What Response Rate Will Your Mailing Get?

response rateIt’s one of the most common questions new direct marketers ask.

A few years ago, The Direct Marketing Association analyzed over a thousand mailings and found that the average response rate was 2.61%. However, your mileage will vary. I’ve gotten 11% at The DMA, and was delighted to achieve .2 or even .4% at The Economist.

Here are a few general guidelines:

How to improve response rates

  • Offer something for free or at a low cost
  • Use a targeted list (not the biggest, not the least expensive, but the one that best matches your business and your product)
  • Aim to generate leads rather than direct sales
  • Require a low level of commitment (in time, effort, or money)

Factors that decrease response rates

  • Response requires payment
  • The list doesn’t match audience well enough (sending pooper-scooper offer to people who don’t own dogs)
  • The product or service is expensive
  • Responding requires a high level of commitment (in time or money) or it’s just too hard

For example, this mailing will get a great response (but may bankrupt you)

(sent to a list of men between 35-55)
Free 60″ Sony Plasma TV
Claim yours at www.freeTV.com

This one is guaranteed to fail:
(sent to a list of women ages 25-25 in New York City)

Free Whale Blubber!
Claim yours at www.whaleblubber.com

You’ve got to balance cost, commitment, offer, list, copy and design to maximize your return.