Business Basics: 10 Direct Mail Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Despite the rise of digital technologies, direct mail marketing remains a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal. If you’re not seeing the returns you’d like on your campaigns, you might be falling for these common mistakes. Avoid the top ten pitfalls a novice direct mail marketer can easily make and you’ll see better returns in no time.

1. Mailing the wrong people

You won’t get very far mass mailing generic content to a broad, unspecified audience. A more targeted approach is needed. Drill down into your mailing list and ask yourself:

  • Who are my top customers?
  • What are their interests
  • What do they have in common?
  • What are the key demographics?

2. Using a bad mailing list

You’re only wasting time and energy if your mailing list isn’t up to scratch. There are a number of reasons why a mailing list could be poor:

If you use a list broker to obtain specific mailing lists ensure they can deliver high quality, targeted groupings. If you’re collecting mailing lists through your own configuration management database (CMDB) or registration process, ensure the technology is working correctly and without error. Run tests and get a sampling that you can validate. In general, more effort to validate your lists upfront will save you time and unneeded frustration down the track.

3. Failing to include a letter in your mail out

A mail package without a sales letter has far less chance of generating leads and conversions. Letters add a personal touch that we associate with receiving and opening mail. Without the sales letter, the content feels impersonal, and recipients are less likely to engage.

4. The message lacks personalisation

You’ll attract more leads from a personal message, even if your mailing base is smaller it pays to make sure your copy is written in a way that feels inclusive towards your target demographic (and for that demographic to be made of up good leads and customers).

Despite this, many marketers miss out on the opportunity to personalise their message. Rather than using ‘you’ they address a general audience.

Check out these 10 brands that are getting personalised marketing right

5. Know your audience

One of the biggest mistakes direct marketers make is leaning too heavily on the old adage “sell the benefits, not the features”. It really depends on your audience and so you need to know them well.

Take technology for example. Apple are the masters of selling benefits, and for their audience – consumers who want technology devices that “just work” – this is a compelling message. But what if you’re selling servers to enterprise level companies, where your points of contact are network administrators and IT managers, then leaning on features might be a more prudent course of action.

In both circumstances, it comes down to knowing who your audience is. Sell benefits, sell features. Just know which they’re more interested in.

6. Wasting time with superficial copy

The goal of direct mail sales copy is to generate an immediate response. It’s not supposed to be remembered, put on the mantle, stuck to the fridge or referred to at some later date. Great mail copy doesn’t need a lot of gimmicky flourish or appended graphic design elements. It’s about presenting facts in a concise, compelling format.

Here are 5 rule to live.  

  • Don’t waste your reader’s time.
  • Do research on your product. In fact, spend more time researching than writing.
  • Dig deep for facts.
  • Write concise, specific copy.
  • Tell your reader what they should do next.

7. Pulling your punches

Start strong, the sooner the better. In direct mail marketing, there is no such thing as saving the best for last, though many have tried and failed. You’ve got about 5 seconds to grab your reader’s attention, so make them count.

  • Ask a tantalising question.
  • Jump straight to the reader’s most pressing concern.
  • Lead in with an interesting statistic or fact.
  • Put the offer up front.

8. Burying your strongest copy

You now know that it’s important to start strong, but it doesn’t stop there. Many sales writers miss the hotspots on their sales letter and end up burying the best bits in parts where they don’t need it. The hotspots on any sales letter are:

  • your first paragraph
  • subheadings
  • image captions
  • final paragraph
  • postscript

Save your best copy for these areas of your sales letter and avoid making the mistake of burying your best words where no one will read them.

9. Not knowing the key phrases

Some marketers want to make everything they write super original. What they fail to realise is that not only has someone tried it before, there’s tried and true phrases that just work. Use these thoughtfully throughout your sales copy and watch the lead percentage start to climb.

  • Free – It’s important to always stress when something is free. A free brochure, free prospectus, free consultation. Don’t assume that the customer will just figure it out, tell them.
  • No obligation – Whenever you give something away for free it’s essential you stress that it’s a no obligation free quote, consultation etc.
  • See inside – Essential for your teaser copy on the outer envelope to draw the reader into your sales letter.
  • New –New” works better with consumer mailouts. For industrial and technical clients “proven” is often a better choice of words.

10. Not tracking results

Often the difference between a seasoned marketer and a novice is the failure to track results of campaigns. After all, how can you know if your hard work is paying off if you can’t measure the benefits.

The easiest way to do this is to provide (and request) a code when the customer rings up to redeem their offer. This code should relate to the specific campaign, and be distinct from other campaigns. By collecting these codes and validating them against the number sent out, then comparing against your historical campaigns, you’ll be able to transparently see what has been a success and why.

Be strategic from start to finish

By tracking results of mailouts and avoiding these common pitfalls, your direct mail marketing campaigns will improve over time, and direct mail will become a powerful tool for your marketing efforts.

We hope you’ve gained some critical insights out of this article. As always, we encourage you to talk to SEMA today for any further advice on how to engage your clients with relevant, important and intended messaging.