Sean McCool

The Profit Funnels Guy

The difference between a good business and a great one can be boiled down to one thing… lead flow. 

Lead flow is the number of new prospects inquiring about your product or service. If you can keep lead flow consistent and plentiful, you can plan for the future, hold firm on pricing and hire the best staff.

So, here’s a three-step plan to increase lead flow to your business through the power of direct mail.

Step 1: Research and Purchase a List

When planning your direct mail campaign, one of the most important factors to plan for is your list. Why waste time and money mailing to people who aren’t interested in what you do?

Some people mistakenly believe a fancy mailing piece is all that’s necessary to get it opened and make sales. Wrong! If that fancy piece promoting your granite or tile business is mailed to someone who doesn’t give a hoot about granite, they will not call.

There are two types of lists – compiled and response – and it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Your list will determine the success of your direct mail campaign.

A compiled list is a huge database of names, addresses and phone numbers compiled from various public records, such as telephone books, mortgage records or tax rolls. 

Many business owners get cheap here and default to a compiled list. This could be a mistake for a company like yours that offers a very niche product.

A response list, however, is more targeted because those names are added only after the person has responded to another offer, such as a magazine subscription, membership clubs, warranty cards or catalogs. 

So, if your prospect would order a decorating magazine subscription, the magazine publisher compiles a list of subscribers and then sells that list to a mailing list supplier who, in turn, sells it to a company like yours.

Using a response list is best for those who are trying to reach a certain niche. For instance, if you’re promoting your granite counter tops, you might want to purchase a managed list with design-oriented magazine subscribers.

No matter what type of list you purchase, ask your list supplier about the costs of niching the list down to your exact target market, using criteria such as age, gender, zip codes and household income. is a great place to see all the possibilities with lists.

Step 2: Make Your Direct Mail Pieces Stand Out From the Crowd

You’ve got the right list. Now, you need to get your prospective customer’s attention. Here are a couple different ideas to try:

1. Use different colored card stock. Plain white postcards with black type may be cost efficient but they are boring and will blend in with everyone else’s postcards. Be unique and choose an “ugly,” or unusual color card stock to catch the reader’s eye.

2. Reduce clutter. Limit just one message per direct mail piece. Remember, you are not selling your service. You are selling a phone call. Then the phone call sells the appointment. And your appointment will sell your company doing the project. Don’t try to sell the project from the postcard. One step at a time.

3. Personalize each envelope. By handwriting the recipient’s name and address, using a real stamp, and not putting a company name in the return address, each envelope will appear to be coming from a friend instead of a corporation. If you’re going to mailing to at least 5,000 names, there are services like that can do this for you.

4. Send a dimensional package. A box or other three dimensional shipping packages will definitely raise the recipient’s curiosity, prompting them to open it immediately for their free gift.

Now, a word of warning… Direct Mail Is Not A One-Shot Deal.

Keep in mind that people are generally not swayed to make a purchase after their first exposure to a campaign. This is true when using direct mail marketing, too. Often it takes 6 or 7 viewings before people decide to buy. This means creating multiple direct mail pieces, tracking and testing the response of each. 

Which leads us to the final step in the process:

Step 3: Testing and Tracking Direct Mail Campaigns

First, What Do You Test?

One direct marketing piece might test a brightly-colored card stock as opposed to a plain white postcard stock. The message and the graphics would be the same except for the color of the paper.

Another item to test might be a handwritten envelope as opposed to a computer-generated label. Or having a website URL printed on the envelope as opposed to a plain white envelope.

Basically, you split your mailing list in half and change just one item from each mailing. If too many features are changed at once, you won’t know exactly which change made an impact. You need to know what works so you can repeat it.

Second, How To Track Results

The only way to know if a direct mail campaign is working is to ask the recipients when they call or visit your website. There are two common ways to track this data:

1. Print different tracking codes on each direct mail piece. Each of these codes will correspond with a particular list and a particular segment of the list. For instance, the list of elementary school teachers in New York who received a bright yellow postcard would have a different code from the elementary school teachers in New York who received a plain white postcard.

Likewise, the second mailing to these same list segments would have different codes from the first, and so on. Creating different codes allows the advertiser to ask for the code each time a phone call comes in and they will know immediately which postcard they received. At the end of the week or the month, tally the results and you’ll know for the next campaign if the colored paper was more successful than the plain white paper.

2. Setup multiple phone lines or extensions for each mailing. This is very easy to do with an Internet phone service or by simply having an organized receptionist directing calls to employees.

For instance, the yellow postcard recipients would dial or ask for extension 100 and the plain white postcard recipients would ask for extension 150. Both of these calls might go to the same person, but now the advertiser knows exactly which mailing the caller is responding to.

Testing and tracking direct mail campaigns isn’t a waste of money; in fact, it’s a very reliable way to improve open rates and sales conversions. Not testing and tracking is like throwing money into the wind and not knowing where it’s going to land.

By fine-tuning these 3 Steps, you can create a never-ending stream of lead flow practically guaranteed to keep your business in the black – no matter what’s going on in the economy.

Sean McCool is an award-winning copywriter and the author of Marketing Secrets of the Ice Cream Man. He is known as The Profit Funnels Guy because Sean shows businesses how to set up multiple Profit Funnels throughout their business. Sean can be reached through his website,