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Direct Mail Mistakes That Cost You Money

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

You might remember a project from several months ago where we talked about political candidate websites and what you can learn from them and their signup processes.

I’m still on all those lists, mostly so I can see what techniques they’re using.

One of the candidates keeps emailing me at the end of each month, asking for a contribution and reminding me that the campaign contribution reporting period ends the next day.

As if I care.

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

I don’t give a flip about campaign reporting periods. I care about issues and what a candidate is going to do about them – something rarely (if ever) mentioned in detail in their contacts.

You wouldn’t offer to talk about AARP to a teenager. Why would you contact your prospects and talk about something they don’t care about? Don’t do it.

Not knowing your numbers

Before you stick that thing in the mail, you better have way to track who responds and of those who respond, who orders.

Yes, I mean keep track of and take action based on: How many you mailed, how many the mailing caused to respond, or how many of those who responded actually bought.

Making assumptions

In particular, making assumptions about the relationship you have with the person you mailed to.

I received a piece of mail not long ago that was personalized and made reference to things I had done in the past with this entity, yet made a slew of inaccurate assumptions about our relationship.

The result? The mailer hit the trash before I finished reading it.

You wouldn’t steal a kiss at the front door as you picked up someone on a blind date. Don’t make assumptions about the relationship you have with those you are mailing to.

Not segmenting your mailing

If you were doing the mailing for Ford Motor Company, would you send the same brochure to everyone in the country?

Of course not. But you probably do it with your mailings.

  • The same people who buy a Mustang Cobra are not likely to be buying an Escape Hybrid.
  • The same people who buy a F350 Diesel are not likely to be buying a Probe.

And yes, it is possible a family might have both, but your mailing’s goal shouldn’t be to sell BOTH, or you’ll end up sending 300 million identical mailers out and getting 0.0000001% response from them.

  • You send the camper and boat owners, construction business owners, farmers and similar businesses info about the heavy-duty diesel trucks.
  • You send the Mustang Cobra mailing to successful people in the right income brackets and age groups (if you are Ford, you know exactly what those brackets / groups are).
  • You send the Escape Hybrid mailing to people who subscribe to Mother Earth News or Money, as well as kayak owners in the Pacific Northwest. But only those in certain income brackets.

You segment your mailing rather than rain huge piles of random paper down on their heads that do little more than empty your bank account.