Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the February 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Direct Mail’s Magic
What is the very best piece of direct mail you can send?
No, it’s not a four-color postcard offering a free massage, or a
letter promising wealth beyond imagining. It’s the type of missive
your mother started hounding you to send as soon as you could clutch
"The most effective piece of direct mail is a thank-you
company specializing in direct mail (www.dobkin.com), and the author
of How to Market a Product for Under $500. While unexpected, his
sounds right-on logical. What client expects an out-of-the-blue
letter, a simple expression of gratitude asking for nothing at all?
The novelty value alone separates this direct mail campaign from the
mountains of envelopes every business receives every day.
Dobkin speaks on "How to Double Your Mailing Response" on
Tuesday, February 11, at 11:30 a.m., when he addresses New Jersey
CAMA at the Doral Forrestal in Princeton. Cost: $45. Call
Dobkin backed into a career in marketing. After graduating from
College he invented a product — a burglar alarm for motorcycles
— and set about marketing it himself, reading every marketing
book he could lay his hands on. After he sold the burglar alarm
he set up an advertising and marketing agency. He had always enjoyed
writing, and taught himself the graphics end of the business.
"I had all kinds of clients," he says. "I did all kinds
of advertising and marketing for 10 years." Then the Mac computer
came out. Suddenly, he recounts, clients began doubting his role:
"Why do I need Dobkin? He only used one or two typefaces. I have
300 on my computer!"
Dobkin recalls the period immediately post-Mac as one of amazingly
ugly ads, but at the time he had little inclination to fight his
childlike joy in creating their own multi-color, multi-typeface,
filled advertisements. He devoted himself to direct marketing, a form
of advertising he had always liked anyway. "With direct mail,"
he says, "you get attribution." If the campaign works, the
results are apparent right away, and are easy to quantify — 10
responses per 100 mailings; four sales appointments; and two sales,
As much as Dobkin likes direct mail, he stresses that there are some
ways to use it that are better than others, and some strategies that
keep the mailings out of the circular file:
in May, are you going to be reading mail?" asks Dobkin. And if
May — with its fragrant blossoms and novel, warm sun — is
a poor month to be sending out solicitations by mail, June, July,
and August are worse. In those months vacations join glorious weather
as reasons to neglect all non-essential mail. December, with its rush
of parties and shopping, isn’t great either.
The best time to send out a mailing is the season when the weather
is so bleak that nearly any letter looks like an entertainment
In short, now. Or better yet, February. Or even March, with its nasty
on a Monday. Mail travels on weekends, there are no deliveries on
Sunday, and volume is highest on Monday. Dobkin uses a post office
box, and has observed this pattern over a number of years. He has
also observed that the fewest number of letters arrive on a Tuesday.
Add to light volume the fact that Tuesday is not normally crammed
with interesting social events, and it is easy to see why he suggests
aiming for a Tuesday delivery for direct mail.
Wednesday is the second-best day for direct mail delivery, and
is good too," says Dobkin.
is sent to clients with whom your company has a relationship. It is
possible to purchase mailing lists, but it is better to compile your
own, including clients, individuals met at trade fairs, and anyone
who has expressed an interest in your product — or one like it.
right if it is sent to a highly-targeted audience. But often, one
mailing is not enough to grab your prospects’ attention. One hundred
letters, on the other hand, would be overkill and a waste of
If a prospect shows no interest after six or seven letters, chances
are that he never will. Forget him and move on.
the same offer again and again. Create six or seven different letters,
each building on the one before it. The first might be an
the second a description of a product, the third an invitation to
an event, and so on. Each letter should refer to the one that preceded
business-to-business situations, especially where the universe of
potential clients is small, this approach will not work for a consumer
business trying to get the word out to a large audience.
If you are opening a French restaurant, for instance, the most
form of direct mail could be a press release. Instead of trying to
reach every prospective customer directly, create a compelling news
release and hope that your local news outlets do the job for you.
And although it’s not required — and certainly not expected —
consider dropping your radio station a thank you note if it runs an
announcement of your opening.
Corrections or additions?
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