Do you make these 5 direct mail mistakes?

It’s easy to burn through a lot of money mailing the wrong way. Here are five common mistakes that businesses make when sending sales materials through the mail. Don’t make them:)

You don’t use real stamps

Your direct mail pieces – of any kind – should be using regular first class stamps most of the time.

While I will admit that I use CASS bulk mail postage for some newsletter mailings (at client request to save postage), this happens ONLY after having sent at least one mailing using a real first class stamp.

Why? 3 reasons: Deliverability, address service and speed

If this excerpt from “Privatizing will improve mail service posthaste” doesn’t help, I’ll clear it up in a minute.

As journalist Jonathan Franzen recounted in a detailed portrait of Chicago’s postal crisis in the New Yorker last year, a letter carrier helping a coworker start his truck in a post office parking lot stumbled onto 100 sacks of undelivered mail in the rear cargo area. Chicago police in 1994 found 200 pounds of relatively recent mail burning beneath a viaduct and 20,000 pieces of vintage mail (some pieces dating to 1979) in garbage cans behind the house of a retired mail carrier. Last May, Chicago firefighters found 5,670 pieces of flat mail and 364 pounds of bulk mail in the attic of postal carrier Robert K. Beverly. And in October, Washington firefighters discovered four truckloads of mail in the apartment of postal carrier Robert W. Boggs

Other than because of postal workers like this guy and because of post offices like the Chicago one described above, a first class stamp in conjunction with a valid return address (sort of) guarantees you a returned mail piece with a corrected current address, or an indication that you should remove that name from your mailing list.

Speed. Bulk mail is not guaranteed to reach your destination anytime soon, if ever. In fact, isn’t guaranteed at all.

One last aspect of this: Choose your stamps wisely. Mailing to women? Use stamps most women would like.

Mailing to NASCAR viewers? Use stamps that fit their profile. Patriotic? Cars? Think about it.

Not making sure that mail only goes to the right people

Sending the same letter to the entire population of the United States: Bad idea.

Sending the same letter to your entire client list: Bad idea.

Are all doctors the same? You know… chiropractors (yes, that was intentional), heart surgeons, thoracic surgeons, dermatologists, general practitioners, podiatrists, sexologists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, and so on. They all need malpractice insurance, medical office software, furniture, etc.

Are all mechanics the same? Is a diesel mechanic the same as a HVAC mechanic? Ditto for single engine airplane mechanics, heavy equipment hydraulics mechanics, boat mechanics, jet engine mechanics, or …

Are all painters the same? Home painters vs automobile painters, detailed “pimp my ride” paint artists, industrial painters, high rise building/tower painters, and so on.

If you were trying to sell each member of these groups accounting services, a website, tools, furniture or rubber bands, would you have the same conversation with them?

Not likely.

Is it more work to create different sales materials for different groups of people? Sure.

Is it more profitable? Almost always.

“Almost?” – What kind of comment is that? The kind that leads to our next mistake…

Leaving out a way to measure response

If you can’t measure it, you’d better not mail it. Otherwise, how will you recognize what works and what doesn’t?

Failing to send another mailing to the same person for the same thing

Yes, I mean follow up.

But how many times should I mail stuff to my mailing list? When do I know to stop?

WHEN A NEWLY ADDED STEP LOSES MONEY.

Getting a 1% response to a mailing is your goal

You’ve undoubtedly heard that 1% is an average response for direct mail.

Or maybe you heard 2% is what it takes to make a profit (h*mm, like $0.01?).

Or you’ve heard some other number.

Forget them all. Percentages mean nothing. Return on investment is what you care about.

If you spend $100,000 a month to mail 100,000 pieces of mail (yes, per month) and you get 1 sale, that’s a response rate of 0.00000000001% for each mailing.

If you’re selling $2500 custom trailer hitches for big expensive RVs, you have a big problem. You’re spending $100,000 a month. Even if you sell every lead, you’re spending $100,000 to get $2500. Unless there’s a pretty successful upsell process, or very large lifetime customer value, this just isn’t wise.

On the other hand, using the same numbers, if you sell boats – especially boats like these – then selling 1 of the 56′ boats per month is a ROI of somewhere in the neighborhood 13 times your investment. In other words, if you average 1 boat sale a month from your mailing, you’re spending $100k to get $1.3MM. Seems like a good idea.

In both examples, 1 response was the result of your mailing that month. The response RATE in both was the same. A terrible 0.00000000001% per month. Yet the ROI for the boat example was 13 times the investment.

A loss of $100,000 or a gain of $1.2MM cost $100,000, despite one response.

This happened despite both mailings having the same response rate. Don’t fall for the 1% trap. Or even the 2% trap.

Those are the common direct mail mistakes that come to mind for me… What other direct mail mistakes always jump out at you?

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/FiveDirectMailMistakes.mp3]

6 thoughts on “Do you make these 5 direct mail mistakes?”

  1. You are spot on with everything except one point, the very last. The response rate *is* important (but I won’t invalidate your ROI point – that is important too). Response rate measures how well your marketing campaign is working (or not). All responses count, even the “take me off your mailing list” requests (data that shows how to increase the quality of your mailing list!).

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