Direct mail response rate depends on who and what you mailArticle added by Thomas Emmerson on September 19, 2011
Premier Advantage Marketing

Thomas Emmerson

Indianapolis, IN

Joined: June 30, 2011

Although response rates vary based on creative, offer, timing and need of the consumer, direct mail is and will continue to be the marketing standard. It is not going away.

What is the response rate of direct mail? This is the number one question customers ask us. The answer is, “it depends.”

This may sound like an evasive answer, however, it really does depend on a number of factors. What is the offer? How did you expect the consumer to respond? Will the offer expire? When did you mail? How often has the consumer seen a similar offer? Is your brand a trusted source of information? There are many more questions to be asked to answer the response rate question, but in the interest of time and space, I will end them there.

Naysayers of direct mail love to point out numbers in the 1 percent to 2 percent range or lower. Yet, those numbers are dependent on the industry. According to, the average response rate for the 1,122 industry-specific campaigns the Direct Marketing Association studied was 2.61 percent.

Within sectors, nonprofit fundraisers enjoy the most success with direct response, getting rates of 5.35 percent. Close behind are retail stores (with 3.36 percent) and establishments selling services to businesses (3.34 percent). Manufacturing delivers 3.17 percent; personal and repair services 3.07 percent; and travel 2.98 percent. Computer/electronic products and packaged goods, although at the bottom of the list, still get better than 2 percent response.

We would love to give our customers empirical data for response rates, but those questions are best answered with tips and tools to improve their direct mail. Consumer personalization is one such measure of effectiveness. When consumers feel you are marketing to them, they are more leery and less likely to connect with your message and offer. The shortest route to the trash can is a misspelled name or wrong address.

Direct mail is and will always be the foundation of any effective campaign to reach consumers. The more conversational your direct marketing, the more likely the consumer will "speak” back. Whether through conversation, texts, tweets or emails, a consumer’s response is based on how you first spoke to them.

Personalized messages deliver such items as benefits, not features, of your product. When you design your message or offer, ask yourself “so what?” If your message or offer doesn’t answer that question, then it is likely that the consumer won’t see the value in responding to you either.

Numbers and their interpretations are as different as the personalities that interpret them. In the words of Plato, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

If you must have a number to quote for effectiveness, here is one on the impact direct mail has on the economy. Last year, direct mail represented more than $686 billion in sales, supporting jobs at more than 300,000 small businesses across the country.

Although response rates vary based on creative, offer, timing and need of the consumer, direct mail is and will continue to be the marketing standard. It is not going away.

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