For years, the reply card was an absolute must for any direct mail package to succeed.

But now with the availability of 800 numbers, faxes, email and landing pages, some marketers have decided skip the reply card altogether.

“We have enough response options,” they argue.   “We no longer need a reply card?”

Is this smart?  Is the reply card really expendable?

I don’t think so.

I say a reply card is still essential.  And the more response channels you have, the better.

Direct mail respondents choose their method of response based on several factors: (1) personal preferences, (2) convenience and (3) on their interest level.

1) Personal preferences.  Many assume that today’s respondents (especially younger audiences) will want to use email, web and mobile text to respond.  To some extent they may be right, but this doesn’t apply to everyone.  How many will you miss if you don’t offer other options?

2)Convenience.  If you prospect is heading home from work on the commuter train, he or she may not have online access to respond to a landing page.  A reply card would come in very handy.

3)Interest level. Prospects who are highly interested are likely to pick up the phone to respond (knowing full well they will likely end up talking to a sales rep).    Less interested prospects (but still somewhat interested) will be more inclined to use a reply card because it provides a safer “distance” from the company’s follow-up sales effort.

One added advantage of the reply card is that it helps your package to shout out, “Reply!”  It’s a physical component whose only purpose is to help the reader respond to the package.   This is much more effective than simply providing contact information on a letter or brochure.

I understand that many marketers think of reply cards as “old school” and not as appealing  as some of the newer response channels.

I also understand that a reply card adds to the cost of a package – although usually just a few cents.

And I understand that some marketers don’t want to bother with setting up a business reply account and meeting postal requirements.   It causes a delay and it can be a pain.

I understand these reasons, but they can’t justify dropping the reply card.

To be sure, if your direct mail package is consistently producing no (zero) responses via reply mail, you have every right to give this some serious thought.  But I doubt you will see that.

The numbers may be slipping – giving away to other channels – but are you willing to let some of those additional responses slip through the cracks for just a few pennies?


This article may be republished at any time as long as it includes the full bio and associated links below.

Bob McCarthy is a marketing consultant specializing in helping companies with lead generation and lead nurturing.  He has two reports you can download:  Step by Step Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing and Making Snail Mail Work – 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."