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Direct Marketing Challenges

by: bierhausser on Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2010 Time: 4:27 PM

Direct mail...it's not like any other marketing medium. Have trouble with a TV ad you've placed? Maybe a magazine placement? "Make goods" are available. But in direct mail, disasters happen just days before the drop-dead mail dates. And then, it's too late. All is lost. With direct mail, disaster can lurk in a million different locations, and often, where least expected. So take heed of the horror stories I'm about to share with you.

1. One production manager had the same printer print all the components of his mail package at the same time: the outer envelope, the reply envelope, the generic letter, the lift note, and the 4-color brochures. He also decided to have all those materials shipped to the mail shop all at once. That sounded like a good idea. The mail shop would get all the required materials at the same time and then the job would be ready to mail after the sample package was approved. What could be more efficient?

Well, this was the hinterlands of Pennsylvania, In the dead of winter, So getting from point A to point B wasn't something to take for granted. The semi truck transporting all of those beautiful envelopes, letters, lift notes and 4-color brochures, slid on the ice-covered roadway, turned over, rolled down an embankment and then burst into flames. The fire burned for FOUR hours. Guess why? Yep, all that volatile fresh ink. Luckily, the driver of the truck was OK. But, given that every single mailer was inside that truck, the whole campaign was sunk. All that money spent and nothing to show for it. Needless to say, the mailing didn't go out the day it was promised. The State Troopers called the resulting firestorm, "the Perfect Barbecue". Gotta love "COP HUMOR".

2. A major telecommunications company wanted to advertise and promote its prestigious data recovery capabilities. Its direct mail agency came up with the following concept: The package would be a large, shrink-wrapped plastic pill bottle with a brochure/letter inside, with the theme "First Aid for Your Data Network." The local post office approved the design for mailing but the client decided it wanted to mail from a different post office, and the actual mailing post office was not contacted to look at and approve the design of the mailer.

This was just after the 9/11 attacks, and the "anthrax through the mail" scare was a major concern. So when all 50,000 of the bottles showed up at the client's chosen post office, all 50,000 were promptly rejected. So they all needed to be shipped to the post office that approved the mailing in the first place. But that wasn't the worst thing that happened. Not even close.

The worst came after all the bottles reached their recipients. The client received over 70 phone calls from prospects and customers expressing outrage over receiving such a "scary" package.

In conclusion, even the best of direct mail talents are sometimes in awe of the ingenuity of "Murphy's Law" creeping in and spoiling your mailings. Regardless, if you plan on doing direct mail marketing, go with an experienced professional or agency that has learned and experienced these types of disasters so you will be not the client that we can all learn from these types of direct mail marketing mistakes.

James E. Sullivan, a Northern California Business Marketing member, is the Project Director of the direct mail consultancy and direct mail advertising agency called Optic Nerve Direct Marketing. Check out their website for additional useful resources, including a "75 Point Checklist" for direct mail at www.opticnervedirect.com.


About the Author

James E. Sullivan, a Northern California Business Marketing member, is the Project Director of the direct mail consultancy and direct mail advertising agency called Optic Nerve Direct Marketing. Check out their website for additional useful resources, including a "75 Point Checklist" for direct mail at www.opticnervedirect.com.




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