How to Avoid the 17 Most Common Direct Mail Marketing Mistakes

Posted: March 21, 2018

Categorised in: Direct Mail, Printing

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Successful direct mail marketing doesn’t come easy. As a UK mailing house, we’ve been in the direct mail services business since 1983, so it’s fair to say we’ve seen all sorts of direct marketing mistakes being made. In fact, there have been so many incidents over the years that we’re sharing the top 17 classic marketing mistakes we’ve noticed that crop up again and again. Even if you take two or three of our suggestions, we guarantee your direct mailing will stand a higher likelihood of success.

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No 1: Low-resolution images and logos
No 2: No bleeds
No 3: Poor layout
No 4: Quiet zone
No 5: Four colour blacks
No 6: Spanning across folds
No 7: Difference between seeing and printing colour
No 8: Image exported in wrong settings
No 9: Perforations positioning and type of perforation
No 10: Choosing the wrong stock or finishing
No 11: Merging direct mail with poor data
No 12: Complex direct mail
No 13: Heavy mail
No 14: Wrong size and shape
No 15: Mailsort
No 16: Realistic expectations
No 17: Doing before thinking

No 1: Low-resolution images and logos

Low resolution stops direct mail in its tracks. Instead of your message within the direct mail marketing, low-resolution images and logos stand out. They could even go so far as to cheapen your marketing and damage the trustworthiness of your brand. As a mailing house, we ask that all of our clients ensure their logo and images are saved to 300dpi (dots per inch). Alternatively, try to provide the largest possible size images to your chosen printing company or mailing services, who will scale the images to avoid low-resolution.

No 2: No bleeds

Sometimes a novice designer will run an image to the very edge of a printed page but no further. In an ideal world, the page would be perfectly aligned with the image. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Printing presses – old and new, digital and litho – and guillotines, are continually working within very slight and changing tolerances. This is due to the nature of machinery, with hundreds if not thousands of moving parts. Often, this results in images running short at the edge, leaving a very slight white line. Good mailing houses, designers or printing companies will always extend the image 5mm beyond the edge of the layout when they’re looking at it on-screen. This ensures that even accounting for guillotine tolerances, the image will always run right to the very edge of your mailing piece.

No 3: Poor layout

We see this marketing mistake often in a direct marketing strategy. A layout is created by the client on-screen, and then approved and exported for printing. However, they discover – at the proofing stage if they’re lucky, or after the print run has occurred if not – that specific pages, calls-to-action, perforations or the orientation of the marketing is wrong in some way. A poor layout can prove expensive in time, budget and, in extreme cases, the client’s job if they’re dismissed. It can all be avoided. Print out a mock-up of the artwork before sending it to your mailing service provider or printer. You’ll be able to check if the perforations are correctly aligned, the pages are in the right order and the call-to-action is in the right place.

No 4: Quiet zone

This is an issue similar to Bleed (above). It’s human nature for the eye to be drawn to irregularities in a layout. If the subconscious mind registers that a group of text is too close to the edge of a page or a fold when compared to everything else, or that the guillotine has ever so slightly cut the edge out of alignment to the text, the eye will notice the error. Always try to leave a 10mm text quiet zone around the edge of your direct mail piece. Unless the guillotining or folding is criminally bad – in which case you should be complaining loudly – this gap is enough to trick the eye into believing everything is aligned.

No 5: Four colour blacks

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The colour black is black, unless it’s made up of Cyan and black to create rich black. Or, it’s a mixture of Cyan, Magenta and yellow tints, plus black. You should be aware the more colours you add to ‘black’, the more ink the production process uses. Therefore, the more chance of ink to paper saturation, which can lead to longer drying times and the increased risk of smudging between printed sheets. There are good reasons for adding Rich Black, or a black with a tint of another colour. However, where possible, try to keep the total levels of extra colour to the minimum. Most mailing companies, including WDM, would recommend no more than 100% black, as well as an additional 100% made up of Cyan, Yellow and Magenta. You should always ask for the advice of your designer or printing services. UK mailing companies and mailing service providers are adept and experienced at dealing with these sorts of enquiries. They will be able to either help you directly, or point your designer in the right direction.

No 6: Spanning across folds

Many novice designers – and many marketers for that matter – love to span images across folds in booklets and direct mail pieces. But, it can go one of two ways – stunning or disastrous. We’ve touch on the marketing mistakes above: tolerance of printing presses and guillotine paper cutters etc. The misalignment between pages can result in images, colour and text that do not join up. Unless you are absolutely certain your printing provider can do this successfully, we suggest you don’t. You do not want your direct mail marketing to suffer.

No 7: Difference between seeing and printing colour

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In a nutshell, there are two types of printing systems used for the majority of commercial work: RGB and CMYK. However, you’ll encounter problems when you make colour judgments on artwork seen on-screen, using RGB, while having your direct mail marketing printed on a CMYK lithographic printing press. What you see on-screen rarely matches – in the first instance – what you get on the printed material. When it comes to marketing help, you should be aware you might have to make changes, and speak to the company offering direct mail services. If you do, note it will add time to the production process.

