I’ve seen it happen countless times. A business will mail one campaign, not get a good response and then declare that direct mail doesn’t work for them. The fact of the matter is that they don’t understand direct mail and how to use it effectively.

Reason 1: One-time efforts often fail
One of the keys to successful advertising is repetition.

Rarely does it happen that one single promotional effort will get your audience to respond well, especially if your business is new to an area or not well known.

The exceptions I see are when a business “gives away the store.” If you’ve got a lot of free stuff to give away, or a phenomenal clearance sale, then, yes, you may get a good response to a solo mailing.

How to keep your mailing costs down and improve your overall response
What I suggest to businesses that want to keep their costs down, and get a good return, is to use the three-step mailing sequence.

This way your mailing costs will stay about the same, but you get the repetition you need, and you have three shots at getting your offer in front of your prospects.

First, take just one third of the people on your mailing list and hold off on the remainder until you’ve determined if this technique is going to work for you.

Second, create messages for a three-part letter series and mail it to the same one third of your list that you’ve selected. These are letters that relate to one another and are mailed in a sequence maybe a week or two apart.

Purge out those that have responded to a previous mailing so you don’t waste money mailing to them again or confuse them. Especially if you’re tweaking your offer in order to increase your response rate over the previous mailing.

Reason 2: Poor targeting
If you miss the mark and send your mailing to the wrong people you’re not going to get a good response.

As an exaggerated example to make my point, how well do you think you’ll do if you mail a great offer for the best quality boating products to a list of airplane owners?

To varying degrees, you’ll also miss the mark if you mail to people that don’t fit your products or services where demographics, geographics and/or psychographics (lifestyle indicators) are concerned.

How to improve your accuracy when targeting the affluent market
Local businesses will often mail to a certain radius around their location, but that’s not always a great idea for the affluent market.

If you have an upscale business that offers unique products and services, chances are you can draw from a bigger geographical area than a grocery store or pizza place. So, you need to be selective to whom you mail in order to be effective.

Do some basic zip code analysis and check out the demographics. If the average income of a zip code is above $100,000 per year then you may find plenty of prospects that can afford your products and services.

Here’s a tip.

Take a drive through the neighborhoods close to your business after 6pm when people are home from work. Is it an upscale neighborhood? What kind of cars are in their driveways? How are they dressed?

Take a look around and make a judgment if this looks like your target audience, and go with what your gut tells you. If you see cars on blocks and empty beer bottles on the lawn then you might want to make a note to exclude this area from your mailing.

You can target a geographical area down to a zip + 4 level (some call it a zip 9 – for instance, 92688-1234), which will get you down to a city block or maybe a group of apartments.

A great way to target affluent consumers
Most affluent people share similar criteria where list selection is concerned. If you get this right you’re well on your way to targeting the affluent market with pinpoint accuracy.

Following are the four things to ask for when dealing with ordering an list of affluent consumers from your list broker.

• Business owners
• High level business execs
• Self employed professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.)
• Commissioned sales people

There are certainly many other list selects you’ll want to look at depending on what kind of products or services you’re selling, but the above criteria are a good start.

Here’s another tip.

Just because someone looks affluent doesn’t mean they are. There are many people living above their means, so it’s a good idea to also run your list files against financial information like credit scores and bankruptcy filings. This could help you weed out up to 15% of the poor prospects for your offers to the affluent market.

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