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7 Fatal Flaws of Direct Mail

Direct mail can be extremely effective if done properly. Successful direct mail doesn’t depend on fancy, four-color design or “creative” copy. This article discusses the seven most common direct mail mistakes and how to avoid them.

Flaw #1: Ignoring the importance of the mailing list

Too many businesses shop different direct mail companies based on price per piece without taking into consideration the value of the list. There are numerous types of lists available on the market, the cost of which varies based on the criteria used.

The quality of the list, however, is the most important factor in direct mail success. Never sacrifice the quality of the list to get a better price per piece. You may pay less per mail drop, but your true cost per “up” and actual sale will be significantly higher.

Flaw #2: Failing to use a letter

A package with a letter will nearly always out-pull a postcard, a self-mailer, or a stand-alone brochure. And there are various types of envelopes that can be used to ensure these letters will be opened.

Why do letters pull so well? Because a letter gives the impression that you are communicating directly with your prospect versus the impersonal approach of an advertisement.

Flaw #3: Not having an offer

An offer is the tangible benefit that the reader gets when he or she responds to your mailing. A direct mail piece should sell the offer in addition to the product. To maximize your response, there needs to be a well thought-out offer in every mailing. Depending on the mailing, there are an endless number of creative offers that can be used to increase your response rates.

Flaw #4: Failing to use “magic” words

What is a “magic” word? In direct mail, there are a handful of magic words that can dramatically increase the response from your mailing. A good offer with the right wording is like a magnet, driving your potential customer toward you.

One of the most successful words is FREE. Say Free Gift. Not gift. This little change can make a big difference.

Others that work well are THIS WEEK ONLY or LIMITED TIME ONLY. These words create urgency which will increase your response rate.

The word NEW has always worked well. New is sheer magic in consumer mailings. Make sure that your mailing has the necessary “magic” words to help increase your response rates.

Flaw #5: Falling for the graphic trap

Too many marketers are overly concerned with the graphic design of a direct mail piece. Direct mail is not meant to be pretty. Its goal is not to be remembered or create an image or make an impact, but to generate a response NOW.

If you are only concerned about building a brand, then that is different. But the majority of businesses that do direct mail are doing it for one reason only: to generate new business today. Create a piece that uses the “magic” words and has an offer that will generate response. These items are much more important than the graphic appeal of the piece.

Flaw #6: Not measuring the results

Too many businesses spend valuable ad dollars without adequately measuring the success. This is especially true with direct mail.

There are a number of ways to track the success of a direct mail campaign. If your piece has a special offer, it usually requires that the prospect bring the piece to your place of business. But regardless of how they are to respond, you need to have a process in place to track the leads that are generated from your direct mail campaign.

In addition, you need to track your phone ups to determine the source. The company, Who’s Calling, offers one of the best call tracking tools available to the industry.

If you accurately track the “ups” and sales generated by your direct mail campaigns, you can determine your true ROI.

Flaw #7: Failing to test different types of mailings

In order to determine which mailer works best in your marketplace, you need to try different mailings to different lists with different offers. If you are doing a good job of measuring the results as suggested above, you will be able to compare the results of the different tests. This will allow you to use the mailing that pulls best in your market and ultimately sell more.

Final Thoughts: Go hunting with a rifle, not a shotgun!

Direct mail is one of the unique advertising methods that truly allows you to target your audience with pinpoint accuracy. In addition to avoiding the seven fatal flaws of direct mail, I highly recommend that you consider direct mail campaigns versus an occasional mail drop. A well thought-out campaign will give you a steady flow of “ups” and revenue. It will also allow you to take advantage of seasonal trends.

Grant Dunning is President and CEO of On-Target Direct. Since 1986 Grant has been providing businesses throughout North America with direct marketing programs. On-Target Direct is a full-service direct marketing company that is focused on setting new standards in cost-effective business development. You can contact Grant Dunning at or call 888-212-3098.Article source:

Read other articles in this issue:

10 of the Top 52 SEO Tips
7 Fatal Flaws of Direct Mail
How to Measure a Successful Marketing Campaign

Newsletter Overview

June 4, 2020

Direct Marketing Tips

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