5 Common Direct Mail Mistakes – and How to Fix Them

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Over the last 28 years I have seen some great direct mail, but I have also seen some bad mistakes. Mistakes can not only cost you a lot of money, but they can damage your brand reputation.

Learning what direct mail mistakes to avoid is essential to optimizing your campaigns and increasing response rates. These are by far not the only mistakes you can make, but they are some of the most common and costliest ones that I see.

1. Font

The most important thing about your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily legible. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters too, so make it larger.

2. Old List

Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is two years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change too. Sending to people who are no longer interested in your product or service is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean up your list, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

3. Lies

Your direct mail should never lie to people or, as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

4. Unclear or Lack of Call To Action

The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call to action where you tell them exactly what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either; a clear, concise call to action is a must to drive response.

5. Features

Do not focus your direct mail on features – no one cares. People buy based on benefits. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit to the customer. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service.

If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try this: List the features on a paper and next to each one, list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner a feature is the motor power, while a benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

Have you made any of these mistakes or others? Don’t worry, over the years we have all made mistakes, but we have also learned a great deal from them.

One final thought on mail mistakes: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Split your list in half and send the new piece to one half and your last great piece with a new offer to the other half. This will help you test out fresh ideas without sacrificing your whole list. Sometimes the new idea is better, and sometimes it needs more work – but either way, you’ll gain knowledge to create more effective pieces moving forward.

Now, it’s time to make some great direct mail!