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8 Direct Mail Fails and How to Avoid Them

Not every business lives and breathes direct mail quite like Modern Postcard. And that’s okay, because we likely aren’t experts in your field either. Since our team manages a plethora of marketing campaigns every day, we’ve seen the good and the not so good when it comes to design, content, customer targeting and more. Here are some of the top marketing fails we consistently observe, plus improvements you can make in a snap to get the most respect and response out of your direct mail efforts.

#1 Information Overload
Imagine holding two different printed mailers in your hands. One has a prominent headline, minimal lines of easy-to-read copy, impactful images and a simple offer. The other looks like a cluttered newspaper article with paragraphs of copy, little space for images and an offer that’s lost in a sea of content. Which piece truly stands out? We bet you’d choose the first-mentioned mailer with no contest – and that’s because the human brain has mere milliseconds to process colors, images and words. A deliberate direct mail design strategy that leads consumers’ eyes from imagery, to key messaging points, to a killer offer is easier to digest on a neuroscientific level. If you want to showcase several concepts or products, try spreading them out over a multi-card campaign. In the end, it’s better to engage your audience with several uniquely focused mailers over a period of time than to force multiple concepts into one hectically ineffective mail piece.

Direct Mail Fails and How to Avoid Them

#2 Font Frenzy and Color Chaos
A splattering of creative elements can cause visual confusion and hinder response. When choosing typography, less is more. It’s typical for professional designers to choose two different complementary fonts per piece: one for headlines and one for body copy. Too many styles or hard-to-read fonts often make your marketing piece look cluttered and amateur. It’s also important to think about the tone of your campaign, your brand, the products or services you’re featuring, the time of year, etc. For example, if you own a tech-savvy store promoting smartwatches, you’d want to avoid classic, serif fonts (think Times New Roman) because they present an old-timey feel. Alternatively, if your business specializes in restoring vintage pocket watches and grandfather clocks, serif fonts would be more than appropriate. As for color choice, don’t go crazy. Choose a base set of 2-3 colors and make sure one has enough contrast to draw prospects’ eyes to headlines, calls to action, contact information or any content that’s crucial to your response rates. The lessons here are: stick with a clean design, choose fonts and colors thoughtfully based on your brand or campaign theme, and use them consistently to look like a marketing guru.

#3 CTA that’s MIA
Your design is impactful, your messaging is on point, your customer list is clean – but where’s your call to action (CTA)? This is the saddest – yet most avoidable – direct mail fail of them all. If you don’t give your audience clear instructions of what to do next with the appropriate ways to contact your business, it’s like casting a fishing line into a sea of fish without the hook attached – so there’s no way to reel the fish back in. In direct marketing, a CTA is an instruction on your mail piece that directs prospects to take the next step. Whether it requests they make a phone call, redeem an online offer code or set up an appointment, there’s an art to creating a successful CTA. Make sure it’s clear and simple, such as “call [phone number] to cash-in on your offer by [deadline]” or “visit [web URL] to sign-up for your [offer].” Also, adding an expiration date can help create a sense of urgency.

#4 Design like it’s 1999
We know it’s tempting: add a little drop shadow here, make the artwork “pop” with strange color gradients, include outdated stock photography of unnaturally-smiling people, etc. But we beg you, just stop. Archaic design is not the way to impress your audience or make your business appear to be with it. If you’re not sure what the latest design trends are, simply trust the experts. Modern Postcard offers production and layout services to bring your marketing up to speed. Our talented graphic artists can review your piece and give it some necessary tweaks to take it from cringe-y to cool.

#5 Know Thy Audience
Messaging, color choice, layout and image selection should all be tactically chosen in a way that’s suited to your target audience. This goes well beyond male versus female. It could mean designing to certain professions, income brackets, ethnicities, locations and so much more. Whatever it is you’re selling, you must know who you’re selling to and how you can best relate to them through your direct marketing efforts. Personalized mail with Variable Data Printing can also be a helpful tool to build relevance with a special audience. Want to learn more about your current customers and prospects? Our Modern Enhancement Program can add a wealth of demographic details to your existing mailing lists.

#6 Know Thy Timing
Seasonality and the timing of your campaigns are also crucial to your success. You know how big retailers start merchandising school supplies mid-summer? It can feel depressing to kids, but it’s actually a smart move for their target buyers: the parents! They want to give them plenty of time to make back-to-school purchases, whether they are planners or procrastinators. With direct mail, it’s the same concept, but you’re allowing for even more time to plan, design, print, and mail your campaign to your audience.

#7 Typos and Grammatical Errors
Nothing makes your business lose credibility faster than a typo, wrong tense or the dreaded misplaced apostrophe. The good news is, if you work with Modern for design services, your piece will go through a review and QA process with a high detection rate for errors. However, if you’re simply submitting final artwork you’ve approved for print, make sure it’s not only spellchecked a few times, but has gone through a line-by-line review by someone with a knack for grammar and spelling. Spell check won’t catch the differences between their, there and they’re. It also won’t catch obscure names or words associated with your business, or email addresses and phone numbers. This is where human review by several of your colleagues can help produce an error-free piece.

#8 Chest-Thumping Content 
If your messaging reads more like a braggadocious biography about your business, you could be missing out on the major benefits of utilizing content that speaks more effectively to your audience. For example: what are your customers’ main pain points; why is your business a solution to their problems; what are the benefits of prospects choosing your business over the competition? Put yourself in consumers’ shoes and speak to them on that level.

By Jessica Biondo, Marketing Communications Manager, Modern Postcard

Call a Direct Marketing Specialist at 800.959.8365.

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