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A few exceptions for those 5 direct mail mistakes

Our discussion from a couple of days ago (yes, the last 2 days were insane!) about direct mail mistakes was far from complete. We could discuss tools, techniques, strategies and such about direct mail for days, maybe longer.

None of us have time to do that, but I do feel obligated to elaborate on the five direct mail mistakes and discuss some additional issues on these topics.

Stamps vs. Indicia

While I don’t recommend the use of indicia, if you carefully plan your use of indicia, you can get away with it.

For example, if you’ve already established a relationship with a client and you’re sending a monthly newsletter, using bulk mail indicia makes financial sense IF you’ve cleaned your list using CASS software (or a service) or if you’ve mailed to that list in the last 2-3 months using a stamp.

I recommend to clients that if they want to use bulk mail indicia, they should do so on a quarterly rotation for a monthly newsletter. IE: first month, use a stamp. In months 2 and 3, indicia will be OK as long as they are updating their list with the return/change info that comes back on returned mail from month 1.

A different type of mailing might require a different plan, so don’t assume that my newsletter mailing postage rotation schedule is perfect for every kind of mailing. It isn’t.

Deliverability is still a concern, so again, make sure that this mailing isn’t something that’s going to assure your ability to make payroll this week:)

Sending the same mail to everyone

The only exceptions to this that I can come up with are things like “Hey, I’ve sold the company and I’m moving to Costa Rica” letters. I’ll be testing this in the future:)

Measuring Response

I really can’t imagine a day when I wouldn’t mention this. Except for the Costa Rica letter. That’s one that I wouldn’t care about measuring. But…the buyer should.


One of the things I didn’t have room/time to mention in the 5 mistakes post that it is CRITICAL to make sure that you don’t look like a putz by sending the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th mail pieces in your mailing sequence to a person who responded to the FIRST mailing.

It sends such a message that you aren’t paying attention and that the mail isnt…personal. Put things in place so that you can avoid doing this – it’ll pay for itself in postage and printing saved, much less in aggravated clients and your reputation among them.

Response percentage vs ROI

Russ took me to task – a little bit – about my assertion that response percentages are meaningless, noting that “response rates indicate how well your campaign is working“.

It depends. If you get a 20% response, but you lose money on the campaign, did it work?

On the other hand, he noted that “All responses count, even the â??take me off your mailing listâ? requests (data that shows how to increase the quality of your mailing list!).” which I completely agree with.

All in all, we agree but from perhaps different perspectives.

First, you have to keep in mind that a mailing’s goal might not be directly financial – ie: it might not be a sales piece. In that case, your ROI is measured by asking yourself: “For this customer, did the mailing piece accomplish its goal?”

And in that case, the response percentage might prove to be of the same usefulness as the ROI.

In fact, I made that comment about response rates being meaningless in hopes that someone would challenge me on it (thanks Russ).

ROI *is* still most important, but response percentages are one of the things that you simply have to sweat. You have to test (that goes back to the measuring issue) carefully so that you can determine what improves response.

For example, you might test to see what the difference in response is between a letter with a printed, barcoded label and one with a hand-written address, for example. Assumptions are cheap. Testing is accurate.

And then there’s conversion – but that’s another whole set of discussions on its own:)


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