Direct Marketing: A Lost Art? Part 2. The Mail Package Sequence

By September 10, 2009Uncategorized

My friend and expert in Direct Marketing is going to share some of her incredibly comprehensive experience on the blog. Direct Marketing is incredibly important for pharma/biotech; and even though it is used prevalently, it is not used with a formal discipline. Claudia Long ( knows more about DM than nearly anyone I know. We all can learn. And hopefully, she will have more"lessons" to share. For any client-side folks reading this, I urge you to challenge your agencies to show their real DM understanding. It has a direct impact on the ROI of your work.


I want to thank Alfred for inviting me to post on the topic of direct marketing. Having been a marketer for more than two decades, I welcome the opportunity to share my experience.

But where to start?  I chose ‘sequence,’ or ‘flow’ because it demonstrates a core principle of direct – a holistic approach that is rooted in ‘reaching out and touching someone.’


In pharma particularly, we must recognize and adhere to the regulatory environment we operate in, while still creating work that is empathetic and patient-centric.

I think of every good direct piece as a journey on which you lead your prospect/reader, with a distinct starting point – in the case of mail, the OE– then specific touchpoints along the way to create interest and inform, all with a strong, clear drive to the destination – the call to action.


My advice to clients when initially presented with a concept is to FIRST put yourself in your reader’s position. One reader, that is. A letter is a convention, a communication from one person to another.  Whom are you talking to, who will most benefit from what you have to offer? You must understand your prospect as completely as your product.

Imagine them at their mailbox. What is their state of mind as they see your package? If you were him/her would you open it? That’s the first test. If it fails, it doesn’t matter what’s in the rest of the package.


The second step on the journey is the letter, which should be the next thing they see. The headline, or whatever pops first graphically, should be directly related to the OE teaser and be compelling enough to move them forward into the package.


I learned the craft of letter-writing from Emily Soell of Rapp and Collins, a DM pioneer. One of the first things she taught me was creating the voice of the letter writer. Who is this individual? Your reader needs to know who is talking to them and why, immediately.

Once you establish the voice, you begin to develop credibility and connection. You must convince your reader that you know who they are, what their issues are, that you care and have something valuable to offer.


Your letter persona must come across as a human being, not a corporation. This is the emotional, bonding part of the experience. If you are successful, your reader will then go to the brochure to learn more, or respond immediately. Trust is key to this process, and the letter has to establish it.


Sequence is important in the brochure as well. I see many that don’t track properly, that don’t lead logically to the next section of information. Make sure your reader never gets confused or bogged down, or you will lose them. If they think “this is too complicated, I’ll get back to it later,” most of the time they won’t.


Finally, all pieces in a package must contain a strong, graphic call to action, with as much immediacy, incentive and authenticity you can muster. Your reader must feel something important is at stake, and it must be easy to act on right now.


Direct marketing is, at its best, not about rules and conventions, but rather about establishing intuitive and emotional connections.


Finally, a word about a specific type of DM package – the fulfillment effort.  I have seen too many that are complicated and unwieldy. Too much information overloads and overwhelms. Never include more than 3 or 4 pieces in a package, and make sure they relate graphically.


Mailing too much defeats the purpose of building a long-term relationship. Offer limited materials and provide easy ways for your reader to interact before you send more. This optimizes your mailing costs and more easily allows a two-way relationship to be built.