Marketing Bootcamp

10 Direct Mail Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

10 Direct Mail Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Image credit: Tek Image | Getty Images
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Believe it or not, the USPS really does know a thing or two about direct mail marketing. Not only do they provide a delivery service for your packages, but after years of delivering direct mail they have compiled a helpful list of what not to do with your campaigns. 

1. You don't identify your audience. I say this a lot, but it’s worth saying again, the more you target your most responsive prospects, the more effective your mailing will be. Mailing to a random sample of names won’t get you the sales you want. On the other hand, it’s amazing how precisely you can refine your lists to reach just the people you want. So spend some time analyzing your best buyers. What is their demographic? What are their other interests? Then use that information to define your most promising mailing universe.

2. You've rented a bad mailing list. Your list broker is your connection to the best lists available. So first, make sure you are working with a reliable list broker. Second, make sure you are mailing to lists that are up-to-date and carefully selected according to your criteria. If you’re not sure, ask questions – especially if your mailing did not perform as expected. Make sure the problem wasn’t in the list.

3. You rely on unclean data. Every list requires a little regular “house cleaning.” You must even perform an NCOA on your own house file (compare the file to the National Change of Address list and update the addresses of those that have moved). You also want to make sure to NCOA lists you buy or lease. This will keep you from mailing to inaccurate addresses, or outdated addresses of people who have moved. Then you want to scrub all your lists of duplicates – especially if you’re mailing to more than one list that may be drawing from the same population. And you want to compare all your lists to Suppress files of people who are deceased, in prison, or whom you don’t want to receive your offer for some reason. An unclean list will cause you to waste money – and you won’t be reaching the true prospects you need to reach.

4. You do not presenting a compelling offer. There has to be a reason why people should respond to your offer. If you just send a piece with information about your product, and no special offer, there’s no reason for them to respond at this time, even if they’re interested. But, if you are offering a special price, a two-for-one deal, a bonus gift, a year of market alerts to go with your financial course, or some other special benefit, people are more likely to read your piece, and order.

5. Your message is impersonal. The more you can personalize your message, the more your prospects will feel that you are speaking directly to them – that you understand what they need and how to fulfill that need. Don’t talk about “people in general.” Use the word “you” – a lot. Write copy that shows you know their mindset. If you can put their name in the piece, that’s great. Even better is offering them a personalized URL (PURL). You want your prospects to read your sales piece and feel as though you are sitting across the kitchen table from them, presenting your message as though you were an old friend. If you can establish that kind of rapport with your reader, your orders will add up quickly.

6. You don't indicate a call to action. One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to direct mail marketing make is failing to “close the deal.” You don’t want to have anything vague about your offer. By the time prospects finish reading your piece, they should know exactly what to do. Not only that, but they should have a sense of urgency to reply to your “limited time only” offer. So, make it clear what they should do (order this product, sign up for a free trial), how they should do it (call, e-mail, etc.), and when they should do it (right away, but certainly within the next 10 days).

7. You use mediocre creative components. Your sales piece has to sell. That means it should be motivating, interesting, irresistible. If your prospects look at the headline and it does not catch their attention, they will toss the piece aside and you’ve lost right out of the gate. Track your mail campaign and keep working on the offer, the benefits, and the description of your product. You must appeal and connect with your target audiences. Keep working on your piece until you get a good response – and then don’t stop. The best direct mail marketers keep improving their pieces so they get an even better response the next time. Which brings us to the next mistake . . .

8. You don't test continuously. Even the most successful sales pieces will eventually run out of gas. Times change. People change. Your competition changes. To keep growing your business, you have to keep up. That’s why you have to test, test, test. Try new formats. New offers. Even a change in a headline can make a big difference. Do everything you can to keep improving your performance and your business will continue to grow.

9. You don't use tracking mechanisms. A critical part of your testing program is to be able to track how each variation did at pulling in orders. A tracking mechanism must be built into your mailing plan. For example, you can stamp a code on each piece, on the order form perhaps, or on the mailing label itself. Then instruct mailroom staff or phone operators to make a note of the code for each order that comes in. If you have a large operation and are expecting many orders, you might even have a different toll-free number for each variation in the piece.

10. You have poor or no follow-up. You want to welcome your customers with open arms so they’ll have a pleasant experience and want to order again in the future. So, prepare yourself to be able to respond as quickly as possible to orders or requests for information. Get those orders filled. You’ve worked so hard and spent so much money to get people to respond. Don’t disappoint them at this stage. Prove to them that you really are everything you said you were. Make the most of every customer, and your business will grow and grow.

Any one of these ten errors can easily ruin your campaign. Consider keeping this list handy and refer to it before you set up any direct mail campaign.