There can be more hidden trap doors, bottomless pits, and rooms full of slithering snakes to dodge in order to run a successful direct mail campaign than in an Indiana Jones adventure movie. When discussing marketing tactics to employ with a new client, it’s not unusual for me to hear: “We did a big mailing last year; we didn’t get any calls off of it. I’m not doing it again!”
So they didn’t get the results they expected. It isn’t necessarily the tactic that failed.
Direct mail remains a highly successful method to reach potential clients and customers. In fact, I just read of someone’s 11% response rate (which is stratospheric in relation to most average results around 0.5% to 1%). But in the wrong hands, like that ‘ancient ritual’ ceremony at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark that went awry, your beautifully orchestrated campaign can turn to dust too.
The Seven Deadly Dooms to Direct Mail Jewels
It’s not your fault.
Look at all the guys who failed before Indiana Jones managed to navigate the tricky steps leading to the treasure: There are at least seven major pitfalls that can doom your mailing’s success. So it’s no wonder the trail of good intentions is littered with dead direct mail doom.
Here are some clues to those nasty traps along the way. Fall into any one of them, and it may be the kiss of death for your mailing:
- Wrong Target Market– Remember when Sallah and Indiana looked at each other when the old wise man showed them that their staff was too high? They looked at each other and simultaneously said, “They’re digging in the wrong place!” That’s the faux pas here with direct mail. The bad guys were putting in a lot of effort digging for the Well of the Souls in the wrong place.If you’ve sent your piece to the wrong person or address, someone no longer employed there, a renter instead of a homeowner, or “Occupant” (oh, dear!), you haven’t a chance in finding the Holy Grail of direct mail success.
- Wrong Presentation– In the third movie, Indiana nearly overlooks a plain, kraft paper envelope that arrives in the mail. It was so boring and generic — except for the Venice, Italy return address – that he hadn’t opened it.How your treasure map looks is as important as the contents. If your offer looks like one of one million with a boring label it may not get opened. Then your recipient won’t even know about your terrific treasure.
- Failure to Engage – Don’t bury the treasure. The last thing you want your recipient to think is that your piece is as mysterious and confusing as a treasure map. While mystery can be intriguing, look how many treasure seekers gave up in frustration trying to find the Lost Ark or Holy Grail. When you compose your direct mail piece “X” very clearly should mark the spot so you quickly gain the reader’s attention!
- No Call to Action –Does Indiana Jones ever sit in front of an altar thinking, “Okay, if the Idol really wants to leave with me, it’ll jump into my hands. I’ll just wait here for that to happen.” Well, that’s what many folks essentially do; they wait for the recipients to call them if they’re interested in the offer. …And the phone doesn’t ring.
- Wrong Timing– It’s true. Indiana Jones’ timing is rather amazing. He seems to just barely avoid the poison arrow darts, vanishing floors and crumbling secret passageways. But his success lies in the fact that his timing is perfect! He just manages to slide under the closing vault door or secure his whip across a chasm to save his life (and prize). If Indiana fell to the crocodiles or didn’t make the jump from horse to Jeep, it’d be all over timing-wise.If your direct mail piece arrives too late for the recipient to take action within the appropriate timeframe, your mailing may be doomed to begin with.
- Wrong Offer – In the third Indiana Jones movie, the bad guy chose the wrong Holy Grail with all the jewels on it. He misunderstood the offer. Indiana chose “wisely” when he picked out a simple looking Holy Grail. The offer has to match with the expectations for greatness.
- Failure to Impress – Do you remember why Sean Connery made his notes in the book about the “Valley of the Crescent Moon” and other clues in the first place? Because he couldn’t remember them. He had to write them down. Recipients, too, have short memories. One mailing does not a direct mailing campaign make!
It’s a wonder Indiana Jones ever made it out of one secret passage let alone dozens over the years. He always manages to avoid the Seven Deadly Dooms in his own adventures. Here’s how to avoid your own direct mail pitfalls:
- Target Your Audience – This includes not only zeroing in on the right demographics (age, sex, household income or job title), but also your basic housekeeping. Call every name on the list first before mailing to ensure you have the correct spelling of the name, salutation, and mailing address. You may find the person in your list just moved to a new company. Don’t let a single potential lead fall into the pit of dead letters because you didn’t verify the data in advance!
- Make a Great Presentation – I once had a client tell me the primary reason he hired me was because my work stood out in the mail. I sent him my brochure in a purple envelope! He’d never seen one. The design of the materials inside and out is crucial to your success. And hand-addressed envelopes have a far greater chance of being opened and the contents read than any generic piece.
- Gripping Engagement – Your mailing’s content has to be as exciting as the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. From the very first sentence, your audience should be perched on the edge of their seats, knuckles turning white from the suspense!
- Go for the Treasure! er, Call to Action – Indiana never waited for the natives to say, “Okay, take our gold idol.” He just swooped in and took his prize! If you want your prospects to take action, say so: “Visit our website to get your free white paper…” or “Call now to get a FREE in-depth analysis…” or better yet: “I’ll call you on Thursday to see how….” How badly do you want their business?
- Have Perfect Timing – If Indiana’s rival, Belloq, ever got to a treasure before he did, you could say Indiana had poor timing. Would Indiana have gone after the Ark of the Covenant if the Nazis weren’t on the cusp of retrieving it? No. He needed to have perfect timing to beat them to the prize. If you know your competition will be after your prospects at a certain time, schedule your mailing to beat them to the treasure!
- Make the Perfect Offer – Remember how disappointed the bad guys were to find only sand inside the Ark of the Covenant? That’s how your prospects will feel if you don’t offer them something truly great. Make sure your offer to your prospects feels akin to finding the Holy Grail!
- Impression, Impression, Impression! – Be honest: How many of you really remembered all about the Ark of the Covenant before Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in theaters? Now compare that to how familiar you were with the Holy Grail. Big difference, right? The Holy Grail has been mentioned in literature over and over again over the past thousand years. It’s familiar. It’s made an impression. Why? Because of the repetition it stays in our consciousness.Many of your prospects in your mailing may make excellent customers. But upwards of 96% of them aren’t ready to buy right now. If you think you’re going to strike gold on the first try, the odds are against you. (They certainly were for Indy!) Whether you send something else to your prospect list every week, month or quarter, repetition is crucial to the overall success of the campaign.
Indiana Jones was successful at digging up buried treasure because he knew the ancient secrets. He was skilled at avoiding the trap doors and poison darts that were along the way to his treasure. Friend, to increase the probability your direct mail campaign is a success, put on your Fedora and dust off the bullwhip! You can whip your direct mail campaign in shape in no time!