5 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Direct Mail

By Nancy HarhutSeptember 3, 2019

Whether you’re a direct marketer who wants to fine-tune your controls, or an integrated marketer who’d like to add direct mail to your campaigns, avoiding these five missteps will set you up for success.

Mistake #1 – Not choosing your format carefully

What you choose to mail can make a big difference in your response rates. Letter packages are often a good bet, and in many tests have beaten selfmailers and postcards.

However not all letter packages are the same. A 9×12 envelope will stand out in the mail, but you’ll pay more in postage for it. Business size envelopes and 6x9s are less expensive and therefore more common, so you need to think about how you can design them so your target notices and opens them.

In some cases, the teaser line on the outside of the envelope – or the lack thereof– will make all the difference. In other cases, the color, paper stock, number of windows, or opening mechanism is what will do the trick.

Despite the pulling power of letter packages, there are times when a selfmailer or postcard may be your better option. Special sales and quick reminders are among them. And like any savvy direct marketer, you want to test your format approaches to see what pulls best for your situation.

Mistake #2 – Filling every available space

It’s true that compared to other media, direct mail often offers more “real estate” for your sales message. However, filling every bit of available space is a mistake.

Include white space in your piece, because the human eye needs places to rest. Aim to keep your paragraphs no deeper than seven lines. Vary their length. And use subheads, bullets, and numbers to break up your content. Coming at your prospect with a wall of copy is a fast way to discourage that prospect from reading it.

If you do have a lot to say, consider sending a series of mailings, or driving people to your landing page or website.

Remember that if you’re running a lead generation campaign, you usually need less copy than if you are selling off the page. And in both cases, you want to get to your point quickly, and not “bury your lead.”

Mistake #3 – Being too focused on what you want to say

Don’t get me wrong. Focusing on your message is good. However, your message should be constructed around what your prospects and customers want to hear – not what you want to tell them.

Keep in mind that people are more interested in themselves than in anyone else, and that includes you. But they could very well be interested in what your product or service does for them. So always focus your message around your target’s wants, needs, goals, and hopes.

When writing, try to limit your use of “I,” “we,” and “our company,” and instead use the words “you” and “your.”  Highlight benefits over features. And avoid tech speak and jargon, which can turn your target off.

Mistake #4 – Forgetting the most persuasive part

It’s been said that a direct mail letter is salesmanship in print.  But one big difference is that when someone talks to a salesperson, they have the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification.

Even more important, that salesperson can see or hear if the prospect is confused, skeptical, or needs additional information, and can react in the moment.

With a direct mail piece, a marketer needs to think ahead about the biggest reason the target won’t want to do what they’re being asked to. And you need to build into your piece the argument to overcome that objection.

Done properly, this is the most persuasive part of your direct mail piece.  Yes, you need your main message, benefits, supporting points, reasons to believe and offer. But the copy that addresses the buying barrier is critical. Without it, you may fail to persuade targets that otherwise would have become good customers – and increased your campaign’s ROI.

 Mistake #5 – Assuming people make rational decisions

When creating direct mail, it’s tempting to think that if we provide a good product at a good price to a qualified target, we’ll get a response. However, science has shown us otherwise.

Social scientists have found that up to 95% of purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. Very often people don’t make well-considered decisions; instead they rely on decision defaults – hardwired behaviors that kick in with little to no thought.

So in addition to following best practices when creating direct mail, today’s marketers also need to build behavioral science triggers into creative executions. Fortunately, there are many proven ones to choose from. And adding them can prompt people to automatically open, read and respond to your direct mail.

To hear more from Nancy in person, be sure to join us for Connect to Convert at the Westin Boston Waterfront, September 25-27, where Nancy will be speaking on Direct Mail and Email Marketing. Register Here!


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