In Part 1 of this two-part series, we discussed the differences between advertising and direct marketing. By using direct marketing, you can generate an immediate response, a direct order, a sales lead, or traffic. Your reader will think, “I need you, and what you’re offering, right now.” Here are six simple steps for being “direct.”

Step 1: Determine one objective.
Your direct marketing promotion will focus on one thing and one thing only. In other words, offer one thing on each piece of your creative: A retirement income analysis, a life insurance workshop, a 30-minute consultation, or an informational booklet. But do not offer all of these things at the same time! If you don’t choose the “one thing,” your audience won’t either!

Step 2: Invite the right audience.
Even if you choose the best offer and best creative, your offer will FAIL if you send it to the wrong people. One of the most important elements that contributes to the success of any direct marketing campaign is the list. Valuable sources of list data include your own compiled lists of clients and contacts and information that you can purchase from a professional list company. The key to inviting the right audience is to select the people on the list who are a good fit for your offer. Avoid the temptation to send every offer to everyone. Instead, narrow your audience based upon geographic, demographic or psychographic criteria that matches up with the people most likely to need your particular product offer or service.

Step 3: Relate to your audience.
The most powerful word in marketing is Y-O-U. Too often, agents make the mistake of beginning their messages with “M-E” biographies and/or company overviews. At some point, this will be important information to share with your reader. However, your first contact should always begin with messages that relate to your audience, clearly explaining what’s in it for them. In other words, lead with the value and specific benefits you can bring to your client or potential customer (Y-O-U).

Step 4: Ease response.
“Call for more information,” is not a call to action that will generate response. Ever.

If you do nothing else after reading this article, eliminate this aforementioned call to action from any and all of your marketing efforts from this moment forward. Rather, be specific. For example, you may prompt your reader with: “Call (555)555-5555 by April 30, 2010 to receive your complimentary retirement income analysis.” Another response mechanism is a response card. Whatever device you select, clearly provide the instructions for how to respond to your offer. For example, “To receive your complimentary booklet, simply call (555)555-5555 or complete and mail the enclosed response card.”

Step 5: Concentrate on the campaign.
There will never be a single moment in time when everyone who could contact you will contact you, or meet with you, or buy from you.

When you select a topic or campaign, stay focused. Don’t abandon your campaign before you give it an appropriate amount of time, across audiences, to elicit responses. For example, if you decide to use a mailer to offer complimentary life policy reviews, don’t abandon the campaign a week after the mailer drops. Continue to test the mailer over a certain amount of time. You may also want to consider sending a follow-up message, such as a reminder postcard, within two to four weeks. This follow-up can increase your response rate by as much as 50%.

Step 6: Test.
Testing is a process of determining what works and what does not. You can do this by deploying different types of direct marketing messages in different formats and to various lists to measure, and hopefully improve, your response rates and overall campaign results. Before you begin any testing, start by answering a few simple questions such as: What do you want to test? What are the objectives of the test? What questions would you like to answer? Then focus on testing what you believe will make the most difference in your results; you may want to test type of product, lists, offers, formats, media, or creative elements.

For example, I may want to test two types of envelopes: Will using a plain envelope (versus a designed envelope with a sales message) increase response rates to my message? So, I design a campaign to test the plain envelope and measure the response rates. Based on this information, I can answer my question and apply that knowledge to my next campaign.

It is important to test and evaluate your campaigns on a regular basis. Here are some important questions to bear in mind as you do so:

o What did your clients respond to?
o How many responded?
o Which list, offer, and/or creative performed the best?
o What can make your list, offer, and/or creative better?

BONUS Step: Personalize your direct marketing messages.
Personalizing your marketing messages can help you increase your direct marketing response rates. Personalization works by using data elements in such a way that your client or contact feels recognized. From the simple “Dear Guido Williams” in the salutation line of a new offer, to a postcard with the client’s name appearing in a photo of a movie marquee, these touches can boost your response rates by double digits.

If you want to personalize your messages, please understand that this is not a do-it-yourself proposition. Effective personalization requires the utmost attention to detail. Seek the assistance of a direct marketing specialist to help you personalize your next campaign.

Amy Kennel is communications director for Brokers International, Ltd. More of her Marketing Tips articles can be found here.

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