Tracking responses is vital to your success with direct mail

Jerry Heisler

Occasionally we'll ask someone about how their last mailing performed, only to learn, sadly, that they didn't keep track of the results. Tracking responses is vital to your success with your direct mail. By keeping careful records of how well your mailings perform you enable yourself to enjoy one of the great benefits of direct mail... Measurability.

How do we do this? Tracking results can be as simple as keeping a record in a notebook or, for the business that does a lot of direct mail, tracking it on your PC. The principles are the same.

First, you need to ask yourself what you want to know about the results of your mailing. The first thing you need to know is pure "front end" response. That is, how many people responded to your mailing? Let's say we send out 5000 pieces of mail asking people to send in a reply card and request a copy of your catalog. 100 people respond. That gives us a response rate of 2% on the "front end"... that is those who responded to the first part of our offer... they sent for a catalog.

Looking at that response we probably want to record the following information:

  1. How many responded in numbers.
  2. What is the response as a percentage of the total offers mailed out?
  3. Of those who requested a catalog, how many ultimately ordered?
  4. What are the names and addresses of those who responded?
  5. How much was the value of their order?
  6. Did they pay their bill?
  7. Do they order again, etc.
For the first three items, we might simply do the following:

Get a 3 ring binder with a vinyl sheet protector. Place your mailing package into the sheet protector so you will have an actual sample of what you mailed.

Then, on a piece of notebook paper, record the following information:

  1. Name of mailing
  2. Quantity mailed
  3. Date mailed
  4. Mailing list used
Then provide a line for each day, beginning with the day you receive your first reply, and include the following information:

Date: # of replies received Total # received to date % response

It might look like this:

Mailing: Fall Subscription Promotion
Quantity mailed: 10,000
Mail date: February 1, 2006
List used: Modern Postcard

Date: #of Replies Total # Received to date % response
2/15 21 21 .21
2/16 36 57 .57
2/17 42 99 .99

This simple form will allow you to track the response to your mailing.

There are other facts you will also want to keep track of as you start to build a customer list. Each time you receive an response you will want to add that name to your database of customers and/or prospects. The computer can handle this job very neatly and there are some ready made software packages that you can purchase as your list begins to grow.

Your database will need the following information:

Name and address of the respondent
The date they responded
The offer they responded to with the exact code of the mailing
The amount of their order and how they paid for it

As you begin building this database, each time you have another transaction with that customer you will want to add the information to their record. In this way you will be able to establish good information on each of your customers. You will be able to use this information to track their value to you over the years of your relationship and you will also be able to identify your best customers. Those "best" customers might be singled out for special promotions or special follow up.

Good records are the key to your success with direct mail. Start out correctly and you will be building a valuable tool on which to build you future.

I am busy... and my clients count on me to make the right decisions for their projects. I know I'm going to get the best... and I know it's going to happen when I want it and how I want it.
Ralph Barnes