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How To Screw Up Direct Mail

by Rob Frankel
Copyright 1996, Frankel & Anderson

Rob Frankel is president of Frankel&Anderson.
"Advertising, Marketing and Killer Creative"


Lots of people think that direct marketing is where it's at. But there are a lot of traps that trip up even the best attempts, making direct marketing (and direct mail in particular) extremely expensive:


  1. Non-delivery (BULK RATE): The problem with bulk rate is that the post office, for all intents and purposes, delivers bulk stuff last, if at all. That's right, it can stay on the truck until the cows come home, because it ranks in priority somewhere between coffee break and cleaning up the dog's mess at home. If there was ever proof of "you get what you pay for", bulk rate mail is it.

  2. Non-delivery (Bad List): You bought a mailing list that was totally wrong for your market. Wrong people. Wrong age. Wrong location.


  3. Non-delivery (Dirty List): Most people don't realize that even the most highly-targeted lists must be cleaned and purged of old, obsolete data. If you simply bought the list and ran it, chances are that a good 20% were no good. You must always specify running a list through NCOA (National Change of Address) to clean the list up before you send -- or your list vendor should do it for you.


  4. Non-delivery (Life): A relatively high percentage of mail simply doesn't get delivered. not enough to throw off a real test, but it's out there.


  5. Non-Specific Addresses: A sure way to have your piece ignored is by addressing it to a title instead of a name, or an incorrect name.


  6. Bad Creative (Off Target): You have the right people, you have the wrong message. Everyone makes this mistake, which is why you always want to split your effort into two pieces, testing the effectiveness of one against the other.


  7. Bad Creative (Unappealing): Your piece was uninviting and thus never opened. Cover art is critical to any good piece.


  8. Bad Creative (Unclear): Your piece was pretty, but nobody understood what the heck you were talking about. This is the numero uno mistake made by do-it-yourselfers.


  9. Bad Creative (Informative but no sell): You informed your targets, but didn't tell them what to do about it. Your call to action got buried somewhere or was too difficult to decipher.


  10. Bad Creative (No Impulse): You didn't compel your recipients to respond within a certain time frame. Without a deadline, there is no immedicay to act, which means the piece may "get filed away" until they remember it -- like never.


  11. Omission of "Current Resident": Unless you specify "or Current Resident" in the address label, the Post Office won't drop off the piece at the address. if your list was old, or their name had changed, they wouldn't have received the piece.


  12. No Return Test: If the piece is mailed first class, be sure to specify a line in the address that says, "if undeliverable, return to sender" or something like that. First class returns are a good indicator of what went wrong.

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