Failure to Launch: How to Avoid Destructive Direct Mail Mistakes

If you’re starting out with direct mail for the first time as a way to market your product, you can congratulate yourself on your perceptiveness. Far too many marketers today dismiss direct mail in favor of flashier alternatives such as email. Recognizing the potential of direct mail is only a start, though — it’s important to understand how to deploy the method to the best effect

With email marketing, high-tech test methods such as analytics and A/B comparisons are always on the top of marketers’ minds. Since email marketing is considered complex, no one is about to take it lightly. With direct mail, though, familiarity breeds contempt. Rather than study and analyze for the greatest effect, marketers tend to simply go with a seat-of-the-pants approach. The result, often, is poor performance from the get-go. When marketers see poor results, they usually end up questioning the very worth of the direct mail approach.

The truth is, direct mail marketing has been proven in study after study to be 20 to 30 times as effective as email marketing. You do need to do it right to see the results promised, though. It’s important to not allow the low-tech nature of the approach result in a lowered guard. If this is your first time trying out direct mail, these are the mistakes to watch out for.

Know what’s important to you before you start

The list of recipients that your mail goes out to is more important than the mail itself. No matter how good the direct mail catalog, brochure or flyer may be that you’ve designed, it is accurate targeting that determines whether it hits its mark. If you’re sending out information about custom ski equipment or $10,000 treadmills to a ZIP code populated by retirees on a fixed income, you aren’t going to see any success.

There are many businesses whose sole purpose is to help marketers create good mailing lists. It’s a good idea to take advantage of these services. Mailing list brokers help you rent mailing lists from other companies, list managers and list compilers help you research recipients on each list to make sure that you get the best possible results.

Don’t go in without testing

Once you do have a good mailing list, your campaign still isn’t go for launch. Rather, it’s important to test different lists created on different angles and assumptions. Without testing, you’ll never know what theory or approach actually works.

Don’t neglect to use a sales letter

If jobseekers are always told to attach a cover letter to their resume, you shouldn’t hold yourself to standards any lower. In the case of direct mail, a sales letter does the job of introducing your company to the lead. It offers you an opportunity to go in with a personal touch, and the ability to make some points to greater effect than the other sales materials that you may have. The sales letter is vital.

Don’t forget to address your market

Whatever market you are trying to address — b2c or b2b — you need to make sure that you use the marketing approach that your audience prefers. Consumer audiences usually like to hear about the benefits available to them; business audiences prefer technical information, case studies and research reports. Getting your messages crossed can result in disappointed recipients.

Finally, never go in without an offer

Direct mail isn’t supposed to be open-ended advertising. Instead, it’s about going in with a proposition, educating recipients and ending with a call to action, which is usually a request to sign up or ask for a quote, or pushing for purchase with a definite, attractive offer. Marketing that goes out without an offer is clearly perceived by recipients to be incomplete. A free catalog, a free sample, a free set of reports and so on are usually expected. If you are ending with a discount coupon, the offer should be a substantial one. The offer could even go right on the envelope. You could think of the best way to present your offer before you begin printing envelopes and other materials.

Fascinating research reports exist on how effective direct mail can be when it is designed in a common sense way. It’s important to carefully study every direct mail move you make before you allow it to go live. Encouraging results are a virtual certainty.

Marjorie Garcia works in marketing as a consultant and has a good understanding of the pros and cons of strategies like direct mailing. She enjoys sharing her insights online and writes for a number of different websites.

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