response rates

q. what can affect the response rate of a direct mail package?

a. we began with this particular question because it's hard to overstate the point that just about everything can affect response: the mailing list, the creative format, the offer, degree of personalization, and so on. we'll be covering a lot of these factors in more detail below.

q. how can the success of a direct mail campaign be measured?

a. it depends on what you want your campaign to do for you. ask yourself some questions. are you selling directly and looking for cost-per-order that provides a certain profit margin? are you trying to build in-store traffic? are you attempting to create long-term customer loyalty? do you want to generate requests for information at a certain cost-per-inquiry? are you willing to settle for a break-even response rate if it means garnering a list of names that you can continue to sell to in the future? in other words, the measure of your success is in the mastery of your goals.

q. when i send out a mailing, how long should it take for responses to start coming in? and when can i be fairly certain that responses have run their course?

a. for one thing, response time will depend on whether you mailed first-class or standard mail. first-class packages reach their destinations sooner, and so naturally bring back a faster response. if you chart responses against time elapsed, you'll generally see the classic "bell-shaped" curve well-known to statisticians.

q. will seasonality affect the response rate of a mailing?

a. it can. some packages, such as those containing gift catalogs, have obvious seasonal correlates. but even others can show improved performance if mailed at certain times of the year, or in some cases, at specific times of the month. for starters, you can use your existing sales patterns as a barometer of when to mail. also, you might factor in the timing of your competition's mailings. as is often the case in direct mail, some modest experimentation can provide you with guidance. you can send out test mailings at different times to track seasonal rises and dips for your product or service. and if you have a package that seemed promising from a creative standpoint, but didn't perform as hoped, by all means consider after trying it again during a different period.