Don’t Make These Costly Direct Mail Mistakes

By Beacon Staff

Several of my clients use direct mail for the obvious reasons – it works. Like a chainsaw in the hands of the skilled artisan, the results can be amazing.

Or they can be downright awful.

Common mistakes people make when using direct mail:

  • Talking about the wrong thing
  • Not knowing your numbers
  • Making assumptions
  • Not segmenting your mailing

Let’s look at each of these direct mail mistakes (yes, they could also be made in other media).

Talking about the wrong thing

Several months back before the campaigns for President were settled, I spent some time comparing political candidate websites and and talking about what you can learn from them and their signup processes. There are marketing (and other) lessons there if you look closely.

I’m still on all those email lists, mostly so I can see what techniques and tools they use as they shuffle deck chairs.

One of them emails me at the end of each month. They ask for a contribution and remind me that the Federal Election Commission campaign contribution reporting period ends the next day.

As if I care.

I’m a voter, or in small business terms, a prospect.

I really couldn’t care less about campaign reporting periods. Like most reasonably normal people (OK, that is an assumption), I care about issues and what a candidate is going to do about them – not about campaign reporting periods.

You wouldn’t put an ad in TigerBeat looking for new AARP members. Why would you contact your prospects and talk about something they don’t care about?

Credit card companies – at least the lazy ones – do this all the time. Whose 12 year old HASN’T gotten a credit card invitation? My dog got one once. Seriously.

Not knowing your numbers

Before you invest in that stamp, envelope and piece of paper, you better have way to keep track who responds and of those who respond, who orders (or sends money, or does whatever you asked of them). If you can’t track it, you’re shooting arrows in the dark.

Making assumptions

Don’t make assumptions about the business relationship you’ve built with your prospect, much less your customer.

I received a piece of mail yesterday referencing a single purchase that I had made five years ago. The letter made a number of false assumptions about the relationship I have with this organization.

The result? The mailer hit the trash before I finished reading it. I got an email from a political figure yesterday evening that did the same thing. It said “Thanks to your hard work and generosity…” – yet I’ve given nothing to this person and done nothing for them. So who exactly are they talking to? That sentence alone is enough to lose someone.

You wouldn’t steal a kiss from a blind date as you pick them up. Don’t make assumptions about the relationship you have with those you are talking to (direct mail or otherwise).

Not segmenting your mailing

If you were doing the mailing for the local Ford dealer, would you send the same information to everyone in Flathead County?

Of course not. But you probably do it with your mailings. But I hope you don’t.

Why? Because…

  • The same people who buy a Mustang Cobra are not likely to be buying an Escape Hybrid.
  • The same people who buy a F250 Diesel are not likely to be buying a Probe.

Sure, a family might need both vehicles, but your mailing’s goal shouldn’t be to sell both, or you’ll end up mailing the same piece to 300 million people and getting a money-losing response.

Instead, do something like this:

  • Send the camper and boat owners, construction company owners and ranchers some info about the heavy-duty diesel trucks.
  • Send some Escape Hybrid info to people who subscribe to Mother Earth News or Money, and a list of area sea kayak owners.

Don’t rain huge piles of random paper down on their heads that do little more than empty your bank account. Mail strategically if you’re going to mail. Track every response.

By the way – these mistakes aren’t limited to direct mail. You can just as easily make them via email, or by phone.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at [email protected].