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DeWinter Marketing Rant: Direct Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

DeWinter Marketing Rant: Direct Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

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This month’s DeWinter Marketing Rant deals with Direct Marketing Mistakes that could easily have been avoided, with some common sense and thought. In the past 2 months, I’ve received two unsolicited mailings that violated every 101-level best practice related to direct marketing.

For those who say, “why bother with direct marketing at all?,” the stats show that direct marketing offers the same response rate as Google ads – and there are some instances where direct marketing is more appropriate than internet ads.

Here’s a case study of a direct marketing campaign that was an unmitigated disaster, and read the learning points of what would have made this campaign more successful.

Direct Marketing Mistakes Case Study: The SharpSpring “Picture” Campaign

Direct Marketing Mistakes Case Study | DeWinter Marketing & PR DenverThis disastrous direct marketing campaign came from SharpSpring – a marketing automation company that competes with I received a notice that an over-sized package had arrived that wouldn’t fit in my locked mailbox. What arrived was a 2-foot-square glass panel with my company logo on it in a GIANT package. Accompanying the glass panel was a tiny printed marketing piece with tiny type, minimal logo-ing, and no obvious call to action. This started a whole process of inconveniencing the prospect (me) that wasted more than 2 hours of my time.

Step 1 – Pick Up Mystery Package: I made a special trip to pick up the giant package that was three feet square. Cost in time: 40 minutes

Step 2 – Pry Open A Heavily Wrapped Package: I had to buy a cutting tool at Ace Hardware to cut through the heavy wrapping on the package to find the glass panel (photo to the right) and a tiny marketing piece that was unclear. Who sent this? Why did they send this? What do they want? (I still have no idea what they wanted.) Cost in time: 30 minutes

Step 3 – Recycle the Cardboard: The cardboard wouldn’t fit in my recycling bin so I had to take the cardboard outside, put it on the sidewalk, cut it into smaller pieces, and haul it out to the recycling bin. Thank goodness for the cutting tool I bought at Ace Hardware. Cost in time: 15 minutes

Step 4 – Ditch the Glass Panel: Cardboard out of the way. Now, it’s time to ditch the unwanted glass panel, which also was too big to fit in the garbage bin. It had a sticky black layer on the back that was designed to keep the glass from breaking. When I temporarily leaned it against the wall, it left a nasty black mark on a white wall. This required ANOTHER trip to Ace Hardware to buy some “Goo Gone” grease remover to clean the wall. The panel had to be broken to fit in the garbage bin. I took the glass panel outside, put it in a contractor-grade garbage bag and whacked at it with a hammer, followed by a big rubber mallet. No deal. The black sticky backing kept the glass together, and it was still too big to fit in the garbage bin. Finally, I set the whole bag on the cement steps with an edge hanging over the steps and jumped on it. Success! The damn thing finally broke in half. Next stop: the garbage bin. Cost in time: 35 minutes

Step 5 – Follow-up Call with SharpSpring: Several weeks later, a SharpSpring sales rep called. He didn’t explain what they did & how they could help our clients. He didn’t pitch me for a demo. All he wanted to know was: “How did you like the package we sent?” I gave him an earful about how much of my time they wasted. His response: “Well, the CEO really thought this was cool.” Ugh. Cost in time: 15 minutes.

Total wasted time: 2.25 hours

The bottom line is that direct marketing can be effective when you want to carefully target specific prospects and you have a clear call to action – and the response rate is the same as internet ads.  All too often, direct marketing gets a bad rap and doesn’t work because of basic direct marketing mistakes. Follow these 4 learning points to make sure your direct marketing campaign has the best chance of success.

Direct Marketing Mistakes Learning Points:

  1. Send a direct marketing package that’s a reasonable size.
  2. Send a direct marketing package that’s clearly logo’d & tells your prospect what you do in one short phrase.
  3. Send a direct marketing package that includes a clear call to action: Pitch a demo; ask for a phone conference; ask for a free trial, etc.
  4. Have a sales rep follow up who knows what he or she is doing, and asks for the call to action.

Courtney DeWinter

Courtney DeWinter is the president & founder of Denver-based DeWinter Marketing & PR in Denver, Colorado. She is a marketing & PR consultant with 25+ years of experience in branding, marketing, public relations, websites & journalism.

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