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7 Biggest Direct Mail Blunders

Copying is the sincerest form of flattery. I pay attention to what Fortune 500 companies are doing, what they are producing and how it is translating into success for them - so that maybe I can mimic it on a scale for my company. After all, strategy is a plan executed via testing. But on the opposite end of the spectrum are disasters that you never want to repeat. It is helpful to know what those mistakes are too, so you can make sure to never repeat them.

1. Buzzkill Imaging. Ever seen photoshopped ads where models get an extra finger or have a missing leg? Well, as funny as it is to look at, questionable imaging can kill a direct mail piece faster than you can shout, “Direct Mail!” take a double look at what your main image and colors are. Do they coincide with your brand? Relate to what your are advertising? Are they bland? Or, the opposite - too risque?

2. Instant Gratification Expectations. Do a mailout and make a sale! If only it was that simple. The truth is while you will receive response and leads, it is possible you could limit your rates if you stick to one strategy over and over. Best practice is to keep testing a mix of mailer formats, messaging, and target markets. You may just discover direct mail gold! We consistently see clients that are happy with their response numbers continue to run the same mailout every month. But by the fifth or sixth month, the responses are dropping and they are not happy. But the fact is that they have saturated the market and it’s the natural order of things for response rates to plummet.

3. No Offer or Confusing Calls to Action. “HUGE SALE EVENT!” is great messaging for a direct mail campaign, but what exactly is the benefit for the recipient? Follow up with a subheadline to spell it out for your potential customer- “50% off during this 3 day event!” Or “bring in this coupon to save!” State clearly for the customer what you are wanting them to do and limit it to one.

4. Lost by the Post Office. As much as we try to control all aspects of a campaign, some things are just outside our sphere of control and all we can do is make contingency plans for such situations. Recently, one of our clients did a laminated postcard mailout. It arrived at the postal office early and was taken in for sorting – only to end up at a machine that was unable to process laminated pieces. It sat on the floor of the sorting facility for an extra three days until the postmaster stepped in and got it where it needed to go.

5. A bad recipient list or incorrectly targeted list. Ever sent a mailer to the residents of nursing home? Perfect if you are advertising fiber supplements or hearing aids, but not so much if you are trying to sell smartwatches or 401ks. Pay attention to the list demographics and plan accordingly.

6. No Tracking. You wouldn’t release a prized Sumatran Tiger into the wild without first inserting a tracking chip on it, so why would you release a mail piece into the wild without tracking? You’ll need to know when your mail arrives in homes, and just what exactly the response rates are. The simplest method for tracking purposes is including a phone number on the piece. But other methods include Personalized URLs and activation or coupon codes.

7. No Follow up. If you’ve done everything else correctly, and happen to get leads, the number one thing you can do to mess up your campaign is to forget to follow up. Follow through can be as simple as making sure your floor people know you did a direct mail campaign and to expect coupons, or as complicated as dividing leads up to sales personnel for call backs. However you want to do it, just don’t forget it!

There is definitely a lot to think about when planning a direct mail advertising campaign. Being aware of potential blunders puts you ahead of the pack – as now you have learned from others’ mistakes and are now able to avoid them.

Sherry Brown
Sherry Brown
Sherry is theMarketing Director for Sales360 and the Automotive Client Manager for Dukky. Her dual roles allow her the unique perspective of working with thousands of dealerships and their agencies to monitor the success of their direct mail campaigns. She now uses her expertise to predict, create and implement winning strategies using the most innovative technologies so dealerships continue to grab the attention of customers in their market.

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