Reach or Frequency? … Which Adds More $$ to Your Bottom Line?

    August 26, 2003

Lets say that you have been given a budget of $10,000 (not including creative costs) to sell a new $800 product or service via direct mail to a relatively cold list. You know that once a new client comes on board they will usually spend another $2,000 with you over the next 2 years.

You have a list of 10,000 names and for the purposes of this exercise, lets say that your campaign costs work out to be around $1 each including postage.

How would you spend that $10,000?

Would you:

A. Come up with creative you think is HOT and go all out and mail out 10,000 pieces to every name on that list?

B. Develop two or three lots of creative and test them against each other using a small sample from the list. Then, once the results have been tallied roll out the winning piece to the remainder of the list?

C. Develop 5 letters … an initial mailer and four follow-up letters. Select at random 2,000 names from the list and mail the first letter. One week later, mail the 2nd. One week after that mail the 3rd. Two weeks after that mail the 4th. Then three weeks after that mail the final one.

D. Select a random sample of 5,000 names and send one piece to the entire 5,000. 1 day later send exactly the same letter again to the same list.

E. Select a random sample of 5,000 names and send one piece to the entire 5,000. 3 days later follow up each letter with a phone call. (You might want to stagger the mailing depending on how many telemarketers you have and you’ll need to stop once you reach the $5000 amount).

Which one delivers the best results?

Option A is a one shot wonder. You’re gambling on the creative being a winner first time around.

With Option B you have conducted a testing exercise first to see which piece is the most responsive, so there’s a good chance that your results will be greater than they would have been with Option A.

Once you have established a successful control, it’s important to continually test various elements of your offer including creative, the list, the offer, headlines, the number of enclosures in the campaign … the works. That way you can ever improve your responses.

Option C is what I call a drip feed campaign where the campaign is developed as a series of direct mail pieces which each convey a different benefit of purchasing.

Each one refers to the previous letter in some way.

The first letter might be a standard 1 step mail order campaign.

The second might focus on frequently asked questions.

The third might focus on testimonials from customers.

The fourth might be a comparison between your product and other products on the market. And so on.

Each letter asks them to buy. And each letter would include the same order form/flier with a summary of all the benefits and the offer.

This approach works on the principle that 80% of people purchase after the 5th contact.

Option D is often the most controversial. Some say it makes you look unprofessional. Others say, “who cares, if it works”. And it invariably does.

You’re simply sending the same campaign to the same people twice.

If people receive one envelope they may or not open it. If they receive two identical envelopes there’s a good chance they’ll open one of them.

Please note, this doesn’t work with direct mail. It only annoys people.

With Option E using telemarketing follow-up usually gives you the same response again, as the direct mail shot. If direct mail pulled 1%, a telephone follow-up call will pull another 1%.

Which works better?

Forget A. Instead, use B in conjunction with C, D or E.

C is a good idea if you’re selling products or services with a long lead time.

D works especially well in situations where a large percentage of mail gets thrown in the bin unopened.

And E works well in situations where you’re running a seminar or something that is very time sensitive.

Kris Mills of Words that Sell ( ) is a top selling copywriter, trainer and author of numerous how-to guides including Proposals and Tenders (Bids) that Sell. Kris has also produced a FREE ebook entitled “11 Bid Writing Sins and How to Avoid Them”. To arrange a FREE copy, visit: