Why Direct Mail Gimmicks Really Don’t Work


Why-direct-mail-gimmicks-really-dont-workEvery business I know of is looking for a little competitive advantage. There are so many messages out there in the marketplace that some companies will grasp at anything that helps them stand out from their competitors. Sometimes that even extends to using a bit of gimmickry to get potential clients to take a look at their direct mailings. 

On the surface that may seem like a reasonable thing to do. After all, you can’t expect people to respond to your mailing if you can’t get them to open it and read it—right? Some businesses believe that the end justifies the means, and that consumers will forgive a little direct mail sleight of hand once they get to the great offer inside. 

To be honest, that approach has never worked particularly well. People enjoy being tricked when they pay to see a magician perform—but not when they read their mail. Nobody likes being promised one thing on the outside of an envelop only to find that there’s something completely different being offered on the inside.

It’s even more of an issue today. Marketing today has changed dramatically, and one of the biggest changes is that it’s increasingly built on trust. People want to do business with companies that are transparent and honest. Gimmicks smack of deceit, and if you fool someone once (with the intent of getting them to read your mailer), you’re probably not going to do business with them. If you mislead someone with your marketing, why should they trust you when it’s time to give you money? Plus, you’ve probably shot yourself in the foot when it comes to future mailings. People who feel they have been taken advantage of are unlikely to give you a second chance. 

Does that mean your mail has to be boring or that you can’t use compelling offers? Not at all. Creativity is good—as long as it’s not misleading. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your mailings: 

Say What You Mean

If you’re offering something for free make it really free. Don’t tie it to some other condition. 

Don’t Over-promise

People don’t really believe hyperbole, anyway.  Fantastic claims may raise eyebrows, but they also raise suspicion. Be sure you can back up your claims.

Avoid “Bait-and-Switch” Tactics

If you talk about something on the outside of your mailing, may sure you follow through on the inside. Don’t lure readers in with a promise and then offer them something different. 

Be Creative

Look for unique ways to get your real message across. That doesn’t mean you have to be outlandish, flashy, or tricky. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself what would get you to open the mailing. Meeting a genuine need or solving a problem is much more compelling than offering someone something free (that they don’t really want) or manipulating someone into reading your stuff.

Direct Mail Best Practices