The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,

the good, the bad and the ugly

So this post is about direct mail (DM), yes I know this is website.co.uk, but direct mail is, for some Internet gurus and very successful online entrepreneurs like Frank Kern, one of if not the top converting promotional tool and is therefore great to understand, also the tips apply, in the main, to website content and email marketing too.

The inspiration for this post came because of on a single day I experienced, first hand, direct mail in to my office, granted for different businesses, that was good, bad and in one case ugly. Even though I don’t feel it’s right to name and shame the bad and the ugly, I will explain why.

I will share with you who sent the good DM though as good work deserves praise and mention, negative things should be used to learn from but never to ridicule on a personal level.

So let’s start with the Good, form a company who sell calendars.

What they sent was delivered by FedEx, immediately showing their desire to have it opened, it was a quite a sizable package and it contained a wonderfully photographed example of their work in a calendar, a full beautifully produced catalogue and also a fun “gimmick”, in this case a small LED torch and a message relating to the torch, all of this was presented in a customised cardboard outer – it was immediately opened and everybody who has seen it likes it and guess what, their chance of selling is high, so good job Allan & Bertram. I would give this piece a score of 8/10.

Now the bad.

I have a publishing business and brands want the magazines we produce to include their products in editorial, in fact we are sent quite a few products each week that are related to the subject, which in this case of female fashion and beauty.

Now brands employ the services of PR companies, but to me if a PR agency invest no time or effort in personalising their approach to my business and just send a very poorly written and presented piece of A4 paper wrapped around a sample, the chance of inclusion is low, very low and as you can imaging, putting this in the post using a bubble envelope hardly leaves the generic letter I a good state either, even though the package is opened it hardly makes a good impression and reading the accompanying copy did little to improve the situation. The score for this 4/10

So now the Ugly and that’s the picture for this post.

I have just added the envelope because it is truly the worst possible piece of promotional material I have seen. The first issue is that they failed to put the right postage on the envelope so I had to pay not juts the 41p owed on postage, but also a £1 handling fee, but had to waste almost an hour of my time collecting it from the postal sorting office.

To add to this, what was contained in side was not just badly written, the sales message was on a badly photocopied piece of paper and in every single way possible a lazy attempt at marketing – the company responsible should be ashamed of this and how they conduct themselves and the fact they are “partnered” with and use the association with local councils as “social proof” makes matters even worse. So how do I score this one, well they did at least take some action, so I guess I can be generous and give them 1/10 (but that is me being generous).

Direct Mail and any other piece of promotional activity is not “rocket science” if you just do the following:

  • Send potential clients (not any old person) something of perceived value
  • Educate and help recipients, do not talk at them
  • When sending something make sure the first impression, how it looks before and as you open it, is one you are proud of and that you would be excited to open
  • Invest in what you send, both financially and in the time and effort you spend creating it. Remember you are communicating on a one-to-one level with a recipient, so generic details are rarely as effective as an audience specific presentation
  • If what you send wouldn’t at least convince you to take action the way you have designed and written it, then what is the recipient going to think – so don’t send it

So the conclusion is good direct mail does work for an online business when done right and can be a major part of your marketing strategy, just do it well.


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By Adrian Fleming

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