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Six Direct Mail Don’ts

Marcus Johnson

The usual focus of my wildly entertaining blogs (hold your applause until the end, please) is ways to improve your direct mail—writing, strategic thinking, presentation, etc. In other words, what to do.

This month’s topic is based on one of my father’s favorite phrases, dating back to my youth. At some point during an average day, one could expect to hear my dad tell me and my brothers, “Don’t do that!”

So, off we go with a short list of what NOT to do as you develop your next direct mail package.

These “direct mail don’ts” have a purpose, which is to remind you that a few little things can make a big difference in how your audience opens, reads, and responds to your direct mail pitch. Also, some of them may seem obvious or even “old-timey.” And yet, consider vinyl records: There’s a reason vinyl is seeing a resurgence as a music medium; growing numbers of music buyers believe this analog format sounds better (warmer, more realistic) than newer digital music media. A superior delivery mechanism never goes out of style, and neither do proven direct mail fundamentals.

1. Don’t Forget a Signature

Our first “direct mail don’t” is perhaps the most crucial. It’s important to include a signature because people scan a letter in a particular way, part of which includes checking to see if it’s from a real person. The signature should be legible, “written” in blue (because 70% of the time people sign with blue ink), and above a name that matches. Why? Because a good, i.e. effective, letter is a personal communication from one real person to another, signifying that someone cared about you enough to write. Having confirmed that during an initial scan, your reader is more likely to go back to the top and engage with the rest of the letter.

2. Don’t Mail Without a Letter

Nothing will get you drummed out of the direct mail corps faster than sending out a piece of direct mail—acquisition, retention, or fulfillment—containing just a brochure, sell sheet, or some other piece of collateral. Even a short letter will score points (maybe even extra ones) with your target audience and affirm your goal of starting or continuing a relationship. Bonus points for handwritten notes (real or faux) or an actual (not just script font) signature.

3. Don’t Write to a Group; Write to an Individual

One of the main advantages of direct mail is being able to personalize your pitch to that one “you”—the individual who you believe wants your product or service and is willing to pay for it. So, never write as if speaking to the masses or even a group with shared interests; write to Sam or Sally. There’s maybe a better reason to follow this “direct mail don’t”: the first question people almost always ask is “What’s in it for me?” The success of your direct mail package will correspond to how quickly and how well you answer that question in the one-to-one conversation you have with a prospect or customer.

4. Don’t Undervalue a Plain and Simple Letter

Because (tired phrase alert) a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re often tempted to over-use photos or other graphics in direct mail letters, especially those with additional inserts. That may or may not prove to be an effective selling tool. If your product requires a lot of visual help to sell, maybe direct response TV would be a more effective medium. Otherwise, don’t undervalue the power of a simply designed, very well written letter that cuts to the core of why a person should buy what you’re selling. Uncluttered surroundings have the effect of focusing the reader’s attention on the message touting the value and benefits of your product or service. Traditional direct mail devices such as underlining or boldfacing phrases also stand out more against a clean background. Best of all, your compelling offer can be the star of the show.

5. Don’t Forget a P.S.

Remember our first “direct mail don’t” about signatures? Once a reader sees who signed the letter (confirming that it’s from a real person), 9 out of 10 will read the P.S. next before going back to the top of the letter. Which leads us to the last of our do nots.

6. Don’t Waste the P.S.

Restate your offer. Reiterate your call to action. Promote a bonus offer for speedy replies. Speaking of bonus, extra points for you if you can personalize the P.S. The power of personalizing reinforces the me-to-you feel of the letter, from the Johnson box and salutation to the body copy, sidebar, and P.S. Put it to work for you whenever possible.

There’s No Better Time to Talk to the Pros at IWCO Direct

Every marketing dollar counts these days, and direct mail has a median return on marketing investment (ROMI) of 29% (among other benefits which we’ll gladly explain). So if you want to put some muscle into your marketing mix, come to the direct mail source. Contact me to learn how IWCO Direct can get you on the fast track to strategically planned, data-driven, performance-tested direct mail.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2020/11/11/direct-mail-donts/
Marcus Johnson


Marcus Johnson

Marcus is a Senior Writer who blends creative writing and idea generation to bring copy to life for leading financial services organizations, professional sports teams, healthcare, and outdoor brands. The question this University of Minnesota graduate and former winner of the Best in Show from the National AgriMarketing Association loves to ask is, “How can I help?” When he’s not pounding out copy, he loves doing yard work, especially leaf blowing. In sports, Marcus cheers for the Humboldt Broncos, the Canadian hockey team that lost 10 players in a 2017 bus crash.

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