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Crafting a Big Idea for Direct Mail Success

Testing Thoughts


Test costs always look inordinately large, compared to normal roll-out costs, so sometimes we don't test as much as we should. But if you combine test costs with normal production or roll-out costs, the incremental cost per order is relatively small.   


As a percentage of your total production costs, testing may only be 5%-10%.    The purpose of testing is to find new break-throughs.    A 5%-10% lift in response rates will recover your test costs and is a do-able thing. Besides, you should never be satisfied with whatever results you obtain.  As my hero Will Rogers was responded to the question, “What’s considered enough money?” 


He replied, “Just a little bit more.”


Don’t Overlook the Obvious


Sometimes in our zeal to deliver an impressive creative achievement, we forget our car keys.   After you have designed and written your trophy-bound format and copy, check this logical inventory for completeness: (   ) a specific, close-ended, time-limited offer; (   ) a call to action; (   ) a practical means for replying. While this may seem stunningly obvious, in practice there is still ample room for perfection.


David Ogilvy famously said, “Unless your advertising is based on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” In direct marketing, that ship will sink. A big idea is a compelling concept that stops people in their tracks and gets them to think. It's not just about the product; it's often about the prospect or customer.

The Power of Personalization

Consider this example: a company wanted to create awareness and generate leads. They targeted marketing directors with a unique direct mail piece. The box they sent read, “We’d like to have a word with you.” Inside was a dictionary with a yellow post-it note that said, “Look up ‘Visionary.’” When the prospect turned to that page, they found their name listed in the definition.

Why This Worked

  1. Personal Connection: The big idea focused on the prospect, making them feel recognized and valued.
  2. Creativity: It used an everyday item—a dictionary—in a novel way.
  3. Engagement: It required the recipient to take a small action (looking up a word), which increased their involvement with the mail piece.
  4. Memorability: Such an unexpected and personalized approach is hard to forget.

Developing Your Big Idea

Before you send out your next direct mail package, ask yourself, “What’s the big idea?” Here are some steps to help you brainstorm and develop a concept that resonates:

  1. Understand Your Audience: Know their needs, desires, and pain points. Tailor your message to address these directly.
  2. Focus on Benefits: Instead of just listing features, highlight how your product or service benefits the customer.
  3. Be Creative: Think outside the box. Use creative formats and designs that stand out.
  4. Make It Personal: Personalization goes a long way in making your audience feel special and connected to your brand.
  5. Test and Refine: Test different ideas on small segments of your audience to see what resonates best before a full-scale launch.

Bringing It All Together

The big idea is the cornerstone of successful direct mail marketing. It’s what makes your message stand out amidst the clutter and compels your audience to take action. If your concept doesn't come through immediately, take the time to rethink and refine it. A well-crafted big idea can be the difference between a campaign that sinks and one that soars.

And if BB Direct can help supply you with a targeted mailing list, don't hesitate to call us today.