How to Create a Winning Direct Mail Package

December 1996
by Jeffrey Dobkin

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The secret of not losing your shirt in a direct mail campaign is to run a
test. This is the beauty of direct mail–you never, ever need to lose big
money. You can test the response to any package you mail by simply mailing
your initial package in small numbers. That way, unsuccessful packages won’t
turn into costly mistakes. Before you mail any big numbers–with their
associated big costs–you’ll know if your package is going to draw a
response, approximately to what extent, and if it will be successful–all
BEFORE you spend big money to roll it out to every name on your list. Nice.

In traditional direct mail packages, there are four printed elements to
consider: (1) the letter, which contributes the personal soft sell of the
benefits and the hard sell of the response; (2) the brochure or data sheet,
to show the features, photos, and reemphasize the benefits; (3) the reply
vehicle, such as the order form via post card, envelope, or telephone call; an
d (4) the envelope, written with teaser copy to get the package opened.

In a direct mail campaign, the product is generally not what you sell. What
you sell are the benefits derived from the product. The hard sell is not of
the product either. The hard sell is to generate the response: to prompt the
reader to make the call, or send in the order form. In a direct mail package,
soft sell the product, and sell the call hard. That is the secret of
successful direct mail.

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