Maximize the Return on Marketing Investments

Maximize the Return on Marketing Investments

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from businesses looking to advertise is “what kind of response should I expect from my direct mail campaign?” It’s understandable that anyone looking to invest precious resources would want to know what kind of ROI they might expect.  And while the questioner is sincere, the question itself lacks the required context necessary to answer with any degree of certainty.  Unfortunately, many have done just that; offering blanket response rates without any qualifiers. Usually, this information is coming from businesses or organizations looking to sell more direct mail. The result has led many to become jaded in their opinion of the medium and damaged the credibility of more scrupulous direct mail marketers in the process.

In an attempt to restore some trust to what remains a uniquely effective and powerful medium, I’d like to offer the following:

  1. Be sure to define “Response”. Response can mean many different things. In marketing, it could refer to an audible response like a phone inquiry, a written response such as a text, email or online form. It may refer to a visit, either to a physical or virtual location. It could also mean something far less tangible and difficult to measure like an emotional reaction. It’s important that everyone understands exactly what’s being measured and used to evaluate performance.
  2. Is the creative visually impactful, uncluttered and effectively communicating just the right amount of information needed to trigger a response.
  3. Does the marketing message contain a clear “Call to Action” consistent with the kind of response you want to invoke?
  4. Does the marketing message provide a compelling reason to respond and create a sense of urgency?
  5. Is the marketing message relevant to your audience?
  6. Are you communicating with past customers or prospects?
  7. What external factors may be at play like competition, weather or seasonal fluctuation?
  8. What is the mode of mail delivery i.e. solo or shared (co-operative or marriage mail)? One is not necessarily better than another but there is a cost per response metric that needs to be considered.
  9. How frequently is the product or service wanted or required? Daily, Once in a Lifetime or somewhere in between?
  10. Is the product or service something that may be purchased on a whim like an XL pepperoni pizza or a more highly considered purchase like a swimming pool?

The variables referenced above can affect response rates by a factor of 10 or more. So, before you make the financial investment in direct mail (or any channel for that matter), understand the factors that contribute and detract from response. Doing so will help manage expectations, minimize waste of precious resources and maximize the return on marketing investment.

Guest Post by Greg Thompson

Greg has over 25 years of experience in marketing strategy development and campaign performance analysis. He is the owner of RSVP Indianapolis ( – a direct response marketing firm targeting the market’s most affluent homeowners.

Previously, Greg spent 11 years with Valassis – a multi-billion-dollar integrated media company where he was a top-producing sales leader and consultant for some of America’s top brands and agencies.


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