6 Common and Costly Direct Mail Mistakes

Common and costly direct mail mistakes

Flawlessly executing your first direct mail campaign in-house is possible, but not common. As one of the most powerful direct response strategies, launching into the mail channel involves a significant investment. The last thing you want to do is make a costly direct mail mistake due to genuine inexperience — especially when these errors can be avoided from the start. To help you dodge potential campaign dilemmas, here is a list of six of the most common and costly direct mail mistakes experienced by in-house marketing teams, and how to avoid them.

Common and costly direct mail mistakes

Mailing with a single list source

Your direct mail data (i.e. your mailing list) can influence your direct mail program success or failure by more than 60%. If your brand is looking to find scalable growth with an acquisition campaign, trusting a single data source could mean you are missing the perfect audience for your brand and wasting ad dollars. For example, if you test four data providers, the chances of one of those lists performing 25% better or worse than the average is practically a guarantee.

The best performing mail programs utilize predictive modeling to populate their lists. This process leverages multiple data partners, data sets, and prospect models to identify the prospects who are most likely to convert. Then, those lists are tested against each other at a regular cadence to find the highest performing prospects. Effectively and efficiently completing this detailed process requires a blend of sophisticated data science and skilled data scientists.  

If testing multiple list sources seems too daunting, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency.

Not completing merge-purge

With multiple data providers, you will need to ensure you are not mailing to the same record twice.

Each vendor has a unique file format, with its own layout and set of data fields. If the data is not combined correctly, you could experience errors resulting in sending multiple mailers to the same person, mailing an acquisition mailer to an existing customer, or misspending postage funds on an undeliverable or inaccurate address.

A merge-purge is a detailed six-step process data teams follow to clean-up list data and produce one unique and complete record for each consumer on your mailing list. This ensures you have complete consumer records, standardized addresses, no duplicates, and a mailing volume that meets expectations.

If completing a merge-purge sounds too complicated, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency.

Developing creative that can’t be produced, or does not meet postal regulations

Mail production and postage are two substantial line items in a direct mail budget. Unfamiliarity with print manufacturing and postal requirements can cause brands to overspend on production and postage costs. A quarter of an inch in one direction could be the difference between standard or flat postage, costing an additional $0.20 per piece. Misunderstanding where you can and cannot use variability and personalization in the creative can be the difference between one piece of printing equipment or another, with as much as a 25% difference in cost. These simple design errors are one of the most common direct mail mistakes experienced by in-house teams.

There are countless nuances when it comes to designing for print manufacturing and meeting postal regulations. If you are not familiar with these requirements, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency.

Not understanding statistical significance and variable isolation when testing

As with any marketing initiative, testing is a best practice, and the last thing you want to do is perform a mail test that produces invalid results. A direct mail testing strategy should include all elements of your campaign, i.e. audience, creative, and offer.  

Conducting your mail tests in a calculated and systematic fashion allows you to accurately identify which variables are working and which ones are not. If a test is set up incorrectly, you could have data performance skewing the results of a creative test. Or conducting an offer test without the same underlying creative could lead you to believe that one variable worked for reason A, when it really worked for reason B.

Without statistical significance fueling your campaign decisions, you could see great performance in one mail drop and then a plummet in the next – after you’ve already increased program spend and channel confidence.

If you are questioning your testing strategy, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency.

Relying on one print partner

This error is especially costly in today’s printing environment. The pandemic has had an impact on us all, and the direct mail industry is no exception. Some of the largest print vendors in the U.S. are turning away business or asking clients to downsize their mailings due to shipping delays, paper deficits, and labor shortages. If you do not have a relationship with multiple print partners, you could be left without the ability to produce your mailing.

If your print vendor network is limited, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency who can leverage dozens of primed and equipped providers.

Not coordinating digital channels

Early research from the 2021 ANA Response Rate Report shows 84% of marketers agree direct mail improves multichannel campaign performance. In this same report, 41% of consumers indicate direct mail encourages them to make an online purchase.

We agree. We have tested hundreds of direct mail only campaigns against coordinated direct mail and digital campaigns. Our results prove integrating direct mail with digital has never had a negative impact on campaign performance. In fact, the combination produces an average sales lift of 15% to 30% over direct mail alone. In addition to lifting performance, a direct mail plus digital strategy also reduces overall CPAs. Essentially, not integrating your social, display, native, web video, and Connected TV advertising is the equivalent of saying no to free money. In addition to reaching offline audiences, direct mail data also offers a digital targeting alternative to those struggling with the digital data dilemma.

If coordinating an integrated direct mail and digital strategy is new to your team, consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency.

Avoid the ultimate mistake

The worst direct mail mistake can be abandoning a respected customer acquisition channel after launch due to innocent campaign errors.

For 1 in 3 marketing leaders, the choice to move marketing tactics internally is about increased control. Yet, the chances of making one of these common and avoidable direct mail mistakes is much higher on in-house teams. Rather than attempting to manage the intricate labyrinth of launching a successful direct mail campaign in-house, (you guessed it!) consider partnering with a full-service direct mail agency. With an experienced partner, you can trust your campaign will be produced seamlessly, on time, and within budget.

Featured in BRAND United on 1.11.2022