Best practice boosts response

William Rogers was right to point out that mailshot response rates were once about five to six per cent in his letter “Mailshots seem wide of the mark” (MW September 24).

But much has changed in the direct marketing industry over the past five years and many agencies now regularly expect response rates of 40 per cent or more.

The reason for the increase is of course that we now know far more about our own customers than ever before.

So rather than buying in pre prepared lists, we’re building up databases that, when the right marketing techniques are deployed, allow us to know customers’ interests; the reasons they buy our product or service to start with; how they responded to our last contact; their buying behaviour over time; and more. All of this allows us to tailor our communications so they are actively welcomed by these same consumers.

It’s a straightforward process, and one that is especially relevant in the context of relationship marketing. Mr Rogers’ comments reflect the difference between, for example, campaigns with a product focus (low responses typically) as opposed to those focused on the consumer.

Of course not all clients and agencies engage in this type of direct mail. Many still continue to use out-of-date lists to carry missives that by their very nature are too general and fail to be customer sensitive and, accordingly, generate only a small response. Because they talk to the masses, it’s not surprising that individuals don’t respond.

It will be a long time before the lower end of the market disappears. Until that day comes, I’m afraid that like the rest of us Mr Rogers and his postman will have to contend with unwanted junk mail that is well wide of the mark. Our only hope is that as far more agencies start to engage in best practice direct marketing the pile will eventually decrease.

Tony Wightman

Managing director


London W1

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here