Although above-the-line print and broadcast advertising can be glamorous and remembered, it is the humble direct mail marketing that sometimes brings the profits home. However, direct mail can be a frustrating experience, especially if you are not organized and strategic.

Actions: Simple ABCDEF of direct mail

We have condensed essential direct mail tips to ABCDEF, for Action, Brief, Copy, Design, Exacting, and Follow-through.

1) Action. Your direct mail MUST have a call-for-action from your recipient. Direct mail should never be an “image” device, but must be a pure sales device. In the brochure, make sure you provide all means for someone to fill in their details and return those details to you. An incentive helps, such as discounts, vouchers, free gifts and others. The means to return their responses or sales requests to you should be comprehensive, and should include a toll-free phone, a fax number, an email address, and a web site to register.

2) Brief. Your direct mail brochure should not be verbose. The copy should be written and condensed, and then condensed again and again. Succinct copy is easier to read, and since many people throw away direct mail the minute it reaches their hands, you want to keep the copy brief.

3) Copy. The best advertising is not usually the visual elements, but the words that sell. For example, you may never remember Nike’s individual advertising campaigns, but you will certainly remember their “Just Do It” slogan. Likewise, if you have to spend money on your direct mail, make sure you find the best copywriter possible to write winning headlines and copy. Remember again though, the direct mail is not here to win advertising or marketing awards, but win customers and sales, and the copy should reflect that.

4) Design. Nine of out ten DM brochures are badly designed. Graphic design is often neglected by businesses, thinking that it is not worth paying a lot of money for. However, a poorly designed brochure will reach the rubbish bin in a second. Therefore, on top of sales-friendly direct mail copy, make sure you have elegantly and tastefully designed brochures that complement the copy. What makes a good design? Think simple, clean, uncluttered, with sufficient “white space” (i.e. space not filled with text). Some business people with no understanding of good design would insist on designers to fill the page with text and graphics. Don’t. Leave design to the experts – the designers.

5) Exacting. Many mailing lists have repetitive names, or names that no longer exist in organizations. When you do rent or buy a mailing list, make sure you put through some sweat to merge and purge extra names. If you have repeated direct mail campaigns, take note of non-existent names, and remove them promptly from your list. Respect also, requests of your recipients who don’t wish to receive your mailings by removing their names pronto. The mechanics of direct mail campaigns especially in the form of mailing lists is equally important as your fancily designed brochure.

6) Follow-through. Many organizations do not do enough follow-throughs of their DM campaigns. If there are responses, salespeople or support teams should promptly and adequately address the respondents’ needs. Have your people pore through the responses, and quickly follow through based on the respondents’ requests, whether by phone, fax, email, or to set up a face-to-face meeting. People have short attention spans, and like the Chinese say, “hit while the iron is hot”. So respond to your prospects’ requests immediately after your DM campaign!

A violin produces the most horrifying sounds in the hands of an untrained person, but produces moving sounds in the hands of a master.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.