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6 tips for avoiding common direct mail mistakes

mailboxA successful direct mail campaign requires time and attention to detail. The end of summer, kids back to school and several major holidays on the horizon means a fertile ground of sales opportunities for every business. While there is endless advice about how to use direct mail successfully, it’s equally important to consider common mistakes that many companies make.   As you plan your direct marketing efforts for the fall, make sure you prepare effectively to make the most of your campaign.  Here are some tips:

Keep Data Clean – Having organized and well-kept data saves you time, money and effort. Regularly update records of addresses so you don’t waste money mailing to people who are no longer living at an address you have on file. And if you opt for a prospect file, make sure you get a quality file from a reputable company. Have them match it to your target demographic, and check it against your existing lists so you don’t accidentally mail customers twice. Your mailing list is your market, so this is the most important part of a direct mail campaign.

Personalize Your Message – You can go a long way with a potential customer by delivering a personalized message. It makes the offer feel less robotic, and shows that you are speaking to that individual specifically. Consider using a different message for your current customers than you do for your prospects. Keeping in touch is different than acquisition, so address your audience accordingly. Beyond that, you can customize to certain demographics for maximum impact. For example, the things that appeal to 20-year-old single men are vastly different than those that appeal to 40-year-old married soccer moms. Change your message, your tone, or your graphics. By thinking creatively and getting in the head of the consumer, you can use emotional and lifestyle marketing to connect with your audience.

Prompt Further Action – A good piece of direct mail may grab your customers’ attention, but without a call to action, things may not go any further than that. Have a hook to your message – incentivize the person holding that piece of paper to either make a purchase or inquire further. Do more than just be interesting or informative. Add something to your piece that says “you need to act now”, and give them the necessary information to do so.

Test It Out – Don’t forget A/B testing if you’re trying out something new, unsure if something will work, or considering expanding to a new demographic. This is particularly important when the change that you’re considering will cost a lot of money. Always see if the increase in cost justifies the market’s response.  It’s always better to catch bugs in a campaign on a smaller test market and avoid problems on subsequent, larger marketing efforts.  You can never over-test.

Track It All – The past plays a large role in developing plans for the future. Having a good tracking system in place allows you to see where things went right (or wrong!) so that you can make smart decisions moving forward. Consider asking customers how they heard about your business, or direct them to your website using a special code or a designated landing page. Having this information at your disposal will help you determine the best way to proceed in future campaigns.

Keep It Frequent – With direct mail, you’re in it for the long haul. When done correctly, you will see results. But this will not happen if you’re only sending out an annual one-time mailer. Make direct mail ongoing and part of a broader marketing plan. Heighten your brand awareness by including email blasts, direct social media marketing, AdWords, weekly blogs and website updates in addition to your mailers.
Keep your name out there and in sight for your customers and search engines, and business will follow.


Spend some extra up-front time planning a clean direct mail campaign and you can avoid these common mistakes. Make your campaign relevant, targeted, tested and tracked and it will show optimum results. You’ll be amazed at the difference it all makes!

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