Should You Use Direct Mail as a Marketing Tool For Your Answering Service?

If you’ve networked with other telephone answering service owners or attended many TAS meetings,, the subject of direct mail as a marketing tool is bound to have come up: newsletters, post cards, bill stuffers, welcome letters to new businesses, and strategic mailings to selected vertical markets. Some answering services have found success in each of these areas, yet other services have generated little results from doing the exact same thing. “Individual results may vary” seems to aptly apply when it comes to direct mail as an answering service marketing tool.

Here are some points to consider:

Start Small: Begin with a small test run. As long as it can produce measurable results, no effort is too insignificant. For example, if you expect a 2 percent response rate, then you need to mail at least fifty items for the test to be legitimate. While you could do twice as much for greater accuracy, doing half as much will be indeterminate.

Track Results: Numbers don’t lie, but our memory can mislead. Carefully note the number of items sent (and their cost) along with the responses. You need to look at both the number of inquiries made and the number of sales closed. If the inquiries are good, then your copy is great. However, if the number of sales closed is low, then it’s an issue of the sales team and not the marketing collateral.

Attitude is Key: If you expect a direct marketing effort to fail, it probably will. If you expect it to succeed, then it has the best chance for success. The idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy ties in closely with marketing results, not only for direct mail but with any type of campaign.

Delegate Carefully: Often a TAS owner or marketing manager will get a direct mail initiative started and then turn it over to someone else to run. Other times they just hand the project over on day one. Too often the assigned person is more focused on process than results. If their goal is to crank out product that’s what they’ll do. Too often improper delegation will doom a marketing initiative before it starts.

Ramp up Slowly: If a test of a one-hundred-piece mailing gave a 2 percent response rate, don’t expect the same results from a ten-thousand-piece mailing. For any number of reasons direct mail doesn’t always scale well. If a one-hundred-piece mailing meets your expectations, try 150 next.

Cut Losses Fast: If something isn’t working, stop doing it. As they say, don’t “throw good money after bad.” However, sometimes you can give up too soon. For example, if the plan is to send a series of six postcards to make one sale, don’t abandon the program after the third mailing. Push through to the end; then evaluate the results.

Only you can decide if direct mail is right for your answering service. Follow these steps to determine the answer to this question without spending a lot of money, wasting a lot of time, or causing a lot of grief. The results may surprise you.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.