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A Guide to Effective Mailings

Are you getting the most out of your direct-mail campaign? Follow this advice and post record returns on your efforts.

This story appears in the August 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brochures, catalogs, newsletters--they're all important direct-mail tools for entrepreneurs. But how can you create a campaign that really delivers? The most critical elements are your list, the package you mail and your offer. Get all three right, and you have a winning combination that will ensure the highest possible response rate and return on your investment.

Choose Your List
Whether you're targeting consumers or business executives, know the important characteristics of your prospects, such as ages and job titles. And tell the list vendor exactly which of these selections you require. You can rent lists from:

  • List managers and aggregators: A reputable list manager can offer a variety of list options as well as tell you when the lists were last cleaned, how often they've been used and by whom.
  • Publishers: Many print publications, particularly business and trade magazines, rent their subscriber lists for direct mail. These can often be segmented by geographic requirements, the subscribers' job titles or SIC codes.
  • List brokers: Since most are compensated by a 15 percent commission directly from the list vendor, or they charge a fee for handling smaller list purchases, working with a broker to find just the right list can be fairly affordable.

When using your own in-house list, carefully segment it into groups with common characteristics. If you have multiple lists, check them against each other to remove costly duplicate mailings. You can mail as often as several times a month to your best customers.

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