Secrets to boosting your direct mail's effectiveness

Dubbed junk mail by some, direct mail is the Rodney Dangerfield of marketing.But this don't-get-no-respect medium is actually one of the most effective,precise and economical ways to get your message delivered to key audiences.Jack Rein, a direct-mail marketing consultant and owner of Rein Associates, adirect-mail consulting firm in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, says there are severalmistakes entrepreneurs make when launching their direct-mail efforts. Knowingthese secrets to success can help you avoid some direct-mail pitfalls.

Converse first. If your mailing is going to require a team effort--aprinter, list broker, mailing house, graphic designer and writer--be sure toconsult in detail with each person at the project's onset. Discuss your goalsand invite feedback.

Buy from a broker. Because selecting the right list is the single mostimportant element in your direct-mail effort, consult a reputable list broker.A knowledgeable broker will be able to help you find a list that will meet yourcriteria with minimal waste.

Use the list ethically. Most lists are rentable for one-time use(although you can usually pay for multiple uses) and have minimum purchaserequirements. Don't even think about poaching the list to use more thanonce--most are salted with dummy names that allow list companies to track who'smailing without authorization.

Be careful with creativity. It's important to be creative when you'recompeting for a prospect's attention--but run unusual sizes or shapes by yourlocal post office first.

Be benefits-oriented. Too many direct-mail pieces get bogged down indetails that don't sell the prospect. Be clear, show your prospects what's init for them, and make sure your response mechanism is easy to understand.

Testing 1-2-3. Test different lists, mailing pieces and offers, anddon't be afraid to try new approaches.

Check your timing. Rein suggests sending local, first-class mailings onMonday. Most pieces will reach prospects on Tuesday, the lightest mail day ofthe week. Different industries have different times of the year that work bestfor them; check with your trade association or list broker for recommended times.