Direct Mail

6 More Common Direct Mail Mistakes

Direct MailLast we covered the first six mistakes for a success direct mail campaign. Here are six more areas to avoid to get the response you need.

Mistake No. 7: Saving the best for last

Some copywriters save their strongest sales pitch for last, starting slow in their sales letters and hoping to build to a climactic conclusion.

A mistake. Leo Bott, Jr., a Chicago-based mail-order writer, says that the typical prospect reads for five seconds before he decides whether to continue reading or throw your mailing in the trash. The letter must grab his attention immediately. So start your letter with your strongest sales point.

Some examples of powerful openings:

“14 things that can go wrong in your company – and one sure way to prevent them” – an envelope teaser for a mailing that sold a manual on internal auditing procedures.

“A special invitation to the hero of American business” – from a subscription letter for Inc. magazine.

“Can 193,750 millionaires be wrong?” – an envelope teaser for a subscription mailing for Financial World magazine.

“Dear Friend: I’m fed up with the legal system. I want to change it, and I think you do, too.” – the lead paragraph of a fund-raising letter.

Some time-testing opening gambits for sales letters include:

  • asking a provocative question
  • going straight to the heart of the reader’s most pressing problem or concern
  • arousing curiosity
  • leading off with a fascinating fact or incredible statistic
  • Starting the offer up-front, especially if it involves money; saving it, getting something for an incredibly low price, or making a free offer

Know the “hot spots” of your direct mail package – the paces that get the most readership. Those include: the first paragraphs of the letter, its subheads, its last paragraph and the post-script (80% of readers look at the PS); the brochure cover, its subheads and the headline of its inside spread; picture captions; and the headline and copy on the order form or reply card. Put your strongest selling copy in those spots.

Error No. 8: Poor follow-up

direct mail followupRecently a company phoned to ask whether I was interested in buying its product, which was promoted in a mailing I’d answered. The caller became indignant when I confessed that I didn’t remember the company’s copy, its product, its mailing, or whether it sent me a brochure.

“When did I request the brochure?” I asked. The caller checked her records. “About 14 weeks ago,” she replied.

Hot leads rapidly turn ice cold when not followed up quickly. Slow fulfillment, poor marketing literature and inept telemarketing can destroy the initial interest that you worked so hard to build.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself about your current inquiry fulfillment procedures:

  • Am I filling order or requests for information with 48 hours?
  • Am I using telephone follow-up or mail questionnaires to qualify prospects? By my definition, an inquiry is a response to your mailing. A lead is a qualified inquirer – someone who fits the descriptive profile of a potential customer for your product. You are after leads, not just inquiries.
  • Am I sending additional mailings to people who did not respond to my first mailing? Test that. Many people who did not respond to mailing No. 1 may send back the reply card from mailing No. 2, or even No. 3.
  • Am I using telemarketing to turn nonresponders into responders? Direct mail followed by telemarketing generates two to 10 times more response than direct mail with no telephone follow-up, according to Dwight Reichard, telemarketing director of Federated Investors Inc., Pittsburgh.
  • Does my inquiry fulfillment package include a strong sales letter telling the prospect what to do next? Every package should.
  • Does my inquiry fulfillment package include a reply element, such as an order form or spec sheet?
  • Does my sales brochure give the reader the information he needs to make an intelligent decision about taking the next step in the buying process? The most common complaints I hear from prospects is that the brochures they receive do not contain enough technical and price information.

Don’t put 100% of your time and effort into lead-generating mailing and 0% into the follow-up, as so many mailers do. You have to keep selling, every step of the way.

Error No. 9: The magic words

This mistake is not using the magic words that can dramatically increase the response to your mailing.

General advertisers, operating under the mistaken notion that the mission of the copywriter is to be creative, avoid the magic words of direct mail, because they think those magic phrases are clichés.

But just because a word or phrase is used frequently doesn’t mean that it has lost its power to achieve your communications objective. In conversation, for example, “please” and “thank you” never go out of style.

What are the magic words of direct mail?

Free. Say free brochure. Not brochure. Say free consultation. Not initial consultation. Say free gift. Not gift.

If the English teacher in you objects that “free gift” is redundant, let me tell you a story. A mail-order firm tested two packages. The only difference was that package “A” offered a gift while package “B” offered a free gift.

