In Direct Mail, More Is Less: How Oversaturation Kills ROI

Yes, we are saying that more mail pieces actually get you less as far as results go with direct mail. Don’t be fooled by the notion that more choices, more text and more offers are better. That does not hold up to reality. It is harder for your prospects and customers to make a choice, understand more text and pick from multiple offers than if you stick with one or two.

Yes, we are saying that more mail pieces actually get you less as far as results go with direct mail. Don’t be fooled by the notion that more choices, more text and more offers are better. That does not hold up to reality. It is harder for your prospects and customers to make a choice, understand more text and pick from multiple offers than if you stick with one or two.

With two, they can make a comparison. Once you move past two, you get confusion. Confused people do not buy. Your ROI will reflect your “too many choices” with poor results. Not sure if I am right? Let’s look at some key ways people process your mail pieces.

  • Decision Processing — Good decisions are processed in three steps, on avaerage. The steps are: know the importance of your goals, consider your options to meet them and pick the winning option. Knowing this, you can help them make decisions faster by providing them with the benefits of your product or service to them in your copy. The more options you offer, the harder it is for people to make decisions. When decision-making is hard, people tend to just not do it. Your mail pieces should make it easy for them to decide to buy from you.
  • Intake — As people are looking over your copy, they skim as they read. Many tests have shown that what resonates with them is the last item read; make sure your strongest copy is last, in order to convince them that it is in their best interest to buy from you. The more positive spin you put on the benefits, the better people feel about your product or service and the more eager they are to buy.
  • Past Experience — All decisions we make are based on past experiences, but your prospects and customers can be influenced by other people’s experiences, too. That is why testimonials about your product or service are very important. Your customers and prospects can relate to others’ experiences and want to get that experience for themselves.
  • Familiar — People buy from companies that they are familiar with, so your company branding is important and must be carried through all your marketing channels. They need to be able to recognize you to help them decide to buy from you.

Take the confusion out of your direct mail pieces in order to increase your response rates. Your prospects and customers are inundated with marketing messages all day long in various forms. In order for your mail pieces to resonate, you need to grab attention with your design and then wow them with concise, easy-to-read copy. Focus on how great their life is going to be by using your product or service. Then make it a limited time offer so they respond quicker. Finally, make it easy for them to buy from you.

Stay away from multiple offers per mailer; target the right people with the right offer. You can still have multiple offers in your campaign; just send different offers to different people. When you are not sure what offer will work best, do an A/B test so half of the people get one offer and the other half get the other offer. You can then analyze your results to see which offer worked better. There are enough difficult choices in the world, make buying from you an easy choice and you will see your results increase. In your marketing, you cannot be everything to everyone. You need to be something to someone. Focus on the someones. Are you ready to get started?

The Positive Psychology of NO CHOICE

When asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

choicesWhen asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

Making choices actually depletes our brain energy and distracts our mental focus in ways that often lead to inertia, or procrastination of important events, and fatigue. In fact, several studies have shown that:

the more little decisions we make, the more it taxes our ability to make bigger decisions that are important to our advancement toward life’s bigger goals.

For example, a study conducted by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and colleagues showed that participants who made several small choices while shopping were less likely to do well when asked to solve a simple algebra problem. This inability to go from a series of small choices to a more complex mental activity proved true with other tasks they conducted in this same study, which involved college students. Per the task studied involving students from prestigious universities, researchers found that students were more likely to put off studying for important tests if preoccupied with smaller decisions at the same time.

Vohs and her team conducted four different tasks associated with choice for their overall study and made some fascinating observations and conclusions:

  • Making choices can deplete the brain and body, creating mental and physical fatigue
  • Having to make choices is more depleting than just looking at options
  • Implementing choices imposed on you by somebody else is less draining
  • If you anticipate that making choices will be a fun and rewarding experience, the decision process is less depleting

These findings have substantial implications for anyone in marketing, whether B-to-B or B-to-C: If you want your customers to make quick decisions to purchase from you, and have an energizing vs. depleting experience, simplify the decision process by offering fewer choices.

