Even in an age of digital marketing, the use of direct mail as a way of attracting and converting new customers as well as touching base with previous clients remains a tried and tested technique. However, if you make any of these common direct mail mistakes, you will almost certainly be wasting time, paper, ink and postage.
Over the 15 years that I have worked in marketing I have seen the same mistakes repeated time and time again. So here’s what NOT TO DO when planning and carrying out a direct mail campaign.
1. Fail to have an objective
Every marketing campaign, whether digital or otherwise needs a clearly defined objective. So, in the case of direct mail, what do you want the recipient of your communication to do? Obviously to read the text (and that is a challenge in itself), but what is the main aim of that communication?
All too often, people cite a generic objective such as ‘to sell more of my products or services’. But you need to drill down more deeply than that. For example, is your key objective to raise brand awareness, or to instigate a direct response such as requesting a free trial, a report or a meeting?
Your reason for writing and the resulting action that you want the reader to take should influence everything from writing style to length, layout, design and images.
2. It’s all about me
One of the most common mistakes we see is that companies sending out direct mail focus on their product or service, rather than the customer. Your customers’ needs should be at the core of any messaging.
What problems do they have? How can you help solve these problems? What’s in it for them? At the first point of contact they aren’t really interested in whether your company was set up by your great aunt Maud or how friendly your staff are. They just want to know what you can do for them.
Make sure you highlight the benefits that using your product or service could have for the reader – the finer detail can come later. These 7 copywriting secrets will help you get this aspect of your campaign right.
3. Send to all
Campaigns can be generic or closely targeted. In most cases, the latter approach is usually far more successful. However, many companies persist in a ‘send to all’ approach. Whether this is down to a touch of laziness or a lack of understanding of the importance of targeting varies.
Ultimately, you are aiming to communicate directly with the reader (that’s why it’s called direct mail), so you need to be clear about who you want to talk to so you can identify their problems and desires. This enables you to get your messaging right and speak to them about what they are interested in or concerned by, in a language and style that will resonate with them.
4. Unclean data
To target recipients, you need to look carefully at the data that you are using. GDPR has helped to tighten up people’s collection and use of data, but it’s still important to ensure that the data you use is ‘clean’ and segmented. This may result in a smaller list, but it should be populated by people who are genuinely interested in what you are selling.
Targeted can be made even more focused with a more detailed set of information. For example, if the recipient is an existing or prior customer, you may be able to offer personalised recommendations or offers based on their past interactions.
5. Failing to test
If your campaign has a clear objective with a targeted, benefit-led message and an appropriately segmented database, the fundamental elements for success should be in place. However, one of the areas where campaigns consistently fail to maximise their potential is in measuring responses.
Without measuring the responses to a campaign, how can you tell what has worked? We always aim to build in some form of measurement; this could involve creating a unique code to quote, a dedicated landing page, setting up a dedicated phone number or a numbered coupon.
Just sending out the campaign and then seeing what happens is missing a great opportunity to find out what works. Any successful strategy can then be incorporated into the next campaign for even higher response rates.
Split testing is also an under-used technique – whereby different campaigns are sent out and responses measured to determine what has worked best. You can experiment with a whole range of variables, from different offers to different text to number of pages to different coloured envelopes.
6. No call to action
The whole point of your mailer is to inspire some form of action from the recipient. It’s no use expecting the reader to take the initiative – you need to explain to them what to do next.
The call to action usually comes at the end and should motivate the reader to do something: pick up the phone, send an email, visit your website, request a brochure, book a demonstration – whatever it is that you want them to do. Then make it as easy as possible for them to do it.
For example, include a QR code as well as your website address, social media account and relevant contact details. The language you use here can also be very persuasive. Phrases such as ‘Act today’, ‘Don’t miss this limited time offer’, ‘Call us now’ can all be powerful.
7. No overall strategy
Direct mail should never be used in isolation. It should always form part of an integrated marketing strategy that involves a range of tools and techniques. This harks back to the first point about having an objective and clear message which should underpin the whole marketing campaign.
A joined up approach using different ways of reaching out to customers but with the same fundamental message will always be more effective than a stand-alone activity.
Direct mail won’t be right for every campaign, but it should always be considered as part of the suite of powerful marketing tools that you have at your disposal. Avoid these common mistakes, and your campaign could reap great rewards.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Jessica Shailes, Managing Director of The Ideal Marketing Company, a full-service marketing agency which offers digital marketing services as well as PR, direct mail, copywriting and design.
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