With direct mail making a big comeback as part of integrated inbound marketing campaigns, the myths about production are also being revived. The process might seem like magic, and given that we’re used to the instantaneous nature of all things digital it’s easy to believe it’s equally simple.
The truth is that producing direct mail materials is a complex, costly process, and one you shouldn’t undertake unless you know what you’re doing.
Misconception 1: Conceptualization is Easy
The first step in creating a direct mail campaign that delivers the desired “Wow!” factor is to get a good concept going. To do so, you need to take into account the following variables:
- Objectives of the campaign
- Target audience preferences
- Production facilities available
For example, don’t think about sending a direct mailing out that includes four loose-leaf inserts if your production facilities can only automatically insert two or three! You’d be surprised how often this happens; the marketers who come up with the ideas don’t have a clue how the materials are put together for posting, and they ask for the impossible—at the price of the possible!
How to avoid this: Involve everyone in your initial conceptualization discussions, ranging from the graphic artist through to your research people. Make sure your graphic design people are fully briefed on the components of the project before they spend time and money creating a fabulous design that’s impossible to implement.
Misconception 2: “We can do it ourselves”
The short response to this is “No, you probably can’t.” Sure, if you’re sending out 50 letters you might be able to, but if you’re sending upwards of 500 it really isn’t clever to even try it. First, there are postal restrictions on mail shots that have to be taken into account. The cost of time spent researching these is probably equal to the cost of appointing someone experienced to handle it.
Then there’s the negotiation of postal rates, which usually offer discounts for bulk mail. And, of course, unless you have the necessary equipment you’re going to need a lot of students to lick all the envelopes. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish; just get the job done properly already.
How to avoid this: Find a professional company or an experienced direct mail practitioner to handle the task for you. Ensure that you are clear on your expectations for the campaign, the budget is available and you have comprehensive (verified) mailing lists to send the materials to.
Misconception 3: It Doesn’t Take Long to Produce a Campaign
Have you heard the expression “it takes as long as it takes”? While that’s not entirely true in these days of tight scheduling and performance against service agreements, it is a fact that anything requiring the development and production of hard-copy materials isn’t going to happen as quickly as digital stuff does. One of the biggest problems direct mail practitioners experience is insufficient time to execute a campaign properly, and it’s usually based on the unrealistic expectations of the clients.
How to avoid this: Coordinate your direct mail campaign planning activities according to this checklist:
- Devise the concept and get approval
- Commission a draft design
- Get quotes for production, management and mailing
- Verify your mailing list
- Finalize design for approval
- Send to production and finishing
- Allow time for bulk mail collating and insertion
- Schedule mailing date
Following this list will help ensure you don’t overlook any critical step in the production process, which could set you back a few days or weeks.
If you’re going to put marketing dollars into the power of direct mail, make sure it’s money well spent by implementing a planned production campaign that makes the most of your investment.