospect right in the heart.

Laser Targeted

The single most important factor (it accounts for 40% of your response) in determining the success of your mailing is your list. You don't want to scatter envelopes to the four winds in hopes that a few will land in receptive hands.

Spend some time getting to know your most likely prospect, then work with your list broker to narrow down the list and target that group of people. Yes, more selects will cost you more up front. But a smaller, laser targeted list will give you a better ROI than a big, general one.

In other words, extra selects are a better investment than wasted envelopes. Not only that, they cut down on mailbox clutter for those outside of your target - a good thing for all of us.

An Irresistible Offer

Your offer accounts for another 40% of your success - which makes it just as important as your list.

It's the deal you offer your prospect - what you'll give him in exchange for what you want from him. It can be your merchandise or service for his money. Or, in the case of lead gen, it can be merchandise (or perhaps information, as in a free report or newsletter) in exchange for his contact information.

The important thing is that for your offer to work, your prospect has to feel like he's getting the better end of the deal. An even trade isn't enough. He has to feel like what he's getting is more valuable than what he has to give you in order to get it.

This is where a lot of lead gen packages fail. They assume that since they're not asking for money, they don't have to offer anything of value in return. But if you really want to ratchet up response, give your prospect something tangible, and that he will consider valuable, in exchange.

Hooking Your Prospect By The Heart

The final 20% of your mailing's success comes from the creative - the actual copy and design of your letter and other components.

Unfortunately, it's just not enough to shout benefits at your prospect anymore. In fact, opening with a benefit based headline or lead in today's advertising saturated climate just screams, "Sales letter!"

Instead, you have to have copy that makes some kind of emotional connection with your prospect. Otherwise, his sales resistance goes up and your message is delivered to the round file.

Try opening with a lead that validates his skepticism. Acknowledge how he's already feeling (similar products haven't worked for me) and tell him why he's right - and then get to how you're different.

Start with a good story. Everyone loves a good story - and the best part is, it sucks your prospect in. While he's trying to find out what happened, he's getting sold without realizing it.

Lead off with a topic that's in the news. If your prospect thinks he's getting breaking information, he'll pay attention. Especially if you can connect your product to how your prospect is already feeling about the issue.

The important thing is to enter the conversation your prospect is already having with himself. Resonate with his core emotions. Connect with his desires. Empathize with his frustrations. Lead him to the sale rather than pushing him to it.

Make the effort to send out emotionally driven, irresistible offers - and target them to those most likely to want to buy - and you can rescue falling response rates.

And that is a benefit worth shouting about.

This article was published on Friday 10 November, 2006.
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