Thursday, June 11, 2009

5 Costly Mistakes That Will Tank Your Direct Mail- And How to Overcome Them

Before you whip out cash for direct mail..make sure you know what NOT to do!

by Brett Kitchen

Insurance Mavericks

Over the years, I have received lots of feedback regarding direct mail, with the majority of the messages telling me how misguided I am in thinking that direct mail can still be effective in this age of NEW MEDIA.

I read horror stories of some agent or advisor dropping five grand on a direct mail campaign and not getting even one response; of advisors getting ripped off by list companies, of sending out 3,000 seminar invitations and getting only 5 people to show up. The complaints against direct mail go ON AND ON AND ON.

So, I invited a few of the naysayers to let me take a long hard look at their campaigns to figure out just what was happening. In so doing, I uncovered many of the same old direct mail marketing mistakes that, no matter how much I preach against them, continue to plague some of you.

Here are just five of the common direct mail mistakes I uncovered that will at best severely limit the effectiveness of your campaigns and at worst may ensure that you get a BIG FAT ZERO in the conversion column (the only one that counts, by the way)

Avoid these mistakes and you will go a long way in your quest to move the needle with a direct mail campaign.

1. It's the list, baby! It would seem that even the greenest of direct mail marketers would grasp this truism: Garbage in=garbage out. Yet, I see marketers cutting corners again and again when it comes to buying lists.

This is tantamount to buying cut-rate cement for the foundation of your house. It may save money in the beginning, but sooner or later it is going to crumble and destroy the rest of what you have built. Make sure you buy a list from a reputable mailhouse.

Do some research, get some referrals and testimonials, ask a few questions. Understand your niche well and make sure the list supplier is able to filter down the list as much as possible in order to reach that niche. Also make sure the vendor is CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certified by the US Postal Service. (for more on CASS go to

2. Failure to SEED your list... At the very least, you should ALWAYS include yourself on every mailing list you use. I like to seed my list with other names as well (friends, family, employees). It puzzles me that many agents and advisors never think to do this, but it is a crucial component of the process..because...

How else will you discover whether your mailing was delivered in a timely manner-on the day of the week YOU specified?

3. No tracking mechanism... I look at a lot of direct mail pieces in the course of a week and am surprised that so many of them lack a tracking code, 800#, web link, PURL,or some other way to measure that particular campaign.

Tracking IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, especially if you're involved in multiple marketing campaigns. If you don't know what campaign produced what result- how can you know whether or not you should tweak it, repeat it, or eliminate it?

4. No Call to Action... Your marketing piece is beautiful, the photos grab attention, the copy is smooth, edited, perfected...


Your target audience might be impressed enough to READ it- but that alone is not enough to motivate them to DO SOMETHING (which is, after all, the whole point of direct mail, right?)

You MUST offer something that gets the prospect out of his or her chair and over to the phone.

What do YOU think is more effective, saying "Call Gary Smith today for a quote on your homeowner's insurance" or saying "STOP! Before you purchase ANY homeowners insurance, read our free report "Three Costly Mistakes Homeowners Make When Purchasing Insurance" ?

5. Failure to Follow Through and Follow Up...Perhaps you are a seasoned direct mail veteran and you have your act together better than most. Your seminars get filled and your direct mail pulls over 2%.

Now, you have a coffer full of prospects, eager to meet with you and hand over their wallets.

The question is- do you have a plan to follow through with them? Did you put an instant fulfillment system in place? Hire an assistant to call up everyone who responded to make appointments?

I know an insurance agent in Boston who confided to me that he had over 300 leads generated from direct mail that he had NEVER CONTACTED- 300 now nearly-useless leads because he never put a system in to ensure that no leads went untouched. Conversion doesn't occur in a vacuum- you need to have a system in place to make it happen.

Plan for your SUCCESS in direct mail and be sure you have a system in place to follow up on each and every lead immediately. To do anything else is a gross waste of your time, money, and brainpower.

Eliminate all of these common direct mail blunders and you will be on your way to proving to yourself, once and for all, that direct mail WORKS FOR YOU.

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