Jun 7, 2010 12:17 PM, By Bob Stein and Jennifer Deerr

Looking for ways to boost your direct mail response rates? Here’s some ideas on how to do just that, originally presented at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington List Bazaar.

1. Test an appropriate quantity.

Understand your response rate and make sure you are testing enough names to have statistically valid results. The more you’re able to test, the more valid the sample. If your offers are regional, please keep in mind the number of names available in your desired area when testing. Be sure to retest in order to ensure validity of your response results.

2. Try former buyers and expires.

If you are getting good results with active subscribers/donors/etc. on a particular list, test the formers or expires. You may have to tweak the offer, but it could open up a whole new pool of names. (And if a list has refused to let you use active names, ask for the expires—many mailers will release older names.)

3. Look beyond the datacards.

Ask to see if any special selects are available, especially if you are starting to see a drop off in results from your tried and true files. There may be a higher dollar, a tighter hotline or special source selects that may not be advertised but can still be made available. You may not get what you want or need but without asking you’ll never know.

4. Reactivate old files.

Retest a file you have not tested in a while. There are so many variables that can affect results that taking a second glance is always worth exploring.

5. Explore your merge/purge options.

Look at what your service bureau can do in the merge. Do you want to combine mail dates for a mega-merge, or can you separate the lists used by source (e.g. consumer vs. donor sourced)? What are you doing with the multis? Do you understand your merge reports?

6. When negotiating a deal, be prepared with documentation.

Do not blindly ask for discounts—be prepared to share results. Have, share and understand your mailer’s history with that list. This will equip the list manager with the hard facts that he would be able to use in negotiations. The list manager is not a Walmart employee…everything is NOT necessarily on sale.

7. Match back your results to the Web.

If your direct mail has dropped off as Web sales increased, was there a correlation? Perhaps your mail piece is sending your prospect to a new response vehicle?

8. Keep an eye on your packages.

If your sample is denied, find out why. With a little tweaking or a variation in premium, you may be approved. If there is a mail date conflict, suggest an alternate. Explore your options, especially if you have flexibility.

9. Practice reciprocity.

Be prepared to offer back similar selects on your list to mailers with whom you are currently renting and/or exchanging. They may not want or need those selects, but be prepared to make them available. If you are not currently renting or exchanging your own names, be prepared to possibly pay a non-reciprocal surcharge.

10. Have a Kum-ba-ya moment.

Cooperate with each other and help each other out. Managers and brokers can only work together if they know and understand what their final goal is. Call each other on the phone if e-mail does not get what you want accomplished. It’s quicker, it builds relationships, and you can accomplish more. There are no adversaries, only allies working together to do the best job in the best interest for their mailers and list owners.

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