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Aviva’s direct mail tips for advisers

Communicating by post

Direct mail refers to communications that are carefully targeted and usually posted, although direct mail can take the form of emails, letters, brochures, news articles or even postcards.

Direct mail can be a cost-effective way of contacting hundreds of potential clients. If you follow some simple rules, it can help you get a message across without spending huge sums on advertising, but it is important to understand what’s involved and three of the main keys to success – targeting, testing and timing.


You’ll need to know people’s names and addresses. This could be data taken from your own client base; you could use a directory of local businesses, or you could think about buying details (known as cold data). Warm data (details about people or businesses with whom you have some kind of relationship already), is far more likely to be receptive to your message.

However, some data providers can give you very specific targets. For example, you could send a campaign to residences in a postcode where a lot of high net worth individuals live. The more specific you are about your audience (and the more pertinent your message is), the more likely it is you’ll get a good response.


Think about your own experiences of receiving direct mail – some you read, some you don’t. Why? Is it the colour scheme of an envelope that puts you off? Too many words on the page? Not a product that interests you? Or are there too many messages included in the letter – you can’t work out what they’re asking you to do? Testing your direct mail content is vital. Multi-testing – deciding on two or three versions of the message in your campaign, and measuring the success rates across similar audiences – is recommended, even though it may feel like ‘wasting’ some of those valuable contacts.


The impact of good and bad timing can’t be overestimated. Again – think about the mail you receive at home. When you read it, do you have much time to consider a lot of content, or do you prefer messages that are straight to the point? Are you open to a seasonal annual offer, just after you’ve renewed the last one – or just before? Would you be more receptive to information that echoes current news stories, or old? Could you link a topical subject, something you’ve heard on the news, to the products you’re discussing with your clients?

When you have identified your target audience, you can shape your message to meet their needs. There’s no need to invest in expensive marketing materials – a simple, well-written letter can work just as well.


Your next campaign can always improve on the last one, if you take stock of the responses you receive. Decide what your measure of success will be – it may simply be the number of returned coupons you receive; you could also gauge it by the amount of business you generate. Analyse the replies you do receive to a campaign carefully; each learning you can take from a direct mail exercise will help you shape the next piece of activity. Again, this points back towards testing your communications on a small audience first.

If you create a structured campaign, success rates can be easily measured. In addition to the number of responses (response rate), which is a simple ratio to calculate (number of items posted vs. number of responses received), in marketing terms success is also calculated as ‘cost per spend’. It’s the amount of return, financially, that you achieve per £1 spent on each mail item. Over time, you can use the data you collect – responses; converted business; opinions about your direct mail collateral – to fine-tune your next campaign.

So why choose direct mail?

Direct mail gives you great flexibility. It’s up to you, when you send a communication out – and there’s almost no limit the variation in design and format of your message – from postcards to letters, ‘widgets’ to leaflets, brochures with accompanying sales letters or news articles with an appropriately worded compliment slip.

Although you may be sending the same message to hundreds or thousands of people, you’re entering into a confidential ‘conversation’. When you run a successful direct mail campaign, recipients are engaging with you directly. They’re not as open to the same messages from your competitors, as they could be in local advertising.

Our direct mail tips for financial advisers:

  1. Start small. Target current clients with information they may find interesting that relates to something in the news. Don’t forget the value of segmentation in this exercise.
  2. Make sure your letters are always well written and double-checked for errors. Never be afraid to ask a colleague for comments, or help with proofreading a document.
  3. Don’t clutter the communication with lots of different messages. You may have lots to say, but people are more likely to absorb a single thought than digest a host of information in an unsolicited letter.
  4. Outline the benefits of responding or reacting to the communication. Give people a reason to get in touch – and make it a good reason.
  5. Give your message a clear call to action, always ask for a response and be specific about how people should get in touch with you.
  6. Make life easy for your clients. Consider postage-paid envelopes, including your email address, phone numbers and any social media details that could help people contact you or your office.
  7. Record the results of your campaign – analyse it carefully – so that you can refer back to previous activity and improve on it moving forwards. Who did you send direct mail to? How many responses did you receive? What was your clients’ perception of the communication? You could also build an outbound calling campaign as an integrated piece of quality control activity.

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