Reprinted from Canadian Exposition Communiqu�

The Most Common Errors in Direct Mail Marketing
based on Rene Gnam's Extensive Experience


by Rene Gnam

1. IMPROPER PLANNING
Dozens of errors are included in this category, but most of them occur by trying to rush into the mail without sitting down, thinking first, and asking for outside input.

2. IMPROPER TRACKING
Often a result of inadequate coding or improper planning, but usually a byproduct of poor employee morale or training. Example: "I forgot to ask her what her priority code was".

3. FAULTY ANALYSIS
Usually the product of an "I want this piece to be the winner" or "We think this version best describes our company's image" attitude, but often the result of fondling and admiring the spreadsheet instead of examining its figures.

4. TRUSTING SOMEONE ELSE TO DO WHAT YOU SHOULD DO YOURSELF
Yes, I do have a Judeo-Christian ethic, but I know better than to trust anyone on a final check of artboards or repros on my direct mail campaign. Even I make errors in final checking. Someday, I'll write a treatise on what can go wrong from the time you issue project instructions until ready-for-camera stuff isn't really ready but is released anyway.

5. FAILING TO SEE LISTS BEFORE MAILING
Did you look at the labels or a tape dump yourself? Why not? How do you know whether you got the right selection?

6. BELIEVING YOUR FAITHFUL PRINTER
Something will go wrong, even if it's not his fault. My guideline is to allow every printer enough time to do the job over again. I wish I always had that much extra time.

7. NOT ALLOWING ENOUGH TIME TO DO A GOOD JOB
When we have a solid idea for a mailing, we want it out almost instantly. That causes us to place undue stress on those who are trying to help us get the mail created and mailed.

8. TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE
Pause a bit. Let good thoughts mill around in your mind in the shower, at your desk, as you lunch in the park. Take breaks. Give yourself a chance to create your masterpiece.

9. RUMINATING ABOUT WHAT MUST BE DONE
Fretting about your workload, intricacies of design, production schedules, and the too many things that must be done in too short a time leads to errors. Relax. Then get it done.

10. LETTING SOMEONE ELSE ORDER LISTS
Yes, someone else - like a good list broker - can and should make recommendations, but the person in supreme charge of the mailing is the person who should make the final list determinations.

11. FORGETTING THAT DIFFERENT PEOPLE WORK AT A DIFFERENT PACE
You may be able to write an entire self-mailer in a weekend, but not everyone can. Get careful estimates of required job performance time and then add some slack in your schedule - when you can!

12. NOT ALLOWING ENOUGH FINAL REVIEW TIME
When everything's ready for the printer, you need a day or so to do double-checking. Make it triple. Then, have others help you check it again.

13. REINVENTING THE WHEEL
You don't need to create every variety of mailing test. We already know that self-mailers pull best for impulse items, supplies, and seminars, so there's no need to test envelope packages against them.

14. ASSUMING ALL IS WELL
Sorry, all is not well. Triple-check every vendor so your mailing gets printed and mailed correctly and on time.

15. PLAGIARIZING YOUR COMPETITION
If you copy the NBC peacock or the words of the Budweiser frogs, or a competitor's mailing, most people will recognize your theft and their confidence in you will drop.

16. USING WEAK OFFERS
Start with as strong an offer as you can afford to acquire as many new qualified leads or sales as possible. Then trim the offer by testing packages with lesser offers. Of course, this would be a side-by-side split test.

17. DECIDING NOT TO TEST
You always need to test something to get back useful information for your next mailing. Not testing is a good way to get lower results than you might otherwise obtain.

18. OVERESTIMATING RESPONSE
This is common when planning and budgeting a campaign. My guideline is to budget high and go low on response predictions.

19. UNDERESTIMATING COSTS
Please add 20% to your budget for such things as author's alterations, last-minute price changes, paper stock substitutions, etc.

20. USING WEAK COPY
Write your copy to be a strong, in-your-face presentation, and then edit it to fit your audience. If you start with weak copy, you can't strengthen it easily.

