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Six direct mail mistakes to avoid

At Extend Your Reach, we love to tell our customers about what a great opportunity direct mail presents, especially when integrated with new technologies. However, we’re also strong believers in the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing right. With that, we’ve compiled a list of what NOT to do in your next direct mail campaign.

Here are six DON’Ts of direct mail marketing*:

*NOTE: Each of these tips can be applied to any marketing format.

1. Don’t forget who your audience is.
One of the costliest direct mail marketing mistakes is sending your message to people who just don’t care about what you have to say. “Junk mail” is a four-letter word around here, but it’s hard to argue the value in communicating with people who won’t (or can’t) use your product or service. Plus, in the age of big data, it’s becoming easier than ever before to make sure that your message goes to the right people.

As you begin planning your campaign, think about your customer base and the “personas” that exist within it. What are common characteristics of the people who already buy your product? Are they mothers? Homeowners? Young professionals? Retirees? Build or purchase your mailing list based on these characteristics. Then, think strategically about what message or offer will resonate with that specific group. Have your creative team write and design your piece with this strategy in mind.

2. Don’t try to say too much at once.
Whether you’re sending a letter, postcard or self-mailer, it’s best to focus on ONE big idea in your direct mail piece. It’s natural to want to squeeze as much information as possible into each marketing element, especially when you think about the cost that goes into it. However, including too many ideas and details can work against you, as your message gets watered down or confusing.

Also keep in mind that people tend to scan rather than read. Consider using bullet points to highlight important benefits. With limited space and customer attention, it is best to provide a single relevant idea as concisely as possible.

If you feel you can’t condense your messaging, consider a multi-touch campaign. It will cost more to send multiple mailers, but giving customers a clear message each time helps ensure that your offer won’t be missed – and your investment won’t be wasted.

3. Don’t forget a call to action.
Your direct mail piece is only as good as what people do with it – so be sure to give recipients specific instructions on what they are to do when they receive your mailpiece. Your call to action can be an imperative sentence (e.g. “Call us today”) or simply a phone number, web address or QR code.

A key to crafting a successful call to action is creating a sense of urgency. Demonstrate that your offer is for a limited time only to help ensure that customers will respond quickly and won’t forget about your message.

Before you set your call to action, think of what you want to accomplish with the direct mail piece and consider any barriers that might prevent prospects from following through (e.g. lack of internet connection, long hold times for your call center). Remove as many of these barriers as possible or choose a call to action with fewer restrictions.

4. Don’t send anything without a tracking mechanism.
Whether you own your own business or work for a large organization, it’s important to be able to prove the value of your marketing efforts. Before you send out a direct mail piece, take the time to determine how you will measure the results.

If your call to action is to visit a webpage, create a URL that is specific to the direct mail portion of your campaign – you can use a “vanity URL” that redirects to your landing page, then measure traffic to that specific URL. Generate a QR code through a service that offers tracking, and create a separate code for each medium in your campaign. If you’re sending a coupon, add a small code to the bottom of the coupon to determine which mailing it was from. Take it one step further by adding a 2D barcode for each recipient, then having your direct mail provider scan the barcode on each piece to compile a list of customers who used the coupon.

5. Don’t just leave it at “Hello”.
If you think that direct mail is one-and-done, think again! A direct mail piece should be part of a larger overall campaign, whether it includes other direct mail pieces, digital elements or traditional marketing tactics (television, billboard or radio). Consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day, so it’s critical that your message reaches them with more than one impression.

Another key to success is your follow-up plan. Don’t let your customers forget about your message once they read the direct mail piece. If you send a sales letter, mention that you will follow-up in a week or two – and be sure to do it. If you send a postcard, consider following-up with an email (just be sure to follow the applicable regulations against spam).

6. Don’t settle for just doing what you’ve always done.
Just because something has been done one way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way to do it. Don’t be afraid to test different ideas against one another to see what works for your business.

In direct mail, try changing elements such as the format, offer, list, design and/or colors to see what brings the greatest return on investment. You may find that something you’ve never tried before works best to drive business; or you could walk away with evidence that your original approach was the best option all along.


Ready to take your direct mail marketing to the next level? Contact us.

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