The result? You guessed it. The free gift order in package “B” significantly out pulled package “A”. What’s more, many people who received package “A” wrote in and asked whether the gift was free!

No Obligation. Important when you are offering anything free. If prospects aren’t obligated to use your firm’s wastewater treatment services after you analyze their water sample for free, say so. People want to be reassured that there are no strings attached.

No salesperson will call. If true, a fantastic phrase that can increase response by 10% or more. Most people, including genuine prospects, hate being called by salespeople over the phone. Warning: Don’t say “no salesperson will call” if you do plan to follow up by phone. People won’t buy from liars.

Details inside/See inside. One of those should follow any teaser copy on the outer envelope. You need a phrase that directs the reader to the inside.

Limited time only. People who put your mailing aside for later reading or file it will probably never respond. The trick is to generate a response now. One way to do it is with a time-limited offer, either generic (“This offer is for a limited time only.”), or specific (“This offer expires 9/20/87.”). Try it!

Announcing/At last. People like to think they are getting in on the ground floor of a new thing. Making your mailing an announcement increases its attention-getting powers.

New. “New” is sheer magic in consumer mailings. But it’s a double-edged sword in industrial mailings. On the one hand, business and technical buyers want something new. On the other hand, they demand products with proven performance.

The solution? Explain that your product is new or available to them for the first time, but proven elsewhere – either in another country, another application, or another industry. For example, when we introduced a diagnostic display system, we advertised it as “new” to US hospitals but explained it had been used successfully for five years in leading hospitals throughout Europe.

Error No. 10: Starting with the product – not the prospect.

You and your products are not important to the prospect. The reader opening your sales letter only wants to know, “What’s in it for me? How will I come out ahead by doing business with you vs. Someone else?”

Successful direct mail focuses on the prospect, not the product. The most useful background research you can do is to ask your typical prospect, “What’s the biggest problem you have right now?” The sales letter should talk about that problem, then promise a solution.

Do not guess what is going on in industries about which you have limited knowledge. Instead, talk to customers and prospects to find out their needs. Read the same publications and attend the same seminars they do. Try to learn their problems and concerns.

Too many companies and ad agencies don’t do that. Too many copywriters operate in a black box, and doom themselves merely to recycling data already found in existing brochures.

For example, let’s say you have the assignment of writing a direct-mail package selling weed control chemicals to farmers. Do you know what farmers look for in weed control, or why they choose one supplier over another? Unless you are a farmer, you probably don’t. Wouldn’t it help to speak to some farmers and learn more about their situation?

Read, talk and listen to find out what’s going on with your customers.

In his book “Or Your Money Back,” Alvin Eicoff, one of the deans of late night television commercials, tells the story of a radio commercial he wrote selling rat poison. It worked well in the consumer market. But when it was aimed at the farm market, sales turned up zero.

Mr. Eicoff drove out to the country to talk with farmers. His finding? Farmers didn’t order because they were embarrassed about having a rat problem, and feared their neighbors would learn about it when the poison was delivered by mail.

He added a single sentence to the radio script, which said that the rat poison was mailed in a plain brown wrapper. After that, sales soared.

Talk to your customers. Good direct mail–or any ad copy–should tell them what they want to hear. Not what you think is important.

Error No. 11: Failing to appeal to all five senses.

Direct Mail North Myrtle BeachUnlike an ad, which is two-dimensional, direct mail is three-dimensional and can appeal to all five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. Yet most users of direct mail fail to take advantage of the medium’s added dimension.

Don’t plan a mailing without at least thinking about whether you can make it more powerful by adding a solid object, fragrance or even a sound. You ultimately may reject such enhancements because of time and budget constraints. But here are some ideas you might consider:

Audio Recording. In selling summaries of business books recorded on CD or DVD, Macmillan Software Co. sent an CD in a cold mailing to prospects. This allows the prospect to sample the books-on-tape program. I would have said, “Too expensive.” But inside information, and the fact that I got the package twice, tell me it’s working for them.

Do you have a powerful message that a company spokesperson can deliver in dynamic fashion to your audience? Consider adding a CD to your package.

Video. Some companies are taking the idea one step further and mailing DVDs cold to prospects. Again, that’s expensive–but successful in many instances. One company I spoke to got a 30% response to such a program. And in telephone follow-up, they learned that 95% watched the tape.

