How to improve Response Rates

Guidelines for better overall response rates

  • Build each mailing around a specific offer or action you require of the prospect, and always use the best idea you have.  Sometimes it’s tempting to exploit an old one just because it’s there … resist the notion.
  • Always make sure your business name and address appear elsewhere apart from on the response device.  Include it in the rest of your advert, direct mail letter and so on.  A reader might lose the coupon or want to contact you again at a later stage.
  • Make sure all the information required for the reader to place an order is on the form.
  • Send something to get attention: pens, calendars, luggage tags etc.
  • If you are simply trying to gain vast numbers of names for further follow-up, consider making the response device a reply-paid card.  A self-addressed envelope is another option.  You can increase the response rate still further by filling in the name and address of the recipient on the card.
  • The form must be easy to read and even easier to complete.
  • Use the response device to summarise the message and to repeat your offer.
  • If the respondent must order something, use a reply card with a receipt stub.  This provides a sense of security.
  • Repeat on your response device the closing dates or reply incentives such as early bird discounts.
  • If the response device is there to sell, don’t ask hordes of research questions.
  •  Use incentives:
    •         a discount for an early response;
    •         preferred customer device;
    •         free samples, trials, gifts.
  • Use terms that help sell, such as FREE and DISCOUNT and HALF-PRICE.
  • Time limit offers always produce higher response rates.  Stress these with phrases like “Last chance …” and “Limited time.”
  • Although you should put some closing date on your offers to instill pressure, it’s been proven that an “early bird” incentive boosts response.  It’s a useful way of capturing some responses you might lose through people forgetting to react in the allotted time.
  • Include testimonials from satisfied customers.
  • Confirm the customer’s commitment with a strong “YES, please send me …”
  • “Yes/No” offers consistently produce better results than those without the option of a “No” response.
  • A follow-up to the same list within 30 days will generate additional responses.
  • Free Gift offers outperform discount offers.
  • Use an additional insert as a reminder note: “Read this only if you decide not to make use of our offer.”  It gives the reader one more chance to accept.
  • If you ask your respondents to react by telephoning your business, provide the name of the contact person.  Also ensure that all your staff — especially your switchboard operator — are aware of your campaign and what the goals are.


When selling expensive items, don’t be afraid to make it harder to respond.  It’s a means of qualifying prospects for more expensive sales efforts.  Your number of responses will be lower, but those who do reply usually warrant further expense and effort.

You can increase the quality of your leads by:

  • expecting the respondent to answer many questions, including personal information about himself;
  • stating the price;
  • letting him know that a response will mean a follow-up call by one of your sales staff;
  • providing lots of detail about what you are selling;
  • charging something for further information, such as a brochure;
  • requiring the respondent to affix a postage stamp or provide his own envelope when responding.


If you are simply trying to gain vast numbers of names for further follow-up by direct mail or for invitations to launches or product demonstrations, make the response as easy as possible.

You can increase the volume of leads by:

  • making your response device a reply-paid card.  A self-addressed envelope is another option;
  • filling in the name and address of the recipient on the card, saving him trouble;
  • not providing too much information;
  • offering incentives for responding;
  • offering free information;
  • asking for less information.

Other factors also influence response rates:

  • What is being offered to whom.  Was the right mail list used for the service or product?
  • The offer.  Is there one in the first place?  It seldom happens that a request for information will produce as good a response as when something is being offered to the reader.
  • The make-up of the list.  If you are mailing to customers who have over time proved that they buy regularly by mail, it is usually a good indicator of a higher anticipated response.
  • Seasonal influences.  If your product is affected by seasons, then timing of your mailshot is obviously going to influence results.
  • The format.  A gimmicky mailshot aimed at businesses might fail because it’s not taken seriously enough.
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