Common DM mistakes and how to avoid them

As one of NZ’s leading mail houses, we see a lot of stunning direct mail campaigns. However we also see commonly made mistakes, that could have been avoided if addressed earlier in the planning stage. 

Here’s a list of the DM mistakes we see most often, with some advice on how you can avoid making them in your campaigns: 

1. No clearly defined goal
Failure to have clearly defined goals will lead to a rudderless, insipid campaign. Decide exactly what outcome will make your campaign a success and how will you track and measure its results. 

2. Lack of a clearly defined audience
The more you target your most responsive prospects, the more effective your mailing will be. Mailing to a random sample of names won’t get you the response you want. On the other hand, it’s amazing how precisely you can refine your lists to reach the people you want. So, spend some time analysing your best customers. What is their demographic? Where do they live? What are their interests? Use that information to define your most promising target audience to approach. 

3. Mailing (or emailing) to dirty data.
Every data list requires regular housekeeping to keep it spick and span, achieve good deliverability and ensure you’re addressing your customers correctly. Misspelt names and incorrect addresses can offend loyal customers, as can sending to those who are no longer in this world!  Here’s a list of data ‘spring clean’ tasks that can be done either by yourselves or your friendly mail house:

  • Identify and remove duplicate records
  • Combine records, who live at the same address (combining salutations as well)
  • Upper and lower case the data
  • Ensure you have an accurate first name wherever possible, and if not, a friendly ‘fallback’ to use instead (ie; Dear friend)
  • PAF cleanse to increase accuracy for postage discount
  • Issue SOA (annually) 

4. Failure to present a compelling offer or call to action
If you send a piece with information about your business, with no special offer or urgency, why should anyone respond? You need to make it clear what you want your reader to do and by when. If you are offering a special price, have an urgent need, or a two-for-one limited deal or some other special benefit, people are more likely to read your piece, and take immediate action. 

5. Message lacks relevance to the recipient
One of the best ways to achieve cut-through with your DMs is to use personalisation. There are some retailers who are using personalisation in a very sophisticated way, but you’d never know it. Ever wonder why that fashion catalogue always has someone of your size on the cover?  Ever been amazed that your favourite lipstick brand is on special? Or, why your favourite charity has sent you a picture of the dolphin you wanted your donation to save? The more you can personalise your message, the more your audience will feel that you are speaking directly to them – that you understand their needs and how to fulfil those needs. Avoid talking about ‘people in general.’ Use the word ‘you’ – a lot. Write copy that shows you know their mindset and use their name where appropriate. You want your audience to read your offer and feel as though you are sitting across the kitchen table from them. If you can establish that kind of rapport with your reader, your response rates will increase. 

6. Mediocre creative components
Your DM piece has to sell. The right copy and design can inspire your audience into action. Too much copy is boring. If your headline doesn’t grab them, they’ll toss you aside. Track your campaign and keep working on the offer, its benefits, and the way you connect it to your audience until you get a good response. The best direct mail marketers keep improving their pieces so they get an even better response the next time. Which brings us to the next mistake . . . 

7. Failure to test or measure performance
Times (and people) change, as does our competition. To keep growing, you have to keep up. That’s why you must test, test, test. Try new formats, new offers. Even a change in a headline can make a big difference. Do everything you can to keep improving your performance and your results will continue to grow. A critical part of your testing program is to be able to track how each variation did at achieving a response, therefore make sure you include a tracking mechanism in your mailing plan. 

8. Poor (or no) follow-up
You want to welcome your customers with open arms so they’ll have a pleasant experience and want to respond again to future offers. So, prepare yourself to be able to respond as quickly as possible to sales or requests for information. You’ve worked hard and invested money to get people to respond. Don’t disappoint them at this stage. Prove that you really are everything you said you were. Make the most of every customer, and your business will grow and grow. 

Any one of these mistakes can negatively impact the results of your DM campaign. Consider keeping this list handy and refer to it before you set up any future DM campaigns.

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