No Excuse For Bad Direct Mail: Back To Direct Mail Basics

No excuse for bad Direct MailSome marketing experts say that direct mail simply doesn’t work today. And given the continued drop in money spent on direct mail, a lot of businesses would seem to agree. As printing, mailing and postage prices have increased (while marketing budgets have gotten tighter), it’s harder to justify the expense. The fact is that bad direct mail has never worked well. Nobody can afford bad direct mail.

Direct mail can still be a powerful marketing tool—if it’s done well. Unfortunately, many businesses make the same kind of mistakes with direct mail that they make with online marketing. With regard to online marketing, some businesses fall prey to faulty thinking: “If you build it (a website), they will come.” When it comes to direct mail the faulty thinking is: “If you mail it, they will respond.” Both ignore some basics of good marketing. Let’s look at a few critical basics of direct mail. Companies that ignore these basics are asking for poor results.

For this post, we’re going to focus on what’s known as the 40/40/20 rule. For years direct mail experts talked about (and demonstrated) that 40 percent of a mailing’s success depended on having the right list; 40 percent of success was determined by having the right offer; and 20 percent of the success came from right creative (copy and design). Let’s look at those in a bit more detail.

The Right Audience. This may seem obvious, but just because you have a name and an address doesn’t mean you should mail to the person at that address. You need to make sure that the people you send mail are interested and have a reason to respond. That’s why pure demographics aren’t enough. If you’re selling pool supplies, you want to mail to people who actually have pools. It doesn’t matter if they belong to a demographic group that can afford pools. If they don’t have one, they are not going to respond to your mailing—no matter how great your offer is or how wonderful your creative is.

The Right Offer. This is what actually gets people to respond. Too often, companies “offer” a discount. All that does is attract people who don’t want to pay full price. What people today are really after is information. Instead of cutting your prices, offer information that helps them. Offer a free downloadable report: 5 Ways You Can Check To See If You’re Growing Harmful Bacteria In Your Pool. Then direct them to a landing page on your website. If they download the report and find out they need chemicals, there’s a good chance they’ll come to you to get them. The other benefit to you is that if people download the report, you have a record of that—and you can follow up later because you’ll have a name and an email address.

The Right Creative. Businesses tend to err in two ways on this basic. They often equate “creative” with “clever.” While there’s nothing wrong with being clever, you shouldn’t sacrifice clarity for cuteness. Make sure your message (including how you want your audience to respond) is clear.  The other thing businesses often do is to over-communicate. They wax philosophical about their products or services. Or they go into excruciating detail about things nobody wants to know. Again, keep your message short and clear—and drive readers to your website for more information. Let them decide how much detail they want. Remember that people are busy, so give them what they want and make it easy to find. Your job is not to entertain them—it’s to help them solve a problem.

It’s all pretty simple stuff, right? That’s why we call it the basics. But companies that ignore these basics risk getting really poor responses to their direct mail efforts. And now that you know the basics, there’s really no excuse for bad direct mail.