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May 16, 2017

Don't Make These 10 Common Direct Mail Mistakes

Streamworks Marketing Direct Mail

When executed well, direct mail campaigns can be a highly effective marketing tool. Avoid making these ten common mistakes to ensure that your next direct mail campaign is a success:


1. Your offers are lackluster.

The goal of any campaign is to get people to respond. Tailoring your offers to specific lists will make each offer more compelling and earn more responses. Segment your data and use variable data printing to assign offers that will appeal to each unique segment.  Make your offers specific, clear, and relevant.

2. You neglect to identify your audience.

How can you design a customized offer if you haven’t identified your target audience? You can’t, but it’s amazing how many businesses make this mistake. A great offer is designed to speak to an audience’s pain points. Without knowing who your audience is, you can’t know what their pain points are – and you can’t design a targeted offer.

3. You’re burying the offer.

“What’s in it for me?” Your offer is what the recipient gets out of your direct mail piece. If the benefit isn’t immediately clear, your response rates will suffer.

Saving the best for last may be a great idea in a four-course meal, but not so much when it comes to direct mail. Lead with the offer so that recipients understand right away what they’ll get out of engaging with your mailer.

4. You overlook the CTA.

If you want people to take action when they receive your mail piece (and you do, because that’s the whole point) then you need to be very clear about what action you want them to take. It’s not enough just to present them with a compelling offer. You need to spell out the next steps they should take in order to redeem the offer, along with guidelines for the timeframe they have to do so. Convey a sense of urgency in order to motivate people to act quickly. The larger the wide window of time you allow them, the more likely they will be to forget about the offer.

5. Your list is bad.

There are many ways to develop a contact list, and there isn’t one right way to do it. One wrong way, however, is to purchase a bad list – a list that’s out-of-date, generic, or doesn’t follow your audience criteria. If you’re taking care to identify your audience and develop a targeted offer but your mailers still aren’t performing well, the problem might not be your mail piece – it’s probably the list. Work with your list broker to fine-tune your next list.

And remember – the list comes first. Don’t spend time writing and designing your mail piece until you’ve nailed down your list and know exactly who you’re writing and designing for.

6. You’re engaging in dirty data practices.

Dirty data can get the best of anyone, but maintaining your database needs to be a top priority. Keep your lists tidy by updating old addresses and deleting duplicates. Routine list maintenance will help you lower your advertising costs and collect better data for future campaigns.

7. You don’t consult with your direct mail vendor.

Your production vendor can be a great resource in helping you cut costs and choose the most effective mailing options for your campaigns. They may have a variety of cost-cutting options, from the production floor to the post office, that you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

Don’t make the mistake of fully designing a direct mail piece only to find out it can’t be mailed when you take it to production. Include your vendor throughout your planning process so they can help you choose the best mailing and design options for you and your wallet.

8. Testing isn’t part of your routine.

Testing different mail pieces and lists against each other is an effective – and fairly simple! – method of determining what’s working and what’s not, but many businesses forget to do it. Testing should be routine practice in your direct mail program. Create a go-to list of tests you can run on any campaign, measuring the effectiveness of variable elements such as design, copy, and offer.

A few testing guidelines to follow for best results:

  • Use a large enough sample group to get a statistically significant result
  • Only test one element at a time, so that you can isolate the influential variable
  • Include unique source codes for tracking

 9. You aren’t utilizing tracking mechanisms.

You can’t measure how well a campaign performs – or analyze the outcome of a test – if your campaign isn’t set up for tracking. Tracking mechanisms, such as source codes or PURLs, must be built into the campaign design from the outset in order to be effective. Decide which tracking method makes the most sense for your campaign based on your audience and your offer. Then get tracking!

 10. Poor follow-up.

Warm leads can turn cold very quickly when they’re not nurtured. You should follow up with new leads within 48 hours, making sure that any orders, requests, and questions they have are fulfilled. Use a follow-up phone call to further qualify your leads, asking if they have any questions about your product or prompting them to take advantage of the offer. Allowing your leads to go cold is a waste of all the effort you put into your campaign, so don’t fall through on the follow-up.

Any one of these common direct mail mistakes can affect the success of your campaign, so print this list out, commit it to memory – do whatever it takes for you keep these mistakes top of mind when you’re designing your next direct mail campaign. Don’t let common direct mail mistakes happen to you.

 For more guidance on designing your next direct mail campaign, download our free Production Mistakes Checklist.

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Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated with additional information.  

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