Direct mail: what not to do
Over the years Direct Mail has become a dirty word (junk mail) because some basic principles have been ignored. Large firms can seemingly afford to waste large amounts of money because they hope that a less than 1% response rate will more than generate a solid return. Small firms do not have that luxury, but wasteful mistakes are made all the same.
Christmas 2009 saw a card arrive from a firm I'd never heard of. No benefits were offered, no reason given why I should ring. They sent it me, presumably, because I run a marketing agency – but that's not sufficient to spend money on me.
Lloyds Bank every month send a loan begging letter: four times I've rung and said take me off the list. Now each month I stuff all the garbage in the return paid envelope – but still they come. That is irritating and shows incompetence.
A few years ago I ran a course on Direct Mail and asked an architect friend to save his incoming mail for a fortnight. He produced a pile of around a foot high. 90% was of no relevance at all. In one post he had three identical letters. Most of the rest was aimed at surveyors, civil engineers and other construction professionals but not within the architectural profession. One newsletter was from a consultancy running to 72 pages, the first page of which was "who won a staff darts match in Abu Dhabi."
The best mailing list is one from your own compiled records. One where hopefully your name is respected and known. The worst is from a list broker with no named addressee – The Buyer, or in the case of consumer mailings, The Occupier. Consumer mailings are best left to national companies where the numbers required to gain a return are vast.
Business to Business mailings – as distinct from consumer mailings – usually work best for small firms as reliable lists can be bought, or more often leased, from magazine subscription holders, trade show visitors or Yellow Pages.
Mass E-mailings are to me a suspect vehicle. It's illegal to send them unsolicited and all too easy to delete. Fortunately most are filtered out by BT's spam filter. I know it's exceedingly cheap to send them out, but if custom is worth getting, then I think you need to spend a bit, or lot, more effort in securing it.
Always put an order form in: I've seen some that weren't. Enclose a reply paid envelope. Write for the audience: sales letters take a great deal of expertise, and careful thought and study of the target reader. Make an offer. Offer a no quibble guarantee.