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5 Reasons Your Direct Mail Marketing Project Failed


You designed what you believed to be the perfect mail piece for your direct mail marketing project. You incorporated eye-popping color and catchy graphics. You narrowed down your target audience to the best possible prospects. You're sure you did everything right, but your mailing was a failure anyway. You find yourself asking how is this possible? Where did I go wrong?


Direct Mail is an incredibly effective marketing channel when well planned and executed. Unfortunately sometimes less experienced marketers make mistakes with dire consequences. In order to help you avoid the pitfalls of direct mail gone wrong here is a list of the top 5 most common reasons for a mailing to perform poorly. 


Weak Call to Action 

If your mailing pulled a lower than anticipated response rate you may not have made it clear what you wanted the recipient to do. It is very important to make a clear and concise call to action in your direct mail piece. Adults have short attention spans. Don't make them hunt for the Ask, and don't assume your anemic call to action will be understood. Employees perform their jobs better when provided clear instructions and expectations. We are taught from childhood to follow directions. Most of us were raised to respect authority figures. Tell your audience what you want them to do. Maya Angelou famously said, "Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!" 


Limited Ways to Respond 

Response rates suffer when you fail to provide the recipients with multiple means of responding to your offer. Some people will only respond by going to a website. Others prefer to call a toll free number. Some people prefer to mail back a reply card or an order form in a reply envelope. If you utilize a reply device make sure you don’t require the responder to affix postage. Your printer or mailer can assist you with designing a USPS approved reply device and with the application for USPS authorization. 


Wrong Audience

Direct-Mail-Y-U-NO-300x224.jpgIt might seem painfully obvious but inexperienced marketers have often made the mistake of mailing the offer to the wrong audience. Mailing a promotional piece for a Veterinarian clinic that specializes in feline care to a list including a large number of dog owners is not going to perform as well as it would if mailed exclusively to cat owners. Mailing a piece offering plumbing services to apartment renters is going to bomb. Take time to carefully consider the offer and match it to the right list. When purchasing a list utilize demographic criteria selections beyond zip code alone.


Cultural and Religious Misunderstandings

Cultural and religious misunderstandings do take place and can cause a mailing to fail. I know of a Cremation service business that included in their mailing geography zip codes well known to be predominantly populated with people of the Jewish faith. The business was aware that followers of traditional Jewish law and customs opposed cremation. Their mistake was not excluding records based on religious affiliation. Taking into account cultural and other environmental variables is especially important if your brand is involved in international marketing. Coca Cola had to change its marketing message in India because soft drinks were mainly served to guests and on special occasions. UPS repainted their trucks in Spain because the brown trucks closely resembled that country’s hearses.


No Offer

Amazingly there are marketers sending out direct mail pieces with no offer whatsoever. Your piece should focus on the offer more than the product or service. People want to feel like they are getting a good deal. They want to get something more than what other people are getting. They especially like to get something for free. Make the offer prominent. Here are good examples of effective offers: Free Trial, Free Sample, Free Analysis, Free Consultation, Buy 1 Get 1 Free, % Discount for New Customers. It is also a good idea to make the offer available for a limited time. If the offer has no time limit the recipient may set it aside with the notion to respond later, only to forget all about it or change their mind. A limited time offer spurs people to make a decision quickly.


The success or failure of a mailing is dependent on multiple factors. Besides the list, design, and offer it is important to consider the timing, potential misunderstandings, means of responding, and clarity of the call to action. Experienced direct mail professionals are happy to discuss your project with you and will help you eliminate potential response killing mistakes. 


Want to learn more about direct mail?  Check out a few of our other direct mail blog posts!

* Using Incongruity in Direct Mail to Maximize Response
* Direct Mail - Key Print Production Considerations
* Direct Mail Ideas to Fit Every Budget
* 6 Essentials for Successful Direct Mail Design
* Is Direct Mail the Devil?


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