Last week I received a piece of direct mail I’d seen many times before. I knew I’d thrown this particular mailer away at least 10 times before—without bothering to read it—but this time I kept the mailer and read it. Why did I do that?
This was one of those regional home-improvement “magazines” (meaning a collection of ads from different companies). The design hadn’t changed, nor had the font or the style of photography, and the format was exactly the same. So what was different?
This time this particular mailer caught my eye because the content suddenly had relevance for me. I was looking for some home improvement ideas, and that’s what this piece promised. So instead of tossing it, unread, into the recycle bin, I paged through it.
While the piece wasn’t all that helpful in terms of what I was looking for, I still gleaned three lessons from this experience that may be of some value to anyone considering using direct mail as part of an overall marketing strategy.
Needs Equals Reads
If what you talk about in your direct mail offering is relevant and potentially helpful in meeting prospects’ needs, you can generally count on your recipients’ willingness to read what you send them. Of course, timing matters. If your prospects don’t need your product or service, your appeal may fall on deaf ears—for a while. But if you’re offering something you know people will need at some point, sticking with the program can pay off in the long run.
Pure Repetition Doesn’t Guarantee Success
I mentioned earlier that I always discarded this mailer without a second glance. That’s not completely I had read the piece years ago. At that time I’d decided there was nothing of value in it for me. After that point, I’d get the “magazine” in the mail and toss it without reading it. It always looked the same. Most of the ads inside were the same ads I’d seen previously. Simply sending me the same thing over and over didn’t change my mind.
Standing Out Matters
Part of the reason I had always tossed this mailing before is that it looked like a hundred other mailings (from other companies) I’d received on a regular basis over the years. There was nothing to suggest to me that the information was going to be any different or more helpful than what I’d seen in the past. The format, style and content were part of a template. From a production standpoint, it was clearly easy for the people designing the piece to “fill in the blanks,” but I felt like I’d seen it all before. And on top of that, I didn’t get the idea that the people behind the words and images were interested in solving my specific problems or meeting my unique needs. It simply didn’t stand out—and so it got tossed out.
Keep those three things in mind as you plan future mailings. Make sure whatever you mail is focused on meeting specific needs—and that it’s clear how you can help meet those needs. Repetition is important to reinforce your message, but repeating a message that’s unclear or not compelling can actually keep prospects from considering you. Finally, create your own identity and stand out. It may be easier to mimic what someone else does, but in doing so, you run the risk of being seen as a “me-too” solution instead of someone who can really make a difference.