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Direct Mail Gone Wrong

How much direct mail do you receive in your home or office? When done well, direct mail can be a very smart way to market your goods or services. When done badly, the opposite can happen.

Recently my husband and I received a really good example of a badly executed direct mail piece. The post card we received for plumbing services was addressed to my husband at our home address. The text indicated that there was some confusion among their customers regarding the business’s name and a competitor with a similar name. It cast aspersions on the quality of the competitor’s personnel and offered a discount for the next service call placed to the business sending the postcard.

There were a number of problems with this mailing:

• The postcard clearly used a very old database as our home zip code had changed. This told me, even if we had used this plumbing service and our name was in their customer list (my husband and I couldn’t recall ever using the firm), it was more than 10 years ago as our current zip code is well established.

A better approach would have been to make sure their list was up to date, using customer names the business had served within the past two to five years instead of reaching back more than 10 years. Or they could have purchased a targeted list.

• The post card was stamped with a .32 stamp, which indicated, the business understood little about direct mail options, which could have saved them a significant amount of money.

Savvy direct mail marketers generally utilize the services of a good fulfillment house to sort and prepare their direct mail pieces. Any mailing over 200 pieces qualifies for a pre-sort postage rate. Had the business gone this route, it could possibly have saved hundreds of dollars in postage.

• By speaking ill of their competitor in the direct mail piece, the business came off poorly.

        A better approach would be to focus on their strengths and desire to retain their customers.

• Because we had never received anything before from this business and this was their first attempt at direct mail, it made them look desperate and spiteful.

Direct mail is most effective when there is a frequency component to the strategy. With any advertising, frequency is critical to success. So continuing to incorporate direct mail would be a good idea for this company, but with a more positive message, one focusing on their business and not competitors.

When done well, direct mail can be extremely effective. New technology offers marketers the option of customizing pieces to include the recipient's name or other targeted information within the body of the text. This is called variable data, and when used well, return on direct mail can increase to 14% or 15%.

Even without utilizing variable data a well-done direct mail piece can grab attention and persuade consumers to react. Here are a few tips:

  1. Do make sure your data or mailing list is accurate. You can work with a mailing fulfillment company to help ensure that your mailing list is up to date.
  2. Take advantage of volume discounts in postage by utilizing pre-sort rates.
  3. Make sure the direct mail literature is well designed and the message is clear and concise. Don’t try to include too many messages in one piece. This may confuse your target audience.
  4. Include a specific offer. Instead of a vague message, make sure your direct mail piece offers something of interest to the consumer.   
  5. Put a time limit on the offer, indicating there is some urgency for the recipient to take advantage of it.        
  6. Mail with frequency to ensure the greatest success. For a small business this could be as few as four mailings per year. For larger companies, monthly mailings might be more appropriate. For large retail chains weekly mailings are common.

If you think direct mail might be a good fit for your business or organization but you aren’t sure how to get started, contact us. We can help.