Use the Psychology of Direct Mail to Boost Your Sales

Direct Mail seems to be back in fashion. Let me tell you why and how you can use human psychology to boost your business.

Perry Marshall Newsletter

Perry Marshall Newsletter

The thing is that we’re constantly overwhelmed with so much cr*p in our inboxes everyday that it’s a real battle for marketers just to get the attention of our readers. People are much more selective about what they read and if you’re not sending quality material, your emails will become just another email to delete. Even if it’s quality, it might be flagged to be read later (if we ever get to it) since we have so much to get through anyway in the inbox. When Google added the promotions tab to Gmail recently, there was panic and uproar in the email marketing community. OMG, what’s going to happen to my emails? Are they still going to get read? What should I do? 

No wonder direct mail seems to be making such a sudden comeback. With direct mail, you can really set yourself apart. People get a nice feeling when they open the mail and get stuff. I certainly feel that way when I order goods from Amazon or when my favourite copywriters send out their monthly newsletter (which I eagerly await).

When everyone else is trying to stand out among hundreds of daily emails, you will get VIP treatment by being the only one that has graced their letterbox. It’s a surefire to get their attention. Imagine what happens if you’re sending content or items of great value to your list in their inbox. Now, if what you’re doing is rubbish to begin with, then no amount of direct mail or emails will fix that. But assuming you have something valuable to offer, then direct mail should be an essential part of your overall marketing strategy.

The higher your customer value, the more you should be taking advantage of direct mail. If your entire product line is a $27 eBook, then you should focus on adding more products and having a good back end. However, most of you fall into one of two categories: one, you have some information products (free and paid) on the front end and services on the backend (health professional, gym, marketing consulting services, speaker, coach, etc.); two, a portfolio of information products.

Surprise Your Customers

By offering something tangible, you increase customer loyalty and increase the likelihood of getting paid. One of my favourite strategies to use is to surprise my paying customers. It’s one thing to say that you’re going to send something and then send it but quite another when they have no idea that something good is about to arrive (although it can still work very well even if they expect the parcel. Check out This does wonders to increase customer value.

When most people order from the internet, they have a slight suspicion that they’re going to get screwed. So just the fact that you delivered at all gives you a list of customers that you can market to again which is far more easier than trying to find new customers whose skepticism you have to overcome. Hence the statistic that it’s something like 5 times more expensive to prospect for new customers than to sell to existing ones. Now when you exceed their expectations, several psychological factors come into play.

The Psychology of a Pleasant Surprise

Firstly, they like you and trust you more. They become more receptive to your message. That means that when they see an email from you, they’re far more likely to open it. If you’re a nobody to them, it’s very unlikely they’re going to open your email unless you have a laser targeted subject line.

Secondly, we have a need to reciprocate kindness (and unkind acts as well). When we receive something, we feel obliged. That’s why charities give you something first before asking you for donations in return. For example, some charities in my local Sydney area send out a bunch of stickers (unsolicited) with your name and address so that you can use them on envelopes saving you time to write out your return address yourself. In return, they would ask that you make a donation. Of course when the one charity did it, so did everyone else and it lost its effectiveness.

Thirdly, we’re rewarding them for being customers. We’re incentivising customers to buy from us. Incentives are hugely powerful triggers. Whether it’s money, sex or personalised gifts, they work.

When you combine these factors together, you’ve got a lollapalooza effect. Imagine what will happen when you send out a special customer offer. You will get response rates through the roof.

Direct Mail Qualification

I like to qualify before I send anything (they’re already paid customers before they get anything in the post from me). But if you’re in an industry where transaction size and margins are high (e.g. real estate, finance) or you’ve qualified your list based on actions they’ve taken, then you can offer them physical goods for free on the front end. You can qualify your prospects based on actions they’ve taken in Infusionsoft (e.g. watched video x, read article y, submitted form z, and so on).

You can also charge a nominal fee like $1.00 to qualify your prospects as well as get their address. The benefit of doing something like this is that you get a small commitment. Human beings have a tendency to be consistent and getting that $1.00 increases the odds of them purchasing from you again.

What to Send

Lumpy mail generally works quite well. But you should be creative here. Think what your customers would genuinely value. If you’re a nutritionist for example, you can send out an information booklet or book if you have one. Better yet, you can send a nicely designed dieting book customised for your ideal prospect which contains your advise and sections where they can make personal entries. You can have them designed locally and sent for production in China really cheap.

If you have a recurring subscription, then sending something like a newsletter out monthly can work really well. You can also send DVDs/CDs (exclusive content, interviews, etc.).

Psychology Principles in Summary

  1. Liking
  2. Reciprocity
  3. Incentives
  4. Commitment and Consistency
  5. Scarcity — I didn’t go over this but you’re going to be much more convincing if you say only 57 books left rather than only 57 eBook left

Further Reading

If you haven’t read Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, I would purchase it right now. It’s probably one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

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