10 Tips For Increasing Response To Direct Mail Packages Selling Directories
By Robert W. Bly

1. Target previous buyers. Mail to past buyers and tell them specifically why, although they already own a copy, they should get the new edition. For one directory, a test mailing to buyers from 3 years past pulled almost triple the response to a rented list.

2. Play on your good name. When Medical Economics successfully launched Physicians Desk Reference for Nurses, direct mail copy positioned it as “the PDR for nurses.” If your flagship product or publishing company has name recognition, play off that in promotions for other products.

3. Offer a pre-publication discount. The most effective incentive for the prospect to order now instead of later is a pre-publication discount. This can be an actual cash discount or free shipping and handling—or both.

4. Stress the urgency and importance of having up-to-date information. Many prospects don’t ask “why buy” when they see your offer; instead they ask “Why buy now?” Demonstrate to prospects why they need or should want the most current data available. For instance, bringing a manager up-to-date on new safety regulations might help him achieve compliance at lower cost.

5. Differentiate yourself from the competition. If your data is approved by a regulatory agency, for example, then your advantage is that it’s official. On the other hand, if your data is not reviewed by a governing body prior to publication, then you provide expert ratings, guidance, unbiased opinions, or some other advantages the “official” competitor does not. Identify what makes you unique and communicate it clearly in your mailings.

6. Show the potential buyer how he or she can profit by putting your directory to use. One obvious benefit is saving time. Your prospect knows that using old directories means wasted mailings and phone calls to update old listings and reach the right people. Position the purchase of the new edition as a drop in the bucket compared to time and money saved as well as better results obtained.

7. Talk about the important people or companies who rely on your book. Communication Briefings uses this technique in direct mail selling their newsletters; half a page of the 4-page letter is a box listing Fortune 500 companies that subscribe. Tell your prospect about the prestigious companies in his field that buy your directory, or about the important associations that endorse it.

8. Quantify the improvements in the forthcoming edition. Be specific. How many listings out of the total have been revised or updated? How many are new? Give percentages, e.g., “25% of listings updated.” The most important improvement buyers look for is new and updated core information. Second is expanded listings (e.g., more data on each company or product; e-mail addresses added). Third is new features such as photos, maps, guides, glossaries, background articles, etc.

9. Spell out the negatives and penalties of working with old information. A classic example is a mailing for Physician’s Desk Reference that warned buyers of older editions that the information was dated and should not be used when making clinical decisions. The mailing included a warning sticker the buyer could place on the cover of their old directory until the new one arrived!

10. Test a guarantee. A number of directory publishers are successful without offering a money-back guarantee. That may be the case with you; however, you should still split test no-guarantee vs. 30-day money-back guarantee (or even 60 or 90 days) if you are currently not offering a guarantee. Doesn’t it make sense to confirm whether your current offer is the most profitable possible?


Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter with 20 years experience in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has written direct mail packages for Phillips Publishing, Agora Publishing, KCI Communications, McGraw-Hill, Medical Economics, Reed Reference Publishing, A.F. Lewis, and numerous other publishers.

Bob Bly
Copywriter, Consultant and Seminar Leader
22 East Quackenbush Avenue, 3rd Floor, Dumont, NJ 07628
Phone (201) 385-1220, Fax (201) 385-1138

email: rwbly@bly.com