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More ways to fail at direct mail

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Last month, we talked about some strategies to avoid in direct mail. Here are some more not-to-dos.

1. Make the recipient’s name and address look like a mass mailing. There are few things that topple interest quicker than telling the prospect they are not important enough to warrant a personalized address. One good way to address your piece is to put the envelope in a laser printer and crank it out. Better yet, pay a high school kid to hand address the envelope. Obviously, it needs to be readable to get delivered. But there are so few letters hand addressed that it gets the reader’s attention.

2. Not ask the reader to respond. One of the best ways to get the prospect to respond is to include a self-addressed, postage-paid mailer. The easier you make it for them to respond, the more responses you’ll get.

Some companies offer a free pen or a getaway weekend for two. Some savvy marketers include a dollar bill in a solicitation. If you want to get a quick response, give something away the reader can use. One of the best examples I have seen yet is one enterprising producer who put a lottery ticket in the envelope with the statement, “If you don’t win, you need to come to this seminar!”

3. The mailing is written to the wrong person in the wrong way. Often a mailing is written from the writer’s point of view. This is the biggest copy mistake you can make. For every “I” there should be five “you’s.”

You is one of the 12 most persuasive words in the English language. Also, your letter should be directed to the prospect you want to reach. Targeting the right prospect should be job No. 1. You wouldn’t want to send a mutual fund mailing to those whose fund company was shut down by the SEC. But what a good time to solicit for all those who are heavily invested in bonds and are seeing their yields take a hit.

4. You sent only one mailing and didn’t test it ahead of time. This is the biggest mistake direct mailers make. They assume if their associates like the offer and the copy, then it must be a winner. Rarely does a solicitation pull the first time. They need to be constantly tinkered with.

A year ago, one of the most successful financial planners in the U.S. told me he sent a solicitation letter to 100,000 people in the Midwest. He admitted the response rate was less than 0.05 percent. He lost about $80,000.

Now, unless you have that kind of money to burn in learning what not to do, test, test, test. If your mailing list contains 1,000, test 50. If you get no response, change the offer and try again. There are no bad mailings; there are only inexperienced advertisers.


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