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Best Practices:  Choosing the Right Response Channel

Jul 07, 2010

The Direct Marketing Association's Best Practices Report: How Do Your Prospects Want to Respond?

You send your message by mail, but how do you ask for a response? Do you ask people to call you, to come in to the store, you return a reply card, to visit your website? In today's "me" world, the key to response success is to let your customers and prospects respond however they want to.

So how is that?

In its 2008 Direct Mail Best Practices survey, the Direct Marketing Association found that most (93.7%) of the companies that promote their products or services with direct mail receive responses by e-mail or through their website. 79.5% receive responses by phone and 35.7% see their response in sales at a retail outlet. About 45% get responses by business reply (envelopes or cards).

So that's where responses are coming from - you'd be in good company if you asked your direct mail recipients to respond online or by email or over the phone. But of all the ways you can ask for a response, which is the most effective? Is it always Internet, email, or phone?

Tie the response channel to your message

As you decide which response channels you'll offer your mail recipients, a good first step is to think about the kinds of response that make sense given your message and your offer. Clearly, if you're offering a coupon, you should invite recipients to redeem the coupon in-store or online (or by phone if that's an option).

An offer of a free consultation, on the other hand, is a more personal kind of message, so asking recipients to respond in a more personal way - by calling or e-mailing you directly, for example - is appropriate. If your goal is to generate additional contact information for your database, asking recipients to send back a reply card or visit a website to register may make the most sense.

It's all about your audience

There was a great story last month in the magazine Target Marketing about the success one company had in driving response by asking prospects to send a text message. The medium wasn't direct mail - the company was advertising commercials on JumboTrons at a concert - but the principle is the same: it's all about your audience.

The marketer in this case, BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City, had initially planned to use the JumboTron commercials to ask concert-goers to call 1-800 phone numbers. But the concert-goers - people in their 20s and early 30s - weren't likely to call 1-800 numbers during a concert (or maybe ever). Realizing this, the company instead launched a text message response channel and found amazing success.

The take-home message? It's all about your audience. While asking a target audience of young people to respond by text message was a great success, it may well have failed if the audience was Baby Boomers. Do some research and - if necessary - ask for expert advice to find the response channel through which your particular target audience would most likely respond.

Offer options

Including every response channel under the sun in your direct mail piece may well overwhelm your recipients, but offering more than one response channel can be a good idea. Pick the two or three response channels that you think will work best given your message and your audience, then suggest those two or three channels as ways your recipients should respond.

Test, test, test

Making a good guess - based on solid market research, for example - about the response channel that your particular target audience prefers is a good way to start. But the best way to hone your response strategy is to test. Spilt your mail campaign in two and send one mailer asking respondents to call or visit a website to respond; send another mailer that's the same in every other way but asks recipients to respond by coming in to the store. Measure the response to see which works best.

However you decide to ask your mail recipients to respond, Click2Mail is here to make your direct mail successful - and easy. Our postcards are a great way to ask people to visit your store or website, and we offer reply mail options as well. If your offer is more personal, a letter is a great option. Please call us at 1-866-665-2787, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. EST if we can do anything to help.