5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail

Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

what not to do in direct mailFor the last 26 years, we have worked with customers to send really good direct mail. Of course during that time there have been some flops for many different reasons. We have learned much more from the flops than the greats. Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

5 Things to Not Do in Direct Mail

1. Font: The most important thing in your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily read. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters, too, so make it larger.

2. Lie: Your direct mail should never lie to people or as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

3. Old List: Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is three years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change, too. Sending to people who are not there or no longer interested is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean it up, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

4. No or Unclear Call-to-Action: The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call-to-action where you tell them what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either. A clear concise call-to-action is a must to drive response.

5. Features: Do not focus your direct mail on features — no one cares. People buy based on benefits, not features. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service. If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try listing the features on a paper and next to each one list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner, a feature is the motor power. A benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

This list could really keep on going, but we have hit in the five major areas. Have you made any of these mistakes or others? What else would you include in this list? We all make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing is to learn from them, to make your direct mail better. It’s time to make some great direct mail!

Author: Summer Gould

A blog about Direct Mail Marketing, tips, tricks and what not to do.Summer Gould is President of Eye/Comm Inc. Summer has spent her 27 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as a board member for Mailing Systems Management Association of San Diego. You can find her at Eye/Comm Inc’s website: eyecomm.org, email: summer.gould@eyecomm.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.

12 thoughts on “5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail”

  1. Courier and Prestige Elite were the go-to fonts for DM letters when I started writing them in the late 70s. But that was because they were typewriter fonts. Now that typewriters are long gone, other fonts such as Times Roman tend to do better. What fonts does the author recommend?

  2. I’d also add avoid reverse type. And please, please, please, no red font over black (for example). Your direct mail has to be read — actually scanned — by your customer in just moments. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point.

    1. You are exactly right, yet I see it all the time. Reverse type cuts readability by 50% and red on black is invisible to color blind people.

  3. The other thing to consider is timing. After I return from a tradeshow I am always amazed how many mail pieces I receive asking me to stop by their booth at the specific show but the show is already over.

  4. I’ve been doing successful Direct Mail for clients for more than 30 years.

    Direct Mail is the single most effective means of getting new prospects (with the exception of good word of mouth), and if it’s done well enough these prospects are only one step from being customers. It’s a pity so much money is wasted by those who don’t know how to do it right.

  5. It’s important to separate what is okay for PowerPoint presentations and hard copy presentation material, is not okay for direct mail copy. I use artsy, thematic fonts for PowerPoint because there are maybe 15 words on the page and it makes the presentation a bit more fun, but not in a direct mail piece.

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