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February 27, 2018

Avoid Direct Mail Fatigue With These 5 Tips


As we are fond of reminding our clients, direct mail is alive and well in the digital age. In fact, according to a 2016 Data and Marketing Association report:

  • Average direct mail household response rates hit a whopping 5.3%, up from 3.7% the previous year;
  • Direct mail outperformed digital channels by a huge margin—with display ads, email, paid search and social media all falling below 1% average response; and
  • Direct mail provided 27% ROI, bested only by social media (28%) and email (with an untouchable 122% ROI).

Yet even with all that good news, there’s no denying that even the best direct mail campaigns eventually become stale and less effective over time. This “campaign fatigue” can happen for a number of reasons. Knowing how to identify and root out the cause can help keep high-performing direct mail working for you.

Below are 5 tips for helping you decide when a campaign should be tweaked and rescued—and when it should be consigned to the scrap heap.

1. Monitor response rates regularly

It may seem obvious, but the first step in avoiding campaign fatigue is recognizing it’s happening. Repetition is the key to success with direct mail, so make sure you compare a few drops of the same mail to the same list to establish a baseline.


Often response drop is gradual, but sometimes it’s immediately—and dramatically—apparent. Your industry, list and frequency should all be taken into account when determining a response rate you consider acceptable—and when a shakeup is in order.


 2. Look at frequency

Are you sending too often? Not enough? Staying top of mind is important, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.


Look at how often you’re sending the same households the same piece. If you are hitting the point of diminishing returns, it may be time to pull back or refresh your approach.


 3. Test, tweak and test again

Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, try testing small changes to your existing direct mail. Update outdated or overused graphics. Reword a headline to renew interest. Try a new offer to create urgency.


Remember to make only one small change at a time so you can be confident response changes are attributable to that variable. If a change moves the needle, keep it. If not, don’t. But keep testing until you are sure it’s time to move on.


 4. Stay relevant 

Even when you have a great product and offer, keeping your direct mail out of the trash bin is no small feat. Once that mail piece has been seen multiple times, it becomes even harder.


Personalization can help you break through the clutter. Avoid canned salutations like “Dear customer” and use available data to determine if your recipients have moved further along within the buying cycle. Tailor content accordingly.


Your prospects’ interest in your product or service may not have diminished as much as how relevant your current message is to their needs. Segment your target market and send personally addressed pieces to get a little to get closer to that “right audience, right message, right time” sweet spot.


 5. Revisit your mail list

When response becomes an issue, it’s always worth revising the effectiveness of your list. Review list duplication across campaigns and make sure you alternate them to avoid oversaturation. Mine underperforming lists to see if you can find pockets of success worth segmenting and retargeting.


Remember that while no direct mail campaign is immune to fatigue, today’s data tracking capabilities give marketers unprecedented insights into what is working and what is not. All you have to do is know where to look.


Want more bang from your direct mail buck?

Download our Direct Mail Production Checklist to make sure you’re doing all you can to boost response rates and maximize ROI.


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