7 Scary Direct Marketing Mistakes—and How to Escape Them

When it comes right down to it, the scariest direct marketing mistake you can make is missing an opportunity to profitably connect with a customer or prospect. It’s that simple.

But if you’re investing in marketing campaigns, how do you miss these opportunities? What are you overlooking? What’s going wrong? Well, the answer to that is not so simple.

If you’re not seeing the results you expect, you’re probably making some combination of direct marketing mistakes that add up to a whole lot of ho-hum. But never fear!  Let’s take a look at the mistakes you may be making—and how to escape making them next time.

1. You don’t use available data effectively to target your audience.
A target market is a cornerstone of direct marketing for a reason. You can’t be all things to all people. (Even to all of your customers!) Everyone is just a little bit different—or a lot different, depending on your product and service offerings and customer base.

Failing to segment your audience into groups for more targeted communications practically guarantees your campaigns—their messages, offers, promotional channels, etc.—will be too broad in scope. They won’t speak to any one individual, and that’s exactly what your marketing needs to do: speak to the individual!

For instance, let’s say you’re running a promo on home office supplies. “Hey, you! Need some supplies?” isn’t going to resonate as much as “Hey, working mom who regularly buys recycled material office products, need some supplies?”

How to escape: Don’t dive in without a plan. Take time to closely examine the specific audiences you want to reach with each campaign. Even if you want to reach everybody, consider segmenting your data into more than one group and approaching each one with more personalized messages and targeted offers.

Need some inspiration? Don’t miss Who, Me? 3 Best Practices for Direct Marketing Personalization.

2. Your contact list isn’t clean.
Ah, a messy list is the bane of many a marketer. Talk about missed opportunities and wasted money! All of that returned postal mail and those email bounces—people who might have loved your offer but aren’t seeing it. And the brand perception “fails” of a customer who picks up a letter addressed to a deceased relative or who annoyingly receives two of the exact same postcard in their mailbox.

How to escape: Make sure your messages get delivered and uphold your company’s professional image at the same time. You only have campaign performance and ROI to gain! Regularly perform database hygiene for address or name changes, scrubbed for duplicate records, and standardized.

Inspired? Consider these 3 Reasons To Clean Up Your Data Files Pronto.

3. Your creative isn’t compelling.
Your communications are competing for your customers’ attention. There’s just so much “noise” in their mailbox, email inbox, and social media feeds. If your mailings and messages and posts aren’t personalized, they’ll get passed over. Likewise, if your creative choices are at odds with your brand or don’t match up across campaign components (e.g. mailer and landing page), consumers can get confused and drop your communication like a hot potato. And that’s a shame.

Also, don’t fail to match your landing page with your offer creative.

How to escape: In direct response marketing, the creative is what gets your customer’s attention and starts to draw them in. It connects. It creates an experience. So be thoughtful and personal in your approach to your communications’ color, images, and overall look and feel so your creative elements help tell your “story” and sell the offer to your audience.

For ideas, don’t miss 6 Most Effective and Time-Honored Direct Mail Creative Techniques and 14 Ways to Stand Out in Your Customers’ Crowded Social Feeds.

4. Your message isn’t clear.
Ever flip through a direct mail package or scroll down a promotional e-mail and think, “What are they even selling? What’s the point?” We have, too, and we’ve dropped ‘em in the recycle bin or pressed delete. That’s not what you want your customers to do.

When it comes to the message copy, it’s got to be strong. It’s your message—it’s the “point” of your campaign. You don’t have much time to make an impression with the reader and convince them to keep reading, let alone, take action.

How to escape: The writing needs to be clean (free from both errors and extraneous, distracting messages), engaging, and focused on your solution’s benefits. Use power words that make an emotional connection and drive a desired action. That’s a really tall order, so work with a professional—or at the very least, ask a few people to review your copy before deploying it.

Get more insights in The Anatomy of a Modern Direct Response Marketing Email.

5. Your call to action is weak.
Great creative and copywriting are imperative to driving interest in and response to your offer, but are you telling your audience exactly what to do … and telling them again throughout the communications.You can’t be vague..If you say, “We really hope you want to learn more about this offer, so when you have a minute at some point over the next week or so, get online and visit our website or pull out your phone and call our customer service department….” Get the idea?

How to escape: Think easy, urgent, and explicit:

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  • Call now! 1-234-567-8910
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  • Send me my quote now
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What’s your call to action?

6. You’re not integrating your campaign.
Today’s marketing universe includes traditional and digital media—and chances are good your customers live in both realms. When you take a narrow, single-channel approach, you run the risk of speaking ineffectively through the wrong channel and missing the mark. If one of your target customers (see #1) spends a lot of time shopping online, does it make sense to mail them an offer that requires them to bring a physical coupon into a store? While there may be times when this is appropriate, you may get more traction from this audience by boosting your direct mail campaign with an online redemption option and supporting it with targeted emails or social media ads.

How to escape: Deliver a comprehensive brand experience—and reinforce campaign messages and offers—by using multiple communication channels.

Discover more in Measuring the Success of an Omnichannel Direct Response Marketing Campaign

7. You’re not testing.
If you don’t know what’s working, what’s not working, results are not improving and what mistakes you might be unwittingly making…you’re obviously not testing! Really, if you’ve made it through this list, it should be clear that there are so many moving pieces in direct response marketing and you can’t make assumptions. There’s a whole lot of gray area between the black and the white, and what works for one company doesn’t always work for the next. What works for one target market doesn’t always work for the next. And what works for one offer doesn’t always work for the next.

How to escape: We go into this topic deeper in If You’re Not Testing, You’re Not Maximizing Results, but testing is essential if you want to improve your campaign results (and sales!) over time. Start by defining goals, using testing mechanisms (e.g. custom URLs), and getting curious! And never think that your work is “good enough” because testing can always improve it.

Contact us to learn more.