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Successful direct mail doesn’t depend on fancy, four-color design or “creative” copy.

Mistake No. 1: Ignoring the most important factor in direct mail success.

Do you know what the most important part of your direct mail campaign is? It’s not the copy. It’s not the art work. It’s not even the format or when you mail. It is the mailing list.

A great mailing package, with superior copy and scintillating design, might pull double the response of a poorly conceived mailing. But the best list can pull a response 10 times more than the worst list for the identical mailing piece.

The most common direct-mail mistake is not spending enough time and effort up-front, when you select – and then test – the right lists.

Remember: In direct marketing, a mailing list is not just a way of reaching your market. It is the market.

The best list available to you is your “house” list – a list of customers and prospects who previously bought from you or responded to your ads, public relations campaign, or other mailings. Typically, your house list will pull double the response of an outside list. Yet, only 50% of business marketers I’ve surveyed capture and use customer and prospect names for mailing purposes.

When renting outside lists, get your ad agency or list broker involved in the early stages. The mailing piece should not be written and designed until after the right lists have been identified and selected.

Mistake No. 2: Not testing.

Big consumer mailers test all the time. Publishers Clearinghouse tests just about everything…even (I hear) the slant of the indicia on the outer envelope.

Business-to-business marketers, on the other hand, seldom track response or test one mailing piece of list against another.

As a result, they repeat their failures and have no idea of what works in direct mail – and what doesn’t. A mistake. In direct mail, you should not assume you know what will work. You should test to find out.

For example, copywriter Milt Pierce wrote a subscription package for Good Housekeeping magazine. His mailing became the “control” package for 25 years. That is, no package tested against it brought back as many subscriptions.

The envelope teaser and theme of that successful mailing was “32 Ways to Save Time and Money.” Yet, Mr. Pierce says that when he applied the same theme to subscription mailings for other magazines – Science Digest, Popular Mechanics, House Beautiful – it failed miserably.

“There are no answers in direct mail except test answers,” says Eugene Schwartz, author of the book, “Break-through Advertising.” “You don’t know whether something will work until you test it. And you cannot predict test results based on past experience.”

Mistake No. 3: Not using a letter in your mailing package.

The sales letter – not the outer envelope, the brochure, or even the reply form – is the most important part of your direct-mail package.

A package with a letter will nearly always out pull a postcard, a self-mailer, or a brochure or ad reprint mailed without a letter.

Recently, a company tested two packages offering, for $1, a copy of its mail-order tool catalog. Package “A” consisted of a sales letter and reply form. Package “B” was a double post-card. The result? “A” out pulled “B” by a 3-to-1 ratio.

Why do letters pull so well? Because a letter creates the illusion of personal communication. We are trained to view letters as “real” mail, brochures as “advertising.” Which is more important to you?

One recommendation I often give clients is to try an old-fashioned sales letter first. Go to a fancier package once you start making some money.
To continue reading mistakes 4-12, visit this link: http://marketingtoday.com/DirectMail/dmmistak.htm

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