10 Direct Mail Mistakes That Cost You Money

Direct mail can be complicated. From choosing the right lists to having a compelling design and making the perfect offer, there’s a lot that can go wrong. We’ve compiled a list of the ten most common direct mail mistakes to help you save money and avoid the pain from kicking yourself later.

1. Mailing Too Far From Your Location

If you own a small local business, ask yourself what communities you serve on a daily basis. It doesn’t make sense to send direct mail to neighborhoods outside your traditional market unless you’re opening a new location. Instead, advertise only to addresses within a reasonable distance from your business. This helps you avoid wasting money on prospects outside your regular service area that are unlikely to convert.

2. Forgetting a Call to Action

The main point of advertising is to get prospects to take action. Whether you want to build awareness, encourage downloads from your website, or give away free samples, you need to give your audience a reason to reach out. Before you send out your next mailing, make sure your pieces include a clear call to action (CTA). You should also provide an appealing offer that rewards the prospect for taking action.

3. Offering a Lame Discount

While stinginess can be helpful in other aspects of business, you don’t want to pinch pennies when it comes to your direct mail offer. Most importantly, it has to be compelling. A mailer that only explains product or service features doesn’t give people enough of a reason to respond. Ignite action with one of the following offer types:

  • A bonus gift
  • Free consultation
  • A two-for-one deal
  • A free trial period
  • Limited time pricing
  • A deep discount

The offer should create a sense of urgency and be so compelling your audience would be foolish not to respond. If you give away something of value, you’ll get the response you want!

4. Not Identifying a Target Audience

What if I told you there was a way to find prospects who are already likely to purchase your products or services? By using targeted mailing lists, you can focus in on the specific demographics and traits of your ideal customers. You just need to do your homework.

Targeted mailings allow you to filter by age, sex, income level, interests, purchasing behavior, and just about anything else you can imagine. However, the more refined your criteria, the more the list will cost you.

Determine the characteristics of your ideal customers and work with a list provider to find a list that’s tailored to your business. For more on this topic, check out our guide to learn how to get a mailing list that will work for your needs.

5. Using the Same Message for Everyone

If your company serves multiple audience segments, a lack of personalization in your direct mail campaign can undermine the rest of your efforts.

To better serve all your customers, you need to start with a firm understanding of their varying needs and pain points. Then, create multiple direct mail pieces that speak to each segment of your audience with messages that convert.

6. Sending Mail to the Wrong Addresses

One of the most obvious ways to waste money on direct mail is to send to the wrong addresses. Make sure you practice regular list hygiene to keep your addresses accurate and up-to-date.

Comb through your list periodically to remove duplicates and addresses on your in-house suppress file. Crosscheck with the National Change of Address (NCOA) list to see if any of your list members have moved. You should also have your list provider CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certify your addresses to improve their accuracy and deliverability.

7. Attempting to Sell with Postcards

One major mistake some direct mailers make is to try to sell with a postcard. While postcards are great for prospecting, they’re not ideal for making a sales pitch. They must be short and sweet and invite the recipient to learn more about your business by calling or visiting your website.

There’s simply not enough space on a postcard to clutter it with text, so remember to be concise and clear with your messaging. Leave the selling to your website, sales team, or a future direct mail piece with more space for sales messaging.

8. Failing to Execute on Design

A clean design with easy-to-read print and eye-catching graphics is necessary to grab your audience’s attention. If your mail piece is dull, it’s going to blend in with the rest of the mail. However, too much flash can distract the reader from the message or offer. Work with a professional designer to strike a balance between simplicity and visual interest.

Avoid excessive amounts of small print. However, you should always clarify exclusions or limitations like, “for new customers only” and define specific timeframes or locations. You’ll also want to inspect the quality of your printed pieces to ensure there’s no smudging or other print errors. A well-executed design can have a huge impact on the response you get.

9. Not Tracking Campaign Results

If you’re not tracking the results of your direct mail campaigns, how do you know if they’re working or not? The golden rule in tracking response for direct mail is to make sure you have a unique tracking method for every point of contact or coupon you have on your direct mail pieces. Just be sure to use different codes for each campaign you send.

When customers use a coupon in the store, call in, or contact you online to redeem the offer, they should be asked to provide the code on the direct mail piece. Be sure to train your staff on how to capture additional information from call-ins, like their full name and current contact information.

You can also utilize other tracking methods like phone call tracking or campaign-specific URLs to gauge the response to your campaign. Make sure you’re also tracking the cost of each campaign and the money generated from it so you can determine your profit and the effectiveness of any given campaign.

To learn how to set up tracking methods and measure your results, check out our guide on how to track and measure direct mail campaigns.

10. Forgetting to Test Your Mailings

While many companies experience direct mail success, they may struggle to pinpoint exactly what’s working. If you’re running multiple direct mail campaigns throughout the year, you need to be tracking and measuring the success of each mailing and using that data to test changes.

You can test just about anything, including the list, messaging, design, offer, envelope, paper, format, etc. Try experimenting with a small group before mailing to your whole list. Or, you can run tests with each mailing you send out, making steady improvements as you go. Just be sure not to test too much at once, or you won’t be able to tell what is and isn’t working.

For more information on how to gain actionable insights from your campaign data, read our guide on analyzing and testing direct mail.

How Can You Make Sure You Avoid These Mistakes?

There’s a lot to consider when planning and executing a direct mail campaign. The best way to avoid some of the most common mistakes is to work with a reputable and trustworthy direct mail company. A good mailer will help you take care of all the details so you can focus on what you do best – running your business.