Pop-ups. Chris Crowell, president of Essex, Conn.-based Structural Graphics Inc., says pop-ups can increase response up to 40% when compared with a conventional flat mailing. You can have a pop-up custom designed for your mailing or choose from one of many “stock” designs available.

Money. Market research firms have discovered that enclosing a dollar bill with a market research survey can increase response by a factor of five or more, even though $1 is surely of no consequence to business executives or most consumers. Has anyone tried using money to get attention in a lead getting industrial mailing?

Sound. Have you seen the greeting cards that play a song when you open them because of an implanted chip or some similar device? I think that certainly would get attention. But as far as I know, no one has used it yet in direct mail.

Product samples. Don’t neglect this old standard. Enclose a product or material sample in your next mailing. We once did a mailing in which we enclosed a small sample of knitted wire mesh used in pollution control and product recovery. Engineers who received the mailing kept that bit of wire on their desks for months.

Premiums. An inexpensive gift such as a slide guide, measuring tape, ruler or thermometer can still work well.

One recommendation and warning: A lot of us, including me, need to be a little more imaginative if we want our mailing package to stand out in the prospect’s crowded mailbox. At the same time, we must remember that creativity can enhance a strong selling message or idea but cannot substitute for it. As copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis, president of Communicomp in Plantation, Fla., warns, “Cleverness for the sake of cleverness may well be a liability, not an asset.”

Error No. 12: Creating and reviewing direct mail by committee

Do you know what a moose is? It’s a cow designed by a committee.

Perhaps the biggest problem I see today is direct mail being reviewed by committees made up of people who have no idea (a) what direct mail is; (b) how it works; or (c) what it can and cannot do.

For example, an ad agency creative director told me how his client cut a three-page sales letter to a single page because, as the client insisted, “Business people don’t read long letters.”

Unfortunately, that’s an assumption based on the client’s own personal prejudices and reading habits. It is not a fact. In many business-to-business direct mail tests, I have seen long letters outpull short ones sometimes dramatically.

Why pay experts to create mailings based on long years of trial-and-error experience, then deprive yourself of that knowledge base by letting personal opinions get in the way?


Now that you have a good idea of what goes into a successful sales campaign – let’s   talk about the specific of your direct mail project. Call today for a free no-obligation consultation.

Unlimited Printing & Signs
2408 Madison Drive Suite 101
North Myrtle Beach, SC  29582

Mail Marketing North Myrtle Beach

The 6 Most Typical Direct-mail Advertising Errors

Mail Marketing North Myrtle BeachEffective direct mail doesn’t depend on expensive, four-color design or overly creative copy. Below are 6 errors that businesses often make with direct mail. Next week we will share six more.

Error No. 1: Neglecting the most important factor in direct-mail advertising success

Do you know what the most important part of your direct mail campaign is? It’s not the copy. It’s not the art work. It’s not even the format or when you mail. It is the mailing list.

A great mailing plan, with superior copy and scintillating design, may pull double the response of an inadequately conceived mailing. But the best list can pull a response 10 times more than the worst list for the identical mailing piece.

The most common direct-mail mistake is not investing sufficient time and effort up-front, when you select – and after that test – the right lists.

Remember: In direct marketing, a subscriber list is not just a way of reaching your market. It is the marketplace.

The best list available to you is your “home” list – a list of customers and prospects who formerly bought from you or reacted to your advertisements, public relations projects, or other mailings. Normally, your home list will pull double the response of an unsolicited list. Yet, less than half of all business marketers surveyed failed to capture and use consumer and prospect names for mailing purposes.

When leasing outside lists, get your advertising agency or list broker involved in the early stages. The mailing piece ought to not be written and developed until after the right lists have been organized. UPS Printing, Marketing and Design will work with you to ensure you are getting the right list for your target direct mail piece.

Error No. 2: Not testing

Big customer mailers check all the time. Publishers Clearinghouse tests almost everything … even (I hear) the slant of the indicia on the external envelope.

Business-to-business marketers, on the other hand, rarely track reaction or test one mailing piece to a specific list against another.

As a result, they repeat their past failures and have no concept of what works in direct mail – and what doesn’t work. Big Mistake. In direct mail, you never presume you understand exactly what will work. You need to evaluate to learn.

For instance, copywriter Milt Pierce wrote a subscription package for Good Housekeeping magazine. His mailing became the “control” package for over 25 years. That is, no package tested against it brought back as many subscriptions.

