I've written before about the direct mail "rules" people like to toss about. The truth is, every one of these "rules" will fail to garner the response you expect at some point along the way. And accompanying these "rules" are some persistent myths about direct mail.
I often hear versions of these myths when I'm working with a client for the first time. And like most myths, these are stories that have been passed down through the organization so long that people don't even question them anymore.
5 Direct Mail Myths I Hear Again and Again
1. People don't have time to read long letters, so we should keep it to one page.
2. A closed-face Outer Envelope always beats a Window Envelope with a teaser.
3. Direct Mail is too old-fashioned looking/sounding for our donors.
4. Direct Mail only generates "small-time" donors.
5. A Premium always boosts response.
Let's Bust that First Myth
A lot of organizations, especially those starting out in Direct Mail, will listen to board members, staff, or their own guts when it comes to letter length. And that is exactly the wrong approach. Because most of us would say that we'd prefer a short letter that gets straight to the point, but when it comes time to respond to direct mail, we rarely act as we say we will.
That's why most Direct Mail consultants will recommend trying a 4-page letter for most direct mail. It's a pretty standard recommendation, and it comes with a mountain of data behind it. The fact is, even though we say we want shorter letters, for most organizations, longer proves better.
But not all organizations...and maybe not yours.
Direct Mail Fundraising expert Mal Warwick says that a Direct Mail letter should be "as long as it needs to be to make your case for giving." That means that you have to look at why you're writing the letter -- is it an acquisition? A special appeal? A renewal? -- and jot down a list of what you're trying to accomplish with that letter.
Need to squeeze in a story, a couple of asks, a strategy and your history of success on the issue? Then you're probably going to need four pages.
But if you just want to remind your donors why the gave in the first place and of the importance of giving every year to support your work, one or two pages will probably suffice.
But even with those guidelines, you still don't really know how long your letter should be until you test.
Your letters should be exactly as long as your donors tell you they want them. And they tell you not with their words, but with their actions. When you get the most donors to respond to your letters, you'll know your letters are the right length, whether their two, four, six or some other number of pages.
Questions about letter length? Post them in the comment section. And be sure to check in next week as I bust Myth #2!