Sounds counter-intuitive to some, but think about it. When you are faced with choosing from dozens of products on a shelf with lots of price and promise variations, you end up having to think more, analyze more, and it often results in muddled thinking and confusion. Per the above studies, you and many other consumers have likely made the choice to not choose when choosing becomes too time-consuming and exhausting. It happens when shopping for cars and even personal products at a grocery store. We get “depleted” mentally when trying to decide which product to purchase based upon our mental process to make sure we get the best deal, best value and don’t make decisions we might regret.

As a business, we need to do whatever we can to make choosing our products simple and energizing vs. depleting.

If you’re selling software as a service, such as a SaaS platform for CRM or some other business function, you likely have a big range of services people can choose from, and different price ranges for “packages” of those services. If you have three packages to choose from, your chances of getting sales quickly are likely going to be greater than if you gave them 10 packages to choose from or ask customers to create their own bundle out of dozens of services you offer.

And if you make that choice “safe,” by providing a generous cancellation or opt-out clause, you take the fear out of an easy choice. This is critical to the psychology of choice, as both of these activities take less energy from our mental capacities. And when we use less energy worrying or stressing or contemplating, we have more energy to anticipate the reward of that decision.

So ask yourself these key questions:

  • Do my offerings or sales model drain or sustain brain energy?
  • How can I simplify choices without making customers feel like they have none?
  • How can I make choices a replenishing, energizing experience that makes customers feel good about their decisions and my brand?

When you can build your sales offerings and marketing messages around the answers to those three questions you can transform your brand’s ability to close deals. And that can transform your bottom line and competitive advantage for a long time to come.

Don’t Make Me Think — Or Choose: Marketing From a Position of Strength

You think you’re being helpful by offering your site visitors and email subscribers a lot of choices. You’re not. You’re being counter-productive. And you may even come across as a little desperate. The counter-productivity is a result of our natural inclination to shut down when confronted with too many options to process.

Position of StrengthYou think you’re being helpful by offering your site visitors and email subscribers a lot of choices. You’re not. You’re being counter-productive. And you may even come across as a little desperate.

The counter-productivity is a result of our natural inclination to shut down when confronted with too many options to process. You’ve probably heard of this referred to as analysis paralysis or the paradox of choice.

These phenomena are very real, and offering too many choices, even if they are presented in a visually compelling fashion, leads a higher percentage of your audience to opt for “Door No. 3” — doing nothing.

Offering fewer choice requires that you do the research and planning work before crafting your offer so that you know what will resonate with each of your audience segments. Once you’ve done the work to establish your audience’s needs, there’s no risk in offering a manageable number of options. You already know what they want.

Reducing that risk has the added benefit of eliminating even a whiff of the desperation that comes with trying to please everyone all the time.

Appealing a little to everyone isn’t the goal. The goal is to appeal strongly to those best suited to benefit from your product or service. This allows you to market from a position of strength. You’ve built a great offer around a product you know to be of value to your target audience. Now you know your marketing is much more helpful than intrusive. (Assuming you’re backing it up with great content.)

Don’t dilute your message with extraneous choices or choices designed to appeal to other segments. Those belong elsewhere, on separate landing pages or in emails targeted specifically to those segments. (You are segmenting your email list, right?)

The action you want your audience to take should be immediately clear, apparent, and transparent. This isn’t the Penn & Teller show. You’re not going to trick anyone into taking meaningful action.  You can only convince them that what you’re offering is worth their time.

That isn’t to say that you want to offer your audience no choice. Frequently, a choice of options is appropriate for even a tightly segmented audience. But that choice should be limited to just a few options. As in two or three — tops.

And your CTAs should not be equally weighted. As I mentioned above, there should be a clear objective, with everything in the email or landing page pointing toward that desired action. The secondary action(s) should be just that — secondary. They should be an acknowledgement that our research and data and segmentation might not be perfect and that some members of our audience might be just slightly off the target you’ve created. That’s OK. Those secondary choices also serve to re-affirm the choice the bigger part of your bell curve is making.