21. FORGETTING PSYCHOGRAPHICS
Too many advertisers worry about demographics -- age, income, employee or sales size -- instead of the real sales stimulators: psychographics. Appealing to how people want to be, even in a job situation, works much better than talking about what may be a distressing fact, like a smaller customer list or a rut job.

22. RELYING ON ART TO GET RESPONSE
Unless you're promoting a museum or Tahiti vacations, don't be too arty. Art attracts attention, but copy makes the sale.

23. NEGLECTING INTERIM REVIEWSE
You need to review a campaign at the beginning, at the end...and, at mid-course. Most of us forget the mid-course review, preventing us from making corrective or newly-aggressive moves.

24. OVERLY PRAISING YOUR COMPANY
I need to know you'll back up your claims and serve me well if something goes wrong, but I don't need a bucketful of rah-rah wording.

25. PUSHING INAPPROPRIATE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES TO YOUR MARKET
Often we get advice on how to get more revenue from our customer files. The idea you've heard is "why don't we also sell them whatchamacallits." If your add-on products aren't affinity oriented to the main line, customers may think you've changed your business. They may go away.

26. BELIEVING YOU'RE RIGHT
I've had clients who believed they knew how to market to their markets better than anyone. Some of them no longer are in business. A business manager should take the view that he knows his market, but a professional marketer should do the marketing. Think of it this way: you know your tooth hurts, but you wouldn't drill it yourself.

27. NOT LIVING UP TO PROMISES
Don't you get fed up when a store sign proclaims a great deal on your favorite product, and then in small type says "only for members." A major grocery chain lost me because the promise was large while the disclaimer was small. Today, the courts hold that if a promise is perceived, even if it is disclaimed, the marketer must make good.

28. USING COLOR INCORRECTLY
You don't need oceans of color that confuse readers. Use splashes to highlight and inform.

29. DOING TOO MUCH INTERNALLY
The more work you do internally, the more staff you need. The more staff, the less control and the higher the incremental cost of your mailings. Use external resources to maximize your administrative and creative time.

30. RECREATING WHEN UNNECESSARY
General Motors executives once told me they were tired of their "blue beast." It was a tri-fold flyer selling Motors Insurance Corporation policies, and no matter how they tried -- and how much money they spent -- the blue beast kept on pulling better than anything else. So why recreate it, I asked. It's still in use, 18 years later. It's as my plumber said, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

31. PROMOTING WITHOUT SELLING
I once received a four-page letter from the Direct Marketing Association of Washington that told me all about a new conference, who would speak, what the topics would be, and what great networking was possible in the exhibit hall. But it never suggested that I attend. I didn't.

32. FAILING TO STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
You raise Duroc (red) and Hampshire (black and white) pigs. Your customers want Yorkshires (all white like Babe). No wonder you're not selling! Your goal should be to discover exactly what your customer wants, and then give it to him at a good deal.

33. NOT RECOGNIZING THAT ALTERNATE OPTIONS DO EXIST
Norelco came to me with a tiny (for them) budget. I came up with some unusual self-mailer formats to produce sales at a low cost and they objected because self-mailers weren't enclosed in envelopes. "That would sully our image," they said. They were willing to mail to far fewer targets in envelopes even though they might not make their sales goals. After testing my self-mailers, Norelco decided its image -- and bank accounts -- were just fine.

34. FAILURE TO INNOVATE
Sure, you need innovative products and services. But innovative positioning and marketing are just as important. Maybe more so.

35. PRICING TOO HIGH OR TOO LOW
Consider the competition when setting your price. Pricing too low may mean you're less competent or less desirable. Pricing too high could mean you're not worth it. Consider a middle range until you're established, and then go to the highest attainable price level.

36. FORGETTING PREMIUMS
Every mailing that does not offer a free gift can be improved by adding a premium to the deal. Always! Provided you're not giving away fishing gear to sky divers. Gifts must be aligned with your main products or services and of interest to the specific audience you approach.

