Direct mail is a targeted marketing weapon that can help you sell more books, test new titles, and generate sales leads. When you have a finite, identifiable group of people who are potential customers for your books, direct mail may be the most effective and efficient marketing tool you can use to reach them. It gives you control of the timing, delivery, and content of your promotion, a predetermined fixed cost, and the means to forecast and measure the return on your marketing investment.
The foundation of direct marketing is to get people to act – to place an order for your book or to request more information about your consulting or speaking services. There are several basic propositions you can use by themselves or in various combinations to overcome the recipient’s inertia.
1) Free information. This is often the most effective offer, particularly when your objective is to build a list or generate leads for future business. Tell people that when they send for a copy of your book they will also receive a special report or booklet with free, useful information. You can also direct people to your web site for answers to frequently asked questions.
2) Samples. If you are selling booklets or other low-cost items, a sample will show people the level of information and quality they may expect when purchasing from you. Perhaps making an excerpt available on your web site will accomplish the same result for your books.
3) Conditional sale. If you are selling a subscription, you could offer the premier issue for free if the prospect agrees to a one-year subscription.
4) Yes-No. This is an involvement proposition where the prospect is asked to respond by indicating whether he or she accepts or rejects your offer.
5) Time limit. Setting a time limit on a given offer forces action, either positive or negative. Usually it is more effective to name a specific date rather than a time period.
6) Discounts. A discount is a popular lure and is particularly effective where the value of your book is well established. Three types of discounts are typically offered: for cash, for an introductory order, or for volume purchases. Providing free shipping could be considered a discount if the customer is used to paying for freight.
7) Negative option. This offer prearranges for shipment if the customer does not cancel the shipment by mailing a rejection form prior to the deadline (check state laws before using this technique).
8) Positive option. In this case, every shipment is based on a direct action by the customer.
9) Load-up. This is a favorite of publishers of continuity series. For example, you would offer a set of twelve books, one to be released each month. After the customer has received and paid for the first three books you would invite him or her to receive the remaining nine all in one shipment with the understanding that payments may continue to be made monthly.
10) Free gift. The most important criterion for gift selection is 1) appropriateness of the gift, 2) its effect on repeat business and 3) net profit per thousand including the cost of the gift.
11) Secret gift. If the prospective customer completes all the information on the reply card or order form he or she will receive an extra free, unnamed gift.
12) Advance payment. If you want the customer to order with a credit card or to send a check with the order you could offer an incentive for doing so. This might be a special report or free gift.
13) Add-on offers. If you want your prospects to call you, tell them to ask for your special offer when they speak to your sales person. A variation of this might direct more traffic to your web site.
14) Deluxe alternatives. Give the customer a choice between your perfect-bound book and your special leather-bound edition. An autographed copy could be considered a deluxe alternative, too.
15) Offer a guarantee. The words satisfaction guaranteed are at the heart of all mail order selling. If you include a buy-back option it becomes even more effective.
16) Bounce-backs. This offer succeeds on the premise that the best time to sell people is right after you have sold them. Forms offering more of the same item, related books, or items totally different from that originally purchased, are included in shipments or with the invoices.
17) Optional terms. Here, the objective is to give the prospect the option of choosing terms at varying rates. The bigger the commitment the better the bargain.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books.