The 5 Myths of Direct Mail

With more and more people shying away from breaking tradition, we tend to pass down our wisdom from one generation to the next; most people will take the “follow the leader” attitude without thinking things through themselves. This often leads to Direct Mail Campaigns that are just as meaningless or counterproductive as the previous idea.

Take a look at these five “Marketing Myths” that could be causing you to fall behind with your Direct Mail campaign:

Myth #1 — Sell to as many people as possible!
People regularly talk about response rates like the object is to achieve the highest percentage possible. It is not. Your goal is to maximize profits. The response numbers are tools for analysis and comparison. They are not a goal. It’s relatively easy to pump up a response rate if all you want is a higher number. Just give away something free. But if your profits drop, what’s the point?
If you try to sell to 100% of your list, you will actually reduce response because your message will be diluted in its attempt to be personal. The most productive mailings talk boldly and directly to the ideal buyer. If that’s just 1% of your list, then forget about the other 99%. Sell to the people who want to buy what you’re selling – They are your audience!

Myth #2 — You can force action with clever techniques!
Don’t get too carried away with your own communication prowess. You can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. You can’t force a sale. All you can do is get the right offer into the right hands at the right time and use the techniques in your creative toolbox to make the transaction as attractive and easy as possible.
Trying to force a sale can lead you to try overused techniques. Instead, try to make a genuine effort to be helpful and relevant. For example, if you’re a theatre wanting to attract visitors, don’t just send out a generic letter filled with show times and dates. Offer a free booklet that educates your target audience on what they should expect from each show, perhaps include a voucher for an upcoming-featured performance.

Remember to remove the barriers to buying. People want to buy things. However, if there’s a good reason not to part with their money, they won’t, no matter how persuasive you are.

Myth #3 — You must turn all features into benefits!
Don’t be too hasty. There are some market segments that thrive on features. It’s part of the “enthusiast” mentality, where dwelling on the objects of affection is the whole point of the experience.
This doesn’t mean you forget about benefits. There’s an old saying: People don’t want drills; they want holes. Okay, but for the enthusiast, while you want to talk about the beautifully straight holes, you don’t want to forget about the drill. For many people, the features are a big part of the benefits.

Myth #4 — The best way to succeed is to imitate others!
A very dangerous myth indeed, and is purely based on the “Efficient Marketing” theory. The idea being that “all Marketeers are smart, careful testers”. If there mail shot works, they’ll keep mailing it until it stops working. If it doesn’t work, they’ll stop mailing it.

Nice theory. But it’s not reliable. Direct Marketeers are no more smart or careful than anyone else in business. Many don’t run well-constructed, thorough tests. Some don’t test much at all. People often replace successful mailings for no other reason than they’re bored with them. And many businesses that don’t rely on Direct Marketing for the bulk of their income routinely keep unsuccessful mailings in the mail stream because it makes little difference to the bottom line.

The dictum “copy smart” is recited again and again. And it’s certainly good to see what competitors are doing and borrow whatever you think might be successful. But don’t rely on that tactic 100%. Every product, service, business, list, and offer is different.

Myth #5 — Great creativity begins with a “concept”
This is a carryover from the world of general advertising, where business has to be pitched and exorbitant fees have to be justified. The tool of choice for all this pitching and justification? The creative concept.
In the world of general or mass-market advertising, your job is to create awareness and establish brand preferences for purchases later on. A memorable, well-thought-out concept can indeed help. But Direct Marketing is about selling directly to customers, not later but now. Perhaps you need a “big idea,” an overall sense of what you need to do to make a Sale. But you don’t need a “creative” concept.
Of course, there are many more myths out there that people will abide by on a day-to-day basis. However, the moral of the story is, no, you don’t have to consider everything your read, hear and see, you are allowed to question tradition and invent your own ideas.

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