Mail Tips

2014 was a pretty good year for catalogers and I am enthusiastic that 2015 will be even better.  As we close out the holiday season and begin a new year in direct mail marketing, here are a few things to help you be more successful with your catalog program.


Focus on your buyer file:  Looking back over the last 12 months of buyers is central to your business.  For one, you want to make sure that each of these buyers returns in the next year to maintain your catalog sales.  An article posted by BizMove Guide to Mail Order Business states that “without repeat customers, you might just as well invest your money in a dry oil well.”  Here are some hints that will help you maintain your buyers list:

  • Look at the time(s) of year the buyer purchased in reference to which mailing(s)
  • Look at the item(s) the customer purchased
  • Look at how many of your 2014 customers were repeat customers from 2013

If a customer purchased both in 2013 and 2014 then you already have a repeat customer.  This is a good thing.  The best thing you can do is maintain their loyalty.  For your new buyers, your goal should be to turn them into repeat buyers.  Here are some good practices that will help you both maintain repeat buyers as well as create them:


  • TAKE INITIATIVE – don’t leave your new customer out in the cold. Invite them in for a hot meal.  What you want to know first of all is why they bought from you and secondly, were they satisfied with what they bought?  Sometimes this can be as simple as a Thank You card after their first purchase.  Or if it’s too late for that, consider mailing out a little gift to your 2014 buyers with a letter.  You could say something like, “Thank you for your support in 2014.  We would like to welcome you back in 2015 with 10% off your next purchase.”  And of course, include your most recent catalog in the box.  4-imprint is a great example of a company that sends out samples of their products with coupons and a catalog.  It works!
  • BE PERSONAL– In today’s marketplace it is so important to be personal with your customers. There are just too many companies out there and if you expect your customers to be loyal to you, then you need to show them why you deserve it. Pay attention to their purchases.  Try to find information about them in cooperative databases and show them what they want to see.  As mentioned above, a great method is to look at what their purchases have been as corresponds to which catalogs.  You can use that information to help your product catalogs appeal more to them.


The idea here is to focus on your file of buyers to ensure that they will return for other purchases in 2015.  If you use this technique coupled with prospecting new buyers, your catalog sales should increase in the upcoming year.


Divide and concur your mail files:  Sometimes rather or not a customer is likely to become a repeat customer has nothing at all to do with you, but everything to do with their personalities.  Some people love receiving coupons in the mail, some hate it.  Some people love to shop and spend money and some people are just frugal by nature and only buy what they need.   No one person is the same, so why treat them that way?  A cooperative database can show you a customer’s shopping behaviors so you can begin to divide your lists into segments.  Consider a recent post by AMI Direct Marketing that states: “Big data is a real thing, and businesses are finding more and more ways to gain access to customer information.  The more you know about your customers, the better you can tailor marketing campaigns for each individual” (see article Direct Mail Marketing Predictions for 2015).


There are many ways to segment your mail file.  There are the usual ways of segmenting by age, sex, geographic location, occupation and social status; however, consider in 2015 dividing your list by shopping behaviors.  For each segment you can personalize the catalog so you are marketing more to individuals.  So to the person who hates to shop and only buys what they need, you can design your catalog with the intention of showing them why they need this product and how it will benefit them in their life.  For the person who lives and breathes to shop, you can design your catalog in a fun interactive way that they can enjoy and remember you by.  Once you have done this then stagger your mailings between your segments.  If you divide and stagger your mailings, it is much easier to measure the effectiveness of the program to each segment.


For more information about segmenting your mail list, check out our White Paper Target Your Audience, Boost Performance.


Increase your page count: It’s the difference between a postcard and a brochure or a brochure and a catalog.  There are many reasons why a higher page count catalog yields higher response rates.  For one, when you have a higher page count your prospect is likely to spend more time with your brand.  For another, a thicker piece has a greater impact than its slimmer counterparts.  Don’t believe me?  Go to your nearest book store and pull out War and Peace.


According to Steve Lett. From Lett Direct …”sales will increase by approximately one-half the percent increase in page count [of your catalog]. For example, a 20% increase in pages will increase sales by approximately 10% as a general rule)” (see his article Page Count Does Make a Difference). That’s a pretty big leap, yet catalogers are resistant to this method of increasing sales and in fact many have decreased the actual page count in their periodicals.  Why? Simple, postage increases.  The last few years of postage increases have freaked catalogers out and they are trying to pinch in other areas of their programs.  Unfortunately, many might not realize that the decrease in page count is actually hurting their investment.


Lett explains that “If your catalog weighs less than 3.3 ounces, increasing page count will not increase your postage cost. If your catalog weights more than 3.3 ounces, the incremental increase in postage will be marginal if you add additional pages.”  This is an easy cost effective way to increase your catalog ROI.  Don’t let the increases scare you away.  The growth you can experience from this is worth it.


Capitalize on co-mailing: If you are mailing a catalog and not taking advantage of co-mailing then now is the time to push it into to gear!  This can save you that extra postage that scared you into a low page count to begin with.  Seriously, if you are getting the best deal on co-mailing, you could save enough on postage to focus your catalog budget on other areas, like increasing page count or prospecting and increasing your mail file.


The next time you get ready to put your catalog program out to bid, consider sending a mail file to the printers you want to include so they can do a mail analysis.  It’s important that your printer be upfront about your savings so that you can better prepare your budget.


For more information about co-mailing, check out our blog Co-Mailing: When to Ask for A Mail Analysis.