No 8: Image exported in wrong settings

As a follow up to the above, there is a subtler issue. When artwork is ‘collected’ for export, sometimes images are saved in their last setting. However, that last setting could be CMYK, but you’re digitally printing on an RGB press, and vice versa. This can result in a final item that ‘doesn’t quite feel right’ to the reader. To avoid this ‘direct mail killer’, create a checklist that ensures your designer has exported the images to the correct settings. It saves time and improves efficiency.

No 9: Perforations positioning and type of perforation

Perforations, or ‘perfs’, are used to make a portion of the direct mail marketing easy to remove. They can be used to return to your business in an envelope or as part of an envelope, or to use as a coupon. When used correctly, ‘tear off’ sections can boost response rates immensely. However, if not correctly positioned, they have been known to reduce audience response. There are certain ‘rules’ for perforations:

  • Place coupons with perforations along an outer edge of the direct mail
  • Avoid perforations close together, as they may both tear rather than just one
  • For perforations along a fold, make sure to use strong paper stock
  • One piece direct mail with integral private reply envelope that uses perforated edges, such as a sealed payslip, should be easy to tear than the perforated inner line, which makes the envelope easy to open after sealing
  • Ensure printers, and direct mail companies, create a proof of the design for you to test and guarantee it will not fall apart in the production, fulfilment and dispatch

No 10: Choosing incorrect stock or finishing

You should never attempt to sell a high-end item on low-cost paper stock, and the same goes for the opposite. It just doesn’t ring true to the recipient. For example, consumers who buy a more budget-friendly product will not expect a Rolls Royce, but they will expect it to be reliable. Subconsciously, they will want that reliability to be reflected in the quality of the marketing they receive.

No 11: Merging direct mail with poor data

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This is one of the more important issues discussed in this blog. Poor data doesn’t just ‘kill’ direct mail marketing, it turns it into junk mailing. Using the wrong data implies you do not know who you are talking to, and didn’t care enough to collect the right information – an instant turn off with consumers. Perfection is rarely possible but always try to cleanse your data to the best of your ability. We have discussed in fine detail the significance of successful data, and how it can boost response rates, so do not waste your opportunity. As an additional insight, always ensure the address is correct. We’ve seen direct mail come to us as a fulfilment house with the address missing, so it will never reach the intended.

No 12: Complex direct mail

If ever there was a reason for the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), it’s creating a successful piece of direct mail. Complexity reduces response rates. If the reader doesn’t know how to open your marketing campaign, or even what to do next, the likelihood of a low response increases.

No 13: Heavy mail

Unintentionally, many marketers give themselves an uphill task by not considering the weight of their direct mail pack. It doesn’t take much to tip the weight over into a higher postal cost bracket, making the prospect of Return on Investment (ROI) harder. Try to reduce any unnecessary weight wherever possible, without compromising quality. You might be able to do this by combining several elements of your pack, or even by changing your call-to-action. It’s easy to avoid these common marketing mistakes.

No 14: Wrong size and shape

Mailing companies come across this problem every day. Never underestimate the importance of size and shape. While it’s great to stand out from the crowd, odd sizes and shapes can often put into your direct mail piece into the next postal cost bracket, increasing costs dramatically. Bear in mind that, according to Royal Mail, an estimated 90% of direct mail campaigns are opened in any case.

No 15: Mailsort

Postage costs are, usually, the most significant part of a mail campaign. However, many people ignore Mailsort when sending out direct mail marketing. Royal Mail Mailsort is a discount service offered on bulk mailings. If you, or your mailing house, can sort your direct mail address and name data into Royal Mail selection areas, saving a lot of work for Royal Mail, they will pass on a 40% discount on postage costs. Mailsort price breaks start at around 4,000 volumes and is worth noting when considering direct mail services.

No 16: Realistic expectations

Marketers and business owners drive sales. However, expertise in their area doesn’t necessarily mean they understand creating and producing direct mail packs. Often, there are critical gaps in the knowledge of market awareness, design, print and finishing capabilities, production timescales. But, by speaking directly to your direct mail companies, you can reduce the risk of those expectations not being met, and understand the process that goes into producing the campaign and, subsequently, direct mail fulfilment.

No 17: Doing before thinking

In our experience, by far the most common cause of failure in direct mail marketing campaign creation happens even before the first draft. Failure to ask what the point of your direct mail is can be catastrophic. At the root of all successful marketing campaigns are clear objectives and goals. Is the point of your direct mailing communication to make the audience aware? To drive an action? Define your objectives with your audience in mind, tailoring the marketing campaign to their needs, and you increase the chance of success.

Direct mail campaigns stand a better chance of success when the least number of mistakes are made in their planning and creation. While external factors can also affect the success of your mailing, controlling the above seventeen mistakes means you are well on your way to achieving your brand goals.

If you would like further advice on creating your direct mail marketing campaigns, speak to us at WDM today for additional guidance on direct mail services. You can get in touch via the contact form.

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