4 Direct Mail Pitfalls – And How to Avoid Them

In previous blogs we’ve talked about why you should add direct mail to your marketing mix – and by extension, to your marketing plan.

Assuming you followed that advice, you’re thinking about how you can use direct mail, and may even be planning direct mail campaigns, good for you! Now, here are four pitfalls that could derail those campaigns and result in unexpected costs and delays.

Good news, though: all these pitfalls are surmountable … with the right help.


1.  Creating mail piece designs that don’t meet USPS specifications for automated mail.

We can get into details later, but basically there’s mail and then there’s automated mail.

Automated mail, as its name implies, is designed to run efficiently on the USPS automated high-speed mail sorting equipment.

The postage rates for automated mail are significantly lower because it requires less human intervention than non-auto mail. To qualify for the lower automated rates, the mail piece needs to meet certain design requirements, including overall dimensions, thickness, weight, sealing, and address quality.

Make a mistake with automated mail, and you could pay a lot more in postage. And since postage makes up a large part of direct mail’s cost, this can add up quickly.


2. Using a dirty mailing list.

The thing with a mailing list is this: No matter whether it comes from a third party or your own CRM system, even the cleanest mailing list gets dirtier every day.

It’s inevitable: People move and change roles. Businesses change names and locations. New businesses enter the playing field.

No mailing list is going to be perfect, but it’s important that your list is clean as it can be for every mailing.

Basic list hygiene practices like eliminating duplicates, removing undeliverable addresses, and updating address changes can reduce waste and save you money on print and postage. For this reason alone you should become a “clean freak” when it comes to your mailing lists.


3.  Paying too much for postage.

Who doesn’t like saving money?

Maybe one of the reasons you’ve shied away from using direct mail is you think the cost is significantly higher than a lot of digital media, and you’re looking to save money.

(As we know, the initial cost may be higher for direct mail, but it makes up for it in ROI.)

However, the USPS offers rate incentives for mail that’s entered into the USPS distribution system in a way that reduces their processing time. Taking advantage of these incentives can save you thousands of dollars on postage each year.


4.      Designing without production in mind.

Imagine this: You’ve come up with the perfect piece for your direct mail campaign. It’s clever, unique, and sure to stand out in the daily mail. Your boss loves it and tells you to move ahead ASAP.

You send the art files off to be produced … and that’s when you find out your clever design will require a good deal of expensive handwork that will blow your project budget. Your only option is to abandon the idea and start over.

You kick yourself over the wasted time and effort, and you dread sharing the news with your boss … but congratulations: You’ve just learned one of the basic rules of direct mail – always design with production in mind.

One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to “begin with the end in mind,” and designing for production is like that. You need to temper your creativity with the knowledge that whatever you create has to be printed, cut, folded, glued, addressed, and mailed – and if you can’t envision that, imagine what the production people will think.

As we’ve mentioned, any one of these pitfalls can derail a project; taken in combination, they might make you want to abandon direct mail for good.

Thankfully, there’s an easy button for this: Work with a direct mail specialist. A specialist knows the devil is in the details, and knows every one of those devilish details that go into a successful mailing – because they’ve been there.

A well-established direct mail specialist like JHL Digital Direct has a staff of experts that can help you navigate the direct mail minefield. Engage us early on a project, lean on us for advice, and we’ll guide you to success.

Contact us to learn more.


3/4/21 by Dan Topel

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.