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NMOA Direct Marketing Article

Essential Equipment for Direct Marketers
By Bob Bly

What's the most important piece of office equipment any direct marketer can own?

It's not a color printer ... a smart phone ... or even a PC. It's a pocket calculator. Costs only a few bucks to buy one, yet many marketers I speak to seem either not to own one ... or if they own one, they don't use it.

Here's what leads me to this conclusion....

At least once a week, I get a call or e-mail that goes something like this: "Bob, my name is John Q. Public. I've self-published a terrific book, and I want you to write a direct mail package to help me sell it. What do you charge?"

After I ask a few questions, I find out what I need to know.... The book has a cover price of $15 ... John printed 3,000 copies at a short-run book printer for $3 a copy ... and therefore his net per copy is $12 each. I tell John to forget it - he'll never make money selling his book with a direct mail campaign. John is shocked. He spent 9 grand of his kid's college fund printing those 3,000 books. They are cluttering his spare bedroom. His wife wants them out of the house.

Bookstores have no interest in carrying John's self-published book. Newspapers aren't reviewing it. He was counting on direct mail to make him rich and famous. And here I am, crushing his hopes and dreams.

Why can't I write a direct mail package to sell his book, John wants to know. "Do the math," I urge John. I get out a calculator and do it for him.

And here's what we find....

His net revenue is just $12 per book. To do a small test of a traditional direct mail package – outer envelope, sales letter, flier, order form, reply envelope - could cost him $600 per thousand or more. Let's say he tests a thousand pieces. At a cost of $600, he needs to sell 50 books just to break even. That's a response rate of 5% -- very difficult to achieve with a rented mailing list.

To double his money on the mailing, and make a profit of $600 on every thousand pieces mailed, he'd have to sell 100 books. That'd mean a 10% response to his mailer - almost impossible. I explain all this to John. He becomes more depressed with every word. I'm not telling him what he wanted to hear.

Don't worry, I tell John. There are dozens of marketing consultants and copywriters out there who will tell you it can work - and will be happy to take your money and write a promotion for you. But that doesn't matter. Because the numbers say that, no matter how great the direct mail copy, the promotion won't make money.

John didn't need me to tell him this. He could have determined it for himself by using the most powerful tool a marketer can own: a pocket calculator. The problem with many marketers - especially entrepreneurs – is that they are "idea people" -- dreamers who think big. Unfortunately, the idea of marketing is not just to innovate ... or be creative ... or have great ideas ... or create really nifty products and services. It's to sell your products and services -- at a profit. And to be an effective marketer, you have to know a few factors like product pricing ... cost of goods ... profit margins ... typical response rates ... cost per thousand.

You then get out your calculator.

And based on those factors, you can quickly determine whether your idea can fly - or is doomed to lose money. In John's case, even if his book sold for $40, I still would have discouraged him. That's because, in direct marketing, the profits are mostly in the "back end" - repeat sales to customers who buy a product from you.

But as a self-publisher who has only one product - his single self-published book - John has no back end. And therefore ... no viable business. By the way, while it's not difficult to calculate the response rate needed to break even on your direct mail campaign, I don't have space to show you the simple formulas here.

So I've created a free online calculator you can use. Just click here to get started: Bob Bly Books and Calculator

About the Author:
Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct marketing. He has written copy for over 100 clients including Network Solutions, ITT Fluid Technology, Medical Economics, Intuit, Business & Legal Reports, and Brooklyn Union Gas...and has won numerous industry awards. Bob is the author of more than 70 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books) and The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt & Co.). Visit:


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