The envelope teaser and theme of that effective mailing was “32 Ways to Save Time and Money.” Yet, Mr. Pierce states that when he used the very same style to subscription mailings for other magazines – Science Digest, Popular Mechanics, House Beautiful – it failed miserably.

“There are no catch-all answers in direct-mail advertising other than to test responses,” says Eugene Schwartz, author of the book, “Break-through Advertising.” “You don’t know whether something will work up until you test it. And you cannot predict test results based upon previous experience.”

Error No. 3: Not utilizing a letter in your mailing plan

The sales letter – not the outer envelope, the brochure, or perhaps the reply form – is the most vital part of a business-to-business direct-mail package.

A bundle with a letter will nearly always out pull a postcard, a self-mailer, or a pamphlet or advertisement reprint mailed without a letter.

Just recently, a business evaluated two bundles offering, for $1, a copy of its mail-order tool brochure. Plan “A” included a sales letter and reply card. Bundle “B” was a double post-card. The outcome? “A” out pulled “B” by a 3-to-1 ratio.

Why do letters pull so well? Due to the fact that a letter gives the illusion of personal interaction. We are trained to view letters as “real” mail, pamphlets as “advertising.” Which is more important to you?

One suggestion I typically provide clients is to attempt an old-fashioned sales letter initially. Go to a fancier piece when you begin making some money.

Mistake No. 4: Features vs Benefits

Perhaps the oldest and most commonly welcomed guideline for composing direct-mail copy is, “Stress benefits, not features.” However in business-to-business marketing, that doesn’t always apply.

In specific scenarios, features need to be provided equivalent (if not top) billing over benefits.

For instance, if you’ve ever marketed semiconductors, you know that design engineers are starving for specs. They want hard information on power distribution, drain-source, voltage, input capacitance, and rise-and-fall time … not broad advertising claims about how the item conserves money and time or enhances efficiency.

Vivian Sudhalter, Director of Marketing for New York-based Macmillan Software Co., agrees.

” Regardless of what tradition tells you,” states Ms. Sudhalter, “the science and engineering marketplace does not respond to guarantee – or a list of benefits – oriented copy. They respond to facts. Your response piece needs to tell them precisely what they are getting and what your product or service can do. Scientists and engineers resent copy that sounds like advertising jargon.”

In that same line, I believe that medical practitioners are swayed more by complex medical data than by advertising claims, and that industrial chemists are eager to learn more about complicated formulas that the typical advertising author might turn down as “too technical.”

In short, the copywriter’s real difficulty is to learn exactly what the customer wants to know about your product or service – then inform him in your mailing.

Error No. 5: Not having a call-to-action

An call-to-action is what the reader will receive when they responds to your mailing.

To be successful, a direct-mail bundle must sell what you are offering, not the product or service itself. For example, if I send by mail a letter describing a new mainframe computer system, my letter is not going to do the whole job of convincing individuals to buy my computer. But the letter is capable of swaying some people to at least show interest by requesting a complimentary brochure about the computer.

Ensure you have a well-thought-out offer in every mailing. If you believe the offer and the way you explain it are unimportant, you are incorrect.

A free-lance copywriter recently ran an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal that offered a complimentary portfolio of post reprints about direct mail. He received dozens of replies. Then he ran a similar advertisement, but charged $3 for the portfolio instead of giving it away. Variety of responses that time? Just 3.

Here are some effective offers for industrial direct mail: Free pamphlet, free technical info, totally free analysis, free consultation, free demonstration, free trial usage, free item sample, free brochure.

Your copy must state the offer in such a way that it increases the reader’s desire to send for whatever it is you offer. For instance, a brochure ends up being a product guide. A collection of sales brochures ends up being a free information package. A list ends up being a convention organizer’s guide. An article reprinted in pamphlet form becomes “our new, informative brochure-‘ Ways to Avoid Computer system Failures.'”.

From now on, design your literature with titles and information that will make them work well as offers in direct-mail advertising. A simple change such as a brochure listing United States software programs offered for export overseas, could be changed to call the book “The Worldwide Directory site of US Software application,” because people would think such a directory was more valuable than a mere product brochure.

Error No. 6: Shallow copy

Nothing kills the selling power of a business-to-business mailing much faster than lack of content.

