6 Direct Mail Mistakes That Could Cost Thousands

At Strategic Marketing and Mailing, we love to share tips of our trade. Today we would like to offer some information about mistakes that could cost your direct mail marketing campaign lots of money. Avoiding these six issues will help your direct mail marketing strategy become a success.

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6 Direct Mail Mistakes That Could Cost Thousands

1. Failure to Use the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) on Reply Mail
USPS rules dictate that any discounted mailing that has a reply vehicle inside must bear the proper IMB on the reply piece. This means that a business reply envelope or card that bears no barcode, or the old version of a barcode, is subject to non-automated postage rates for the entire outgoing mailing. Savvy inspectors will open a mail piece and check for reply mail inside. If it does not meet regulations, that will bump your postage up to “non-auto” rates … a big increaseMake sure your reply vehicle complies with the new IMB rules. 

2. Designing a Folded Self-Mailer Using the Old Rules
January 2013 ushered in new rules for folded self-mailers (not booklets) that reduced the allowable size, altered folding parameters, and increased tabbing requirements.  Now, a folded self-mailer can be no larger than 6″ high x 10.5″ wide and cannot be open along the bottom. The only options are that it is open along the top or the left (trailing edge). Also, tabbing has been changed to require more tabs for a piece that weighs over 1 ounce. Finally, be careful of paper stock: the minimum basis weight for a folded self-mailer is now 70# text (more if the piece is perforated or die cut). Insure mail piece design is presented to your mailing expert prior to finalizing the piece.

3. Nonprofit Issues
The USPS is strict regarding nonprofit (Standard) mail rates. A difference in organization name, return address, content in the mail piece or post office of mailing will—at best—delay your drop date. At worst, you could be forced to pay around 40 percent more in postage. Make sure you have your nonprofit ducks in a row when designing the mail piece and deciding to which post office your mail will be brought.  Remember that a small difference in organization name on the mailer versus what the post office has on file could raise a red flag.

4. Flat-Size Address Placement
This is a biggie, because the USPS charges First Class rates to any mailing that does not comply, even a nonprofit mailing. The rule is that any flat-size mail piece (magazines, catalogs, etc.) requires the address to be entirely in the top half. This is regardless of copy position or graphics. Generally, the top half is defined as the upper part when you hold the piece with the stitching to the right. The “top-half rule” is why you see so many magazines delivered with the address upside down in relation to the cover. (This rule does not apply to First Class Mail.)

5. Postcard Design
First Class postcards enjoy a low postage rate with speedy First Class service.  However, there are many limitations on the design of these pieces and, while they are an awesome medium in which to convey a message by mail, failure to properly design them can result in some big postage penalties. Here are some rules to keep in mind:

  • The maximum size is 4 ¼” x 6″, and it has to be a single card (unless the second-half is a reply card).
  • Designers must allow enough room (around 3.5″ wide x 2″ high) for the barcode and address.
  • The USPS mandates that either the entire right half or the entire top half be reserved for the return address, indicia/stamp and outgoing address.  Technically, no other copy is allowed in that area. If you violate this rule, you could be charged higher “letter-size” rates.
  • Do not design vertically (6″ high x 4 ¼” wide).
  • There is no “postcard” rate for Standard Mail. If you are a commercial mailer (not a non-profit), you should mail First Class when mailing a postcard. You will actually save a couple of cents and get faster, more predictable service.

6. Poor Merge/Purge or List Hygiene
Most folks want to believe their databases are clean and free of duplicates or other trash. Data processing (DP) experts in direct mail testify otherwise. It is a huge waste to mail two pieces to one person or to be mailing to outdated or bad prospects.  Mailers should be allowing time for the DP team to process the list and provide results so that issues can be corrected before the mailing. In many mailing environments, DP work is done the day before the mailing and National Change of Address (NCOA) results are not even examined nor merge/purge results checked. Each piece of wasted mail can easily cost 50 cents to $1 each in plus the missed opportunity of sending non-deliverable mailAllow more lead time for data processing if you want to make changes to your database prior to mailing.

Here are some examples of questions raised in the data processing step:

  • Do I want to mail to folks who have moved out of my service area or out of range of my locations (common in retail, nonprofit)?
  • Which deliverability indices do I delete? Can I get a listing of those records deemed “undeliverable”?
  • How do I handle borderline deliverable records (e.g., records missing apartment numbers)?
  • Do I want to dedupe by last name/address, full name/address, address only (different strategies for business files, residential files, etc.)?
  • Do I want any extra DP steps taken to update my database (DMA Mail Preference, Deceased Processing, additional address hygiene steps, etc.)?

Wasted money in direct mail can be attributed to poor mail piece design and sloppy data management. And often the dollars are not seen directly (since lots of undeliverable mail pieces are usually discarded). Postage is an ever-increasing cost, so it pays to be vigilant about getting the most bang out of every buck spent.

To read the full article click here: 6 Direct Mail Mistakes That Could Cost Thousands

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Advantages of Direct Mail Marketing

Direct marketing provides you with a way to conduct a test of this market relatively quickly, at a reasonable cost, and with convincing certitude. You’ll know whether this is indeed the gold mine you hope it is.

Perhaps the most common use of a marketing database is to generate a target list for a direct-mail campaign. Of course, direct mail also works with purchased lists. Direct mail provides giant companies with the ability to target defined markets with specialized offers.

For smaller companies, using direct mail has a number of attractive advantages:

  • You can target recipients very precisely.
  • You can protect against overwhelming response. If you run an advertisement, you can’t know whether you’re going to get 10 responses or 10,000. For a small company, a powerful response to an ad can be even more disastrous than no response at all, since a poor reaction to a prospect’s response will likely damage your relationship even before it’s begun. With direct mail, you can start out with a modest-size mailing to study the response and make sure you can handle it expeditiously.
  • Costs can be modest. Or, more accurately, you can create a campaign to fit large or small budgets.
  • Direct mail can happen fast. With a modest campaign to a known target audience, you can acquire a mailing list, develop mailing materials (including direct-mail letter, flier, reply card), launch a mailing and start to receive results in just a few months. This is faster than the typical advertising campaign–and a lot faster than waiting for the phone to ring.
  • You can test different appeals, called “offers” in the trade, to reveal the most potent message. By making a different offer to randomly different portions of your mailing list, you can see which offer pulls best. Go with your best puller until you find a better draw. As you try different offers and different letters, you’ll find one does better than another. Use the better one, and then try to beat that in your next mailing. Eventually, you should get better and better response rates.
  • You can mail to the same list again with a slightly different mailing and still garner worthwhile results. Most direct-mail experts say that companies don’t get enough mileage out of their materials. Use them until they no longer pay their way.
  • You can never run out of prospects. Use your imagination to find new niche direct-mail markets for your products, whether retail or business-to-business. Your list broker or mailing consultant can suggest possible target markets worth trying.

With consumer products, you can often sell them right through the mail…or at least get customers to stop in. With business-to-business products, you usually face a two-step process. First, you get a response to your solicitation with an indication of interest (request for catalog, literature, report or sample). This is the lead-generation phase. Once you mail off the requested material, you then follow up with additional material or a phone call/fax/e-mail to use your skills at transforming the lead into a prospect.

To read the full article click here: How to Create a Direct Marketing Campaign