The 40/40/20 Rule

Starting up a direct mail campaign can be an exciting and overwhelming process. You may be eager to design the look, struggling to find a catchy phrase, or looking for just the right thing to catch attention and make your campaign successful, but where do you start? What do you focus on? Which elements really mean the most to your final results?
Thankfully, there is a tried and true formula often forgotten by today’s marketers, the 40/40/20 rule.

Developed by marketing guru Ed Mayer in the 1960’s, the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing is a tried-and-true formula for success that all businesses should follow. The dictum is that 40 percent of your direct marketing success is dependent on your audience, another 40 percent is dependent on your offer, and the last 20 percent is reserved for everything else including how the material is presented.

Audience (40)
Knowing your audience is one of the first steps to success on your direct mail campaign. It goes without saying that if you are promoting a surf shop on the west coast, you probably want to be targeting individuals interested in surfing and water sports on the west coast, and maybe not directing large scale mailers to individuals living in Kansas. This makes your mailing list a key component. If you don’t have a mailing list of current customers and interested parties (or that is not who you are targeting) there are other options out there. L+L Printers can work with you to purchase a pre-qualified list from a merchant which have mailing lists that target a broad range of consumer demographics and businesses and can help you define your niche in the market place.
Offer (40)
What you offer is very important to your direct mail success. Whether your audience is existing or new customers, they are unlikely to buy on the simple knowledge that you exist. You need a solid offer to excite them. While “free” can be an attention catching word but you want to be sure there is value behind it. Using “free” can push those who are on the fence to purchase but be cautious of cheapening your offer. While “free” is more engaging than words such as “complimentary or “at no charge” it can become valueless if an audience has been exposed to it over and over. To avoid this consider using another marketing tactic, transparency. Outline the exact value of the “free”, assigning a retail price allows the customer to really see what they are getting for free. Above all else make sure your offer is good, as vague as this sounds, you know what a good offer is verse what an ok offer is. Put yourself in the position of the buyer not the seller. What would get you to buy?
Everything Else (20)
This is a broad category, including: your message, your design, the means of delivery, and when the piece will deliver.

What are you going to say? Surprised this falls under the 20% and not into something bigger? Like any other marketing piece, you only have the customer’s attention for a short period of time. You want to make it count. The important thing is focusing on a clear and concise message, checking grammar and having multiple people read it over. Do others get the same understanding from the message that you do?
Design doesn’t just mean what the printed piece looks like. Take your time to talk to your sales reps about paper stocks, coatings, and weights. These elements can change the value, the look, and the emotional response your piece may generate.
How is your message going to deliver? Are you sending a postcard, a brochure, a poster? How big or small will it be? Each one of these means has their own purpose and their own list of pros and cons.
Delivery? What day of the week do you want the piece to deliver? Is it specific to a season or a holiday? Make sure your offer gets to the customer with plenty of time to use it if there is a specific time frame with the piece.



It’s important to remember that each part of the 40/40/20 method is essential. Ignoring a part weakens the rest and hurts your response and ROI. Like any method, it can take some experimenting to get the values just right for your personal campaign. Don’t be afraid of a flopped direct mail piece, even the most remembered brands have a campaign that didn’t work. Those failed attempts can be the steps to perfecting your own successful marketing campaign.


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