Essential Guide to Increasing your Response Rates – Part 3: Targeting your mailshot

If you want to write a really brilliant mailshot forget you are writing to lots of people. Instead write just to one. It takes practice, but when you can do it you will find your response rates shoot up.

The key factors that lead to success in writing and designing direct mail are all psychological – they are to do with the individual.

Yet in direct mail we always think about groups of people – we select our lists by grouping people and businesses together. And so we get tempted to think about groups of people, rather than individuals. But what we must always do is take a step back from the group and think of the individual.

Let’s imagine you have decided to write to the Head of Finance in companies with 20 to 50 staff. Think about one such person. Imagine that person at work, opening the mail. You will be imagining factors such as

  • Male or female
  • In an open plan office or in a personal office or in a financial office with 2 or 3 others
  • Dressed “professionally” or casually
  • Ordered, with a tidy desk, or in a muddle
  • Having control over the environment or interrupted by colleagues, emails, phones, the MD…

Now we begin to get a picture, and holding that picture in your mind you write to that individual.

Of course you can object that your audience is diverse – and indeed most audiences are diverse. So you must compromise a bit – since some of your recipients will be male even if you think most are female, you won’t want to talk about handbags and make-up (even if tempted!) – but you must be sure you don’t compromise too much. If you head totally for the middle ground you will end up with an utterly bland piece.

Writing to my target individual

In this case I am going to imagine an ordered and organised female, aged 40, who focuses and concentrates on the figures, and who has her department well ordered. The VAT is not only always on time, it is right. As is the PAYE and corporation tax. As are the invoices, payments etc etc.

I now imagine that such a person is not one who openly loves change. She has her department organised, and does not want to change it much. She also does not welcome interruption – interrupt the running of PAYE and you can make a mistake, and she does not tolerate errors.

So now in constructing a mailshot for this lady I work within this invented persona. I know I have to grab her attention – but I also know that just shouting NEW!!! is not going to do anything for her, because she does not like NEW. But she does like organisation and efficiency, so that is where I start.

And I write to her – not to anyone else, not to a combination of 100 people, but to her.

Different personalities

But what about all those other people in the same position with different personalities? No problem. If I feel that I am not getting the response rate I need, or if my response rate starts to fail, my profile can be changed, and so the style of my writing changes. No longer will I be appealing to the same people – I will start to appeal to another subgroup of financial managers. Next time I write to a younger financial manager who really welcomes change and wants to get the whole department moving forward.

But, the final objection says, why not go down the middle and appeal to everyone at once? The answer is that it does not work. We all of us get so much direct mail that one of the first things we scan out is direct mail that does not appeal to us – and we have all become experts at seeing how closely to our image of ourselves and our world the advertiser is.

Related Topics: Direct Mail