Dean Rieck’s 7 Direct-Mail Pitfalls

Trying to sell to everyone on your list

Big mistake. You take the edge off your message when you try to speak to everybody. And that depresses response. Instead, Rieck urges, focus on talking only to the people likeliest to buy your product—even if they make up only 1% of your list—and forget everyone else.

Relying on the hard sell

Don’t do it, Rieck advises. When pushed too hard, people naturally push back. You are not a Drill Instructor, so you can’t browbeat your sales prospects into doing what they don’t want. But you can unveil—gently—why they should want your product.

Ignoring product features

Depends on your audience, Rieck says. The conventional wisdom rightly stresses benefits over features (“People don’t want drills—they want holes.”). However, dedicated car buffs salivate over the features of magnum wheel covers, for instance, and fanatic woodworkers want to know everything about power tools.

Skipping image considerations

It’s not true that image and selling never converge, according to Rieck. In fact, respect for your client’s image can potentiate your promotion’s selling power dramatically. People tend to believe in what they see—so your look should bolster your offer, Rieck says.

Imitating other mailers

Beware, Rieck cautions. Some direct marketers—there’s no way to tell which—don’t test their efforts thoroughly, or even at all. So imitating their packages can be a costly error—and you always should do your own testing.

Trusting in received rules

There are no universal rules in direct marketing, Rieck says—only rules of thumb. And even they must be taken with a grain of salt.

Paying too much attention to creative

Mass advertising aims to create brand awareness and preferences, Rieck observes. But direct marketing’s primary aim is to sell a product—here and now. “What you need is a powerful offer, enough information to let people make a decision about that offer, and an easy means of responding to that offer.”

See also:

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