DM_donts

Most Common Direct Mail Pitfalls: Steer Clear of these Top 10 Don’ts

by whitney.grekin, July 21, 2013

We all know direct mail is one of the most powerful and efficient tools to utilize to market products and services. However, it’s easy to get snagged by things that can work against your efforts.  Below are the top 10 mistakes to avoid, to enable your direct mail campaign to perform at its best.

Mistake #1: Failing to Identify Your Target Audience.

Be sure to take full advantage of the fact that direct mail gives you the ability to target specific individuals, providing the capability to pinpoint what segments of the market are likeliest to respond.  Depending upon your business, your mailing may not need to cover a complete area. Hence, the more homes you mail to may not garner more results.  Think about who your perfect customer is. Do they own their home? Are they in a particular income bracket? Was an area recently affected by a weather condition that requires your product or services? Use specific criteria to target your best customer and get your message out to those inclined to purchase your products or use your services. Remember, not every resident or business owner of a city, zip code or neighborhood you wish to reach may fit this criteria, so don’t waste time and money mailing to them. (On the other hand, if your business can benefit from reaching a broader market, sweeping neighborhoods or zips with Every Door Direct Mail from the USPS can help you get the word out in a cost-effective way.)

Mistake #2: Using a Bad Mailing List.

If you plan to rent a list, choose wisely! Mailing to contacts that are not a suitable fit with the criteria for your business is a huge waste and can also be embarrassing. You can work with a list broker who can assist you in locating up-to-date lists that match your specific requirements. But it’s not all up to the broker – you hold a stake in the list selection process as well.  Small business owners and marketing managers should review and understand what the selected list(s) have in common with their customer base or existing donors, in the case of nonprofits. Also, be mindful of where the list(s) you are selecting originated – are the contacts from surveys, magazine subscribers, previous buyers of like products/services, etc. Remember, your mailing list is one of the most critical elements of your direct mail campaign. If the information is inaccurate or outdated, it will mar your effort – plus, mailing to those who are not a fit wastes time, materials, and money!

More On the Subject of Bad Lists: How Tidy is Your House Mailing List?

You may think your list of past customers or hot prospects is ready to mail. How old are the contacts? When did you last update them? Never rely on unclean data. By that, you need to regularly scrub your in-house (customer and prospect) mailing list to avoid mailing to inaccurate addresses, those who have requested to be removed your list, deceased individuals, and/or those who have moved or changed employment.

Mistake #3: Not Providing a Compelling Offer.

Your direct mail piece will never perform if your offer is non-existent, unclear, or uninspiring. You want your mailing to elicit a response so you’ve got to motivate the recipient to act. Remember to tweak your offer along with your product or service’s benefits so that it appeals across the different segments you are targeting. Think about what you can offer – free shipping, a limited time discount, two for one, the solution to a current problem/need, a product or service that saves time, money, etc. Whatever the perk or perks are, be sure you address them in your mailing to spark interest.

Mistake #4: Not Presenting a Clear “Call to Action”

Direct mail is meant to motivate your recipient to do something. Besides looking pretty and telling people all about your offering(s), your mail piece must to convince those who open it to take action: buy, donate, call, visit web site, etc. Tell your recipients just what it is you want them to do. Remind them throughout the piece, and close with it once again Clearly state just how people can take advantage of the offer and provide several choices, creating a sense of urgency so they will be compelled to act quickly.

Mistake #5: Using Creative that Falls Short.

Nothing turns your recipients away like bad copy and graphics. Think about the content and look of your piece. The copy and design must also engage the recipient. It’s got to be relevant to their needs and easily digested. If you don’t grab them with the look and text, recipients may not even get to your offer, compelling or not.  Be sure your copy and design are polished, professional, and communicate your messaging. If you do not have in-house staff for the art and copy functions, hire professionals to work with you to gain the competitive edge you need.

Mistake #6: Not Streamlining Your Marketing Efforts.

Studies reveal that people are motivated to purchase based on their familiarity with the product or service. Boost the response rate of your direct mail efforts using other channels to raise awareness of your offerings. Mirror the messaging of your mailer in your flyers, local radio, TV spots, billboards or newspaper ads (if you have these in your budget), lawn signs, if applicable, and in your emails and web site copy. By streamlining these efforts in addition to utilizing direct mail, your prospects will become familiar with your company and your products or services, which promotes credibility and trust.

Mistake #7: Excluding Tracking Mechanisms.

To determine how well your mailing performed, you need to include a mechanism with which to track performance.  There are numerous options you can employ to do so, such as including promotional codes for those responding online, creating a unique web landing page, adding a How did you hear about us? field on a web contact form, including a special toll-free phone number, and/or adding a small code on the corner of a business reply card or form used in a particular mailing. People often have preferred methods of contact so you will need to take this into account to correctly keep track. When you have multiple methods in place to track the response rate, not only can you obtain an accurate read on how your mailing did, you also get some valuable insight on how your customers and prospects want to contact you in the future. This will aid you in improving upon your next marketing efforts.

Mistake #8: Taking an Impersonal Approach.

Greet prospects by name in your mailing or even via a personalized URL online, if you have the capability. Personalized mailings and messaging can make your recipient feel that you value him or her as an individual as well understand their wants and interests. It’s a more human approach that can add up on the response side.

Mistake #9: Not Regularly Testing.

There is always room for improvement. However, you’ll never realize where you can bolster your efforts if you don’t regularly execute small tests of variables. This includes testing your list, your offer, different formats, headlines, and even colors. Even if you have a “tried and true” (control) mail piece that gleans results every time, you really won’t know if you could be doing better unless you test. Or, you may have a new mailer that seems to be working… but how do you know for sure? Testing costs a bit of cash, using different creative and printed pieces but in reality, you can’t afford not to test. Even your best control packages get tired. Keep your competitive edge by continuously testing new lists, offers, and elements of creative. Even the select direct mail letters that hold steady as the control year after year require a bit of tweaking in order to maintain a solid response. To be successful, you must continuously push for better results and a testing program will help towards this end.

Mistake #10: Insufficient Follow Up.

Plan ahead for those responses! You must be ramped up to quickly fulfill the orders or requests that your mailing generates. If you can’t act swiftly and end up disappointing your prospect, why go through all the effort of making an offer via direct mail in the first place?

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