Now is the time to plan your spring direct mail campaign. And just because you do not currently do one, does not mean you should not be thinking about it.

Direct mail is still the only source of new orders that can be projected with any degree of accuracy and until digital marketers get excited at net orders rather than open rates, that always will be the case. The question is: Apart from the usual marketing tools available to help increase response, what else can be done? Direct mail can be expensive, but there are things you can test that might help increase orders and offset some of the cost.

If your magazine is on the newsstand, consider increasing the draw in key markets for a couple of issues to coincide with your direct mail campaign. Newsstand sales often increase because people see your magazine on the shelf and decide to give it a try. Do not go crazy here because this will add cost to your bottom line, but sometimes a little bit can get you an awful lot.

Also consider giving people access to a digital version of the magazine to check out how great it is. This could simply be your current digital edition or the current digital edition with interactive components relating to the mailing—including several different ways people can pay online.

Making direct mail profitable is what it is all about, but unless your family name is Midas and you have “the touch,” chances are you are going to lose money on new business direct mail campaigns. However, the objective should be to lose as little as possible. So, consider testing the automatic renewal option for direct mail orders in your mailing. I am big not a fan of this technique, but more and more I see publishers using an automatic renewal option in their new subscription promotion so it is certainly worthy of a test. But, test this carefully.

The more you can do to increase exposure of your magazine the better off you are going to be. As that wise old sage of publishing once said “The Economist is its own best ambassador, so it is sensible to offer sampling.” Now of course we can sample online which makes sampling even more cost effective, but proves yet again The Economist almost always makes the right decisions.

Next time we will look at specific ideas and techniques you can test in your direct mail package to help increase response and will not break the bank.