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3. Not including a way to respond

Some print designers naïvely assume that a customer will understand how the recipient is supposed to respond: Oh, they’ll just pick up the phone and call. Or visit our store. Or visit the website. But the key to success is making sure that every direct mail piece gives a way for the end user to respond that is quick, fast and easy. I was reminded of this a few days ago, when I was walking down my street in Boulder, Colorado, and saw a car for sale. It had a big sign in the window that said, “For Sale.” But there was no price and no contact information. The owner “assumed” that if someone was interested they would knock on the door to discuss the car and ask about the price. There are a number of problems with this approach.

First, a person might not feel comfortable knocking on the door of someone they don’t know. (What if the guy comes to the door in his underwear?) Or, someone interested in the car might not be able to stop right now, but could jot down a phone number to call later… but there was no phone number listed on the sign. Calling on the phone is a much lower-involvement, lower-commitment activity. It’s pretty easy to call, ask the price, and then say you’re not interested. Walking up to the door of a strange person to ask about the price and the car is a much more involved process. Asking the price will most likely lead to a full conversation and a test drive, even if you’re no longer interested or can’t afford the asking price of the vehicle.

If time is one of our most valuable personal commodities, then the right response mechanism will (a) save time for both you and your recipient, and (b) makes it easy. When it comes to direct mail or a printed brochure, we recommend giving as many options as possible, as different people respond differently:

Website: It costs a lot of money to double the size of a printed brochure. Not so with a page on a website, where it costs very little to add copious amounts of information. You can also use an online registration form, order form or simple contact form to process the request. Or, use a personalized URL to personalize and track the website visit. For my neighbor’s beat up car, a website devoted to the car with photos, mileage and other information would be huge overkill. But if it was a vintage collector’s edition (and worth more money), a few dollars spent on a domain name and a simple website might make it sell pretty quickly.

Phone Number: Some people love to call and make sure you’re a real organization. They might have a question that’s answered right on your printed brochure or on your website. They’re not asking a question because they want to get information. They want to know that other people in their same situation have spent money and not been disappointed. This happens a lot with my wife’s organization, Adventure Rabbi, where people call before the big retreats like Rosh Hashanah to ask, “Do you really have services outside? What happens if it rains?” (The answers: Yes, we wear rain gear.)

Physical Location of a store or office: If you’re able to give a physical location, people feel you are “grounded” and it increases the sense that you are a legitimate organization. Email Address: Keep it easy to type, but try to use a real person’s name for best results. People like to email people, not big faceless organizations. info@customerparadigm.com doesn’t generate the same warm fuzzy feeling that my personal email address gets.

Printed Signup or Order Form: Even if nobody actually uses the tear-off signup form in your direct mail piece, it still is a place that often lists the price, shipping information and other details. Again, it’s one more place that you can increase trust and confidence that it’s okay to place an order with your company. I think it’s fair to assume that anyone under 30 probably doesn’t own postage stamps and envelopes (and maybeeven a pen) to send in an order by snail mail. But some people will use a ‘tear off’ self-addressed postcard, especially if you pay the postage, or even fax in an order from their office.

Fax Number: Yes, many people still keep fax machines tethered to a phone line. It’s pretty standard in most offices, and certain industries (medical, legal, food) use them a lot more than you might think. Why? Unlike an email, a fax sent to someone is usually printed out and hand-delivered. It’s also easy for someone to hand a printed order form to their assistant for them to fill out and fax in.


To sum it up, including the right response mechanism will allow you to get a good return on your direct mail marketing. Make it as easy as possible for someone to respond, and don’t “assume” they’ll figure out how to find you. Because most people won’t.

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