An example is what I call the “art director’s sales brochure.” You have actually seen them: Display pieces predestined to win awards for graphic quality. Pamphlets so gorgeous that everybody falls in love with them – until they finally understand that people send for information, not beautiful pictures. Which is why typewritten, unillustrated sales pamphlets can frequently pull double the reaction of expensive, four-color work.

In the same way, business-to-business direct mail is not tantalizing. Its objective is not to be remembered or make an impact, however to create a response now.

One of the quickest methods to kill that response is to be superficial. To talk in vague generalities, rather than specifics. To rattle on without authority on a subject, instead of showing consumers that you comprehend their problems, their industry and their requirements.

To compose strong copy – direct, factual copy – you need to dig for truths. You have to study the product, the prospect and the marketing problem. There is no way around this. Without strong facts, you cannot write great copy. But with the facts at their fingertips, even average copywriters can do a good job.

Just how much research study suffices? Follow Bly’s Rule, which says you should gather at least twice as many details as you need – ideally three times as much. Then you have the luxury of choosing only the best facts, rather trying frantically to discover enough information to fill the page.

Next week we will discuss six additional direct marketing errors and how to avoid them.

Are you ready to market your business with direct mail? Give UPS Printing, Marketing and Design a call today. We can assist you with finding the best list, creating the direct mail packet and testing the response.

Unlimited Printing & Signs
2408 Madison Drive Suite 101
North Myrtle Beach, SC  29582

Mail Marketing North Myrtle Beach

Marketing Through Direct Mail

Mail Marketing North Myrtle BeachAs a small business owner, you need to reach new consumers but might not know how to find them.

Here are some fundamental direct mail marketing pointers and methods to simplify the process of producing leads and transforming them into new customers.

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Direct marketing is an ideal opportunity to get your business’s name in the hands of consumers who wish to hear about your latest products, services, and discounts.

4 Easy Direct-mail advertising Marketing Tips

1. Understanding Your Target Customers
Understanding about your best consumers is a vital consideration for targeted direct marketing. Understanding the clients’ fundamental demographics, such as males 18 to 34 or women with children, is a start. However, a more total understanding of your consumer’s profile like their shopping and acquiring habits in other areas; their mindsets toward patterns, products, marketing and media; or their way of life practices can assist you to become a lot more effective in both your lead choice and the messages you’ll use in interacting with the leads.

2. Target Your Ideal Client
When you understand more about your clients you can utilize this info to construct a targeted list of potential brand-new leads. A targeted direct newsletter can be expensive, but they’re most likely to result in the best response rate and produce future faithful consumers.

The old formula for direct marketing success was mass marketing: “Throw as much against the wall and see what sticks” doesn’t work anymore. Postage and paper expenses are constantly increasing, and with so much mail winding up in the garbage, smart companies have changed their way of thinking. Why squander cash mailing to everyone when everybody is not a prospect? Smart businesses target the local consumers who have an interest and will buy. That is the difference between mass marketing and target marketing. Targeted subscriber list identify your best leads. There is less waste and a higher percentage of prospects responding to your mailing.

3. Select a Direct Mail Type
It’s virtually impossible to overemphasize the significance of direct mailing lists to the success of your direct-mail advertising program. The right mail piece will include your most important potential customers. The more careful you are in examining and picking direct mail letter, the better your opportunities for success. There are several different categories of mailing lists offered on the market today ranging in cost and appropriateness for your market. When you are considering what type of mailing list to purchase think about the following 3 types:

  • Targeted Lists – allows you to recognize a specific target audience
  • Specific Interest List – allows you to pick the client criteria that fulfills your needs
  • Cloned List – allows you to discover customers much like your finest existing customers.

We can assist you in procuring the list that is right for your target customer.

4. Create a Mailing
Once you have a mailing list it is time to produce your direct mail message. This is the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of direct mail marketing and where UPS Printing, Marketing & Design can be of assistance. The direct-mail advertising piece you produce needs to deliver your specific message. The piece represents who and exactly what you are. Make it consistent with what you’re selling. If you are providing a high-quality professional service, your direct mail piece needs to show that quality.

Give me a call today to discuss your direct mail marketing piece and how it can generate leads for your business.

Unlimited Printing & Signs
2408 Madison Drive Suite 101
North Myrtle Beach, SC  29582