InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, September 2011
When I started in the insurance business, I had to generate all my sales from cold prospecting. After a couple of years of cold-call hell, I decided to give direct mail a try. I spent about two months writing the copy, acquiring testimonials and designing the piece. To save money, we printed the mailers in the office, bought a mailer folding machine and manually tabbed them one by one.
From there I got a bulk postage permit and got everything in line for the mailing, which took an inordinate amount of time. Then I took the big stack of goldenrod tri-fold mailers down to the post office and giving the stash to a guy who looked like Newman from Seinfeld. (You know, the post office guy who Jerry hated? I could have sworn it was his twin brother.)
If this all sounds like a big pain in the neck, I can assure you it was. But what happened next was even worse.
After all my months of blood (paper cuts), sweat and tears, my marketing piece finally went out in the mail. Then reality hit. Out of the hundreds of mailers I sent out, I got only one single call.
I was crushed. I rethought everything I did, and the next time was completely different. I started getting phone calls, and they just kept coming… and they didn’t stop!
On that mailer, I made more than $18,000 in commissions, and it only cost me a grand total of about $500 to mail. From there, I turned up the heat. I finally got smart and had a mail house do the mailings for me. We printed 6,000 at a time and dropped 2,000 mailers per week for three weeks each month.
If I was too busy, I would tell them to hold off so I could catch up. It was the most exciting time of my career, knowing that I had a faucet I could simply turn on, and the calls would pour in.
Recently I had a similar experience that also blew my mind.
How I got a 10.3 Percent Response Rate
The rule of thumb with direct mail is that a 1 percent response is decent, and anything above that is good.
Keep in mind, these were not people who went to a website and filled out a form requesting a free report. These are prospects who picked up the phone and called us, asking for a consultation and book. Getting someone to actually pick up the phone and call you is much, much better than chasing them down.
I was pretty happy with that, but again this was the first shot out, and we were testing two different postcards and different lists.
With the tests, we were able to determine which of the two postcards was performing best. The next mailer brought a 6.7 percent response, and the following one was 7.2 percent. The two most recent campaigns brought a 10.3 percent response.
Including the list, printing and mailing, the total cost for sending out 1,000 cards is approximately $700. When you send out 1,000 cards and get 100 phone calls, that’s $7 per inbound phone call. That’s not a resold lead or a name and phone number you have to chase down. That’s a live human being on the other end of the phone, talking to you about a financial consultation. Pretty cool.
So, what’s the secret sauce that allows this all to work so well?
Obviously, the postcard itself is important. The copy is critical to getting people to respond. The first rule of making this work is to solve a “desperate problem.” Money is a desperate problem for many people, whether it’s investing advice, saving more each month or making more.
So that’s right up our alley. Annuities can solve a lot of those “desperate problems.”
You need a good headline that grabs their attention and tells them “What’s in it for me” immediately. From there, you hit them with three of the most powerful and compelling bullet points you can write that communicate the benefits they will receive from giving you a call.
When I say benefits, I mean benefits—not features. Features are “income riders” and “premium bonuses.” This means nothing to the average guy.
A benefit could be “How to guarantee yourself an income for life regardless of Social Security!”
Beyond the headline and the bullet points, you want to have an offer. We offer a copy of our book Safe Money Millionaire, and that works well.
So the copy is important, but the real rocket fuel that makes this work is the list.
This is something I never hear any “gurus” talking about, but the truth is the list is probably 10 to 100 times more important than the postcard or copy. If you have the wrong list, you’re toast. We’ve tested lists that get as low as a .03 percent response. (That’s one-third of 1 percent, using the exact same postcard as a mailing generating a far better rate of return.)
The secret to making this work is to use a list of confirmed direct-mail buyers. This means the list you are using is full of people who have already proven that they respond to direct mail and have actually purchased something through the mail.
When you use a list like this, you are setting yourself up to win, because these people are hyper-responsive. In many cases they’ve responded to a postcard very similar to the one you are using. In order to find these lists, you need to find a good list broker who specializes in financial or business offers. Then talk with them about what list they would recommend and use their expertise to help guide you.
They see what works and what doesn’t, so don’t be afraid to ask them what postcards work and what list would be responsive.
Another word of warning: do not use “compiled” data lists. These almost never work. (Remember the .03 percent response?) A compiled list is 1,000 different sources all put into a big pile and sold together. These usually are not very effective. What you want is a direct data file from a list seller who created the entire list from one source.
So in a Nutshell:
1. You need to have a simple postcard with compelling headlines and bullets and a good offer.
2. Get a list that has proven to contain “direct mail buyers”—preferably buyers of financial services who’ve spent more than $60. (This says they are serious.)
3. Make sure you get a list that is not compiled, but direct from the data source, and consult with your list broker to find the right list that will work for your offer. You often will have to rent a list of several thousand names because of the minimum orders, but you don’t have to mail to all of them at the same time.
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