37. DESIGNING FOR AWARDS
Design awards are far less important than bank deposits. Design for pulling power. You don't need another plaque.

38. USING INEXPERIENCED PEOPLE
Inexperienced newcomers should be encouraged and nurtured. But many companies let them select mailing lists, deal with creative people and printers, and otherwise make decisions that scuttle results or budgets.

39. RATING CREATIVE/PRODUCTION COSTS HIGHER THAN RESULTS
I quadrupled the mailing costs for a Canadian steel building manufacturer, but that led to almost double the response at a minimum order of $40,000. Your goal is the profit factor, which doesn't always mean curtailing expenses.

40. SPENDING TO SHOW YOU CAN AFFORD TO SPEND
While you should be willing to spend more to make a better sale, you also shouldn't toss money away. The higher quality stock or slick brochure may indicate to some that your deal is too costly. "If they spent that much plotting and planning to catch me, maybe I can't afford their whiz-bang."

41. USING TOO MANY STOCK PHOTOS
Stock photos and clip art have their times, their purposes, their glories. I learned the hard way that stock items can be used by many advertisers at the same time. A stock photo that I put on a cover of a catalog selling health aides and food supplements was used a month later by Blue Cross health insurance. Mix your stock photos with original photographs.

42. DO NOT FALSELY BEAUTIFY YOUR PRODUCT
If you sell packing cases to ship exhibits, please do not photograph them with blue satin in the background and pretty red roses all over them. Be realistic. Your prospect is.

43. FILLING ALL AVAILABLE SPACE
The reader needs some clear space on each promotion, even if it's just an inch or so with nothing on it. We call it "white space," but it can be lilac or any other color so long as the many graphics and lots of words on your piece are accompanied by some visual relief.

44. SAVING MONEY ON REPLY FORMS
Whether it's an application form, order form, pledge form, inquiry request form, or savings certificate, don't save money on it by using tiny type, or only one color or saving the huge cost of perforating it! Every time I've tested this -- for business and consumer audiences -- upgrading the reply form helps.

45. SAVING MONEY ON POSTAGE
Yes, take every saving possible if you mail millions. If not, perhaps you should test First Class against Bulk Advertising Mail. The forwarding benefit can more than repay the extra cost. Try it if you feel you have a first class company.

46. OMITTING A DELUXE VERSION
If your flipchart pads sell at $20 each, could they be worth $35 each if they come with a carrying case or a cover with a label showing my logo? Often you can upgrade your sale by creating a higher-priced version. The same concept applies to service businesses. Example: buy a one-year service contract at $200, or get two years' service and supplies for just $365.

47. FORGETTING OPTIONS
Your mail will always pull better if you give the reader a choice of two or more options, like blue bags vs. red bags. Or, 144 blue bags vs. 288. Promoting without options is known as the KISS principle -- Keep It Simple Stupid. Options outpull stupidity.

48. INSERTION SEQUENCE
Don't let your mailing service determine the sequence of inserts in your outgoing envelope. The name and address on the order form should show through the address window of the envelope. Facing the back flap should be the most important headline on any one component, be it brochure, letter, or whatever. Since part of your audience opens envelopes from the front and part from the rear, this technique gives you major impact for both groups.

49. FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR LOGO
Sure, you have a dandy logo. But don't display it so big or so importantly that a prospect feels he won't get the key product or service information he needs because you're mainly concerned with tooting your horn.

50. MAILING TOO LITTLE
If a prospect is worth mailing to once, he and all those like him are worth mailing to several times. He may just need another exposure to your message to convince him to respond. I have some percentages you can use when computing expectations for repeat mailings, based on tests throughout North America, and I'll fax them to you -- Free! -- if you request them by fax or e-mail.

 
 

Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400

 or info@ReneGnam.com

Photo of Marketing Consultant Rene Gnam
 

Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

 
logo for Rene Gnam

I'm usually in Florida, and here are the numbers:

FAX 813-475-4354      CELL 813-407-8400

You can reach me right now by e-mail:

Rene@ReneGnam.com

 
 

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