Maximizing Your Rate Of Return

reach us now

What rate of return can I expect on my next mailing? This may be the most frequently asked direct marketing question and the most difficult to answer.


Without a crystal ball, the only safe answer is 0-­100%. There are far too many factors influencing the success of a direct mail project to predict a rate of return, such as: the type of offer, the timing, the way the piece is prepared and the mailing list. There are, however, several ways to improve your rate of return.

One of the best ways to gauge the potential response rate and improve your returns is to conduct a test mailing. A small group of names should be pulled from the list; an accurate sample will include a minimum of 2500‐5000 names representing each of the demographic or geographic criteria of the mailing list. By indexing your file in zip code order, a selection of every 10th, 100th, 1000th, etc., name will result in a balanced test. This method of sampling is called Nth selection. For example, let’s say your target audience is 50,000 credit card users in 40 states who have purchased electronic goods by mail within the past year. The sample list should consist of every 10th name, giving you a sample file of 5,000 names. That way the test will include names from different size cities and in each of the states, since consumer habits may vary depending on the size and location of the city in which they live.

Once the sample mailing is done, results should be analyzed before mailing to the entire list. There are several ways to track responses. If an 800 number is part of your campaign, a key code (a group of letters, numbers, or other markings) should be printed near the address information. By giving the operator the key code information, each caller can be identified as part of the sample. Another way to track response is by enclosing a return mail device such as a printed tear off portion of the mailer, a return card or coupon that is personalized and key coded. The information gathered from responses can measure the effectiveness of the list and the offer.

Test mailing may seem like a lot of work, but in the long run, the extra effort can have a significant impact on the success of your direct marketing projects.


Bill Nichols

June 12, 2014

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all our latest content for Direct Marketing delivered to your inbox each month.

Ready to learn more about Direct Marketing?

Let's Talk

Get Started Here

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.