3 Simple Ways to Ensure Your Mail Will Be Delivered and Opened

Sometimes dropping your mail off at the post office can feel like you’re throwing it into a vast abyss. Once it’s out of your hands, you have no more control over it. Will it get to real people, or will it end up in the dead letter office? Will the people who receive it read it, or will it end up in the trash unopened?

Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do that will increase the chances that your sale pieces will arrive at the right place and get opened so that they can do their important job of selling your product or service.


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Get Your Mail Delivered

It doesn’t matter how great your copy is, how perfectly designed the sales piece is, or how sweet of an offer you have … if you use the wrong mailing list, your mail will not even show up at the door.

The key element to getting your mail delivered is to make sure you start with an accurate, updated mailing list that you get from a reliable source.

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If you’re sending to a mailing list made up of bad names (wrong addresses, old names that have moved, etc.), you could end up with 25% to 30% of your mail not getting delivered. One of my clients who is in the Financial Publishing industry told me the sad story of a mailing he once did. He sent his pieces first class, so the undelivered mail was returned to him. He knew he had picked the wrong list when he received around 21% of his mail back. Think of all the money that was wasted on printing and postage just because the list was bad.

But there are two aspects to having a good list. Not only does the right list make it more likely that your mail will be delivered, but it is also instrumental in making sure that you get your mail opened by the RIGHT prospects. If your list doesn’t target the people most likely to respond to your offer, it can be useless.

Recently, I once worked with a client who was marketing his product to attorneys. He sent his mailing to a list of attorneys that he bought from a well-known list broker. After the mailing went out he received a number of replies from people who said, “ Why are you sending this to me? I haven’t been practicing law for years.” One of these people who replied told him he hadn’t practiced law in over 6 years! Clearly, the list he bought was way out of date. And considering that he only heard from a small percentage of the people who received his mailing in error. Most people will not write back like this. The folks who wrote to my client were just the tip of the iceberg!

So the piece must have been good because his mail was opened – but not by the right prospects!

For every mailing that you send out, I would suggest finding your list through a source that is known to provide quality names. If you don’t know who these vendors are, then work with a list broker who is well versed in your specific type of market.

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Get Your Mail Opened

Once your mail arrives in the hands of the right prospects, your next goal is to get them to open the piece and look through it. You want to make sure you are using the right format that will most appeal to your prospects. Every market niche has its own qualities, and you need to find out and employ the format the works best for your niche.

For example, suppose you are selling joint pain supplements. It turns out that the most successful type of format to get your mail opened in the joint pain niche is a magalog style. If you want to increase the likelihood that your joint pain supplement sales piece will get opened, your best chance for success is with a magalog.

On the other hand, if you are marketing an information-based product and the purpose of your piece is to drive customers online, you will have the best results if you use a postcard or a 4-page self-mailer.

So now the big question is, how do you know what format you should use for your niche to get your mailed opened? Here’s an important tip… Find out and follow what the most successful marketers in your niche are doing.

Find out and follow what the most successful marketers in your niche are doing.

First, identify the biggest direct mail company in your niche, and then see what they are mailing. If you don’t know who the biggest mailer is, contact a list broker and say, for example, “I’m looking to mail to prospects who buy financial newsletters. Who mails to the biggest lists in my niche?” You’ll probably learn that it’s Agora, and then you can get a sample of what they are mailing.

If you are selling wrinkle cream, do the same thing. Go to the list broker and find out who is the largest wrinkle cream marketer. Then get a sample of their pieces.

The best way to get samples of their pieces, and also to get a feel for how often they mail and what kind of offers they advertise, is to get on their mailing list. When you request to be put on their lists, you can use a less recognizable name and a home address or a PO Box if that makes you feel more comfortable about it contacting your competition. (I’m on numerous mailing lists, and I often use my son’s names.)

You can also get lots of information about what other mailers are doing by researching it in SRDS. If you can’t find this reference book at your public library, request it and they may be able to get it for you on interlibrary loan.

So, do everything you can to find out who is the biggest and best mailer in your niche, see what format they are mailing, and then follow their lead. This is an EASY shortcut to determine the best format to get your mail opened.


Keep Your Mailing List Clean

Here’s a simple but valuable tip. Don’t rely completely on your list provider to give you a clean list. Plus, if you are getting lists from several sources, there could easily be duplicates. For these reasons, always have your mail house run its own list hygiene procedure.

Here are some amazing statistics concerning what could happen if you don’t clean your list . . .

On average, 10% to 15% of every list has bad addresses, wrong Zip codes, and duplicate names. That means that if you mail 10,000 pieces of mail without cleaning your list or running a merge-purge, you could easily end up mailing 1,500 names that are worthless. If you are paying $0.65 for printing and postage, that will cost you $975 – lost money that did you no good at all.

For those who mail over 100,000 pieces, the average number of bad addresses, wrong Zip codes, and duplicate names is closer to 20%. That means that a list of 100,000 will likely have 20,000 bad names, at $0.65 each = $13,000 – all of it wasted!

If you don’t clean your list, you can be sure that you will have a bunch of pieces that did not get delivered. That kind of thing wastes your money, ruins your delivery rate, and reduces the number of orders you will receive.

Don’t throw your money away and threaten the results of your direct mail campaigns. Follow the three simple suggestions given here, and your mailings will be much more successful.


Craig Simpson is the nations leading direct mail consultant and coach. He sends out over 200 mailings per year for his private clients. You can contact Craig at craig@simpson-direct.com or to order his book, The Direct Mail Solution, go to www.TheDirectMailBook.com. You can also visit his website here.

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Topics: Direct Mail Marketing