5 Direct Mail Errors to Avoid

Ray Villasenor

Direct mail continues to be an integral part of an overall marketing strategy for many companies. It's clear that it works, but how do you create a successful direct mail campaign?

Over the past decade, we've launched numerous direct mail campaigns for our clients. We've identified some common direct mail missteps.

5 Direct Mail Errors to Avoid:

1. Using an Outdated Mailing List

The first place to look to make improvements is your mailing list. Successful direct mail campaigns start with a clean, targeted list of prospects that are likely to be interested in your offer.

You may tend to focus on the size of your mailing list. However, the quality of your list is far more important. A clean list saves the cost of mailing to duplicate, incomplete and outdated addresses.

There are many companies, like Sharpdots, that offer data services to help you purchase a new list or breathe new life into your current one.

Once you improve the quality of your list, it may have decreased in size. At this point you can grow your list through data modeling and enhancing services, like our Lookalike Audience service.


Whether you purchase a list or maintain an in-house list of customers, your data needs to be clean and up to date. Clean up your list and reach more of the right people by enhancing your data.

2. Using an Unsegmented List

If you have a clean, updated mailing list, but your direct mail campaign did not live up to your expectations, it's time to segment your list.

Gone are the days of companies blindly sending direct mail to extensive, generic lists of addresses in the hopes that some would find their offer compelling enough to make a purchase.

Segment your list based on the data you have available, such as gender, age, location or past purchases. This will allow you to send targeted mailers to the segments that will find your offer the most compelling.

If you have already segmented your list, consider reassessing your segments or using enhanced data to further segment your list. List segmentation for a specific campaign can vary because it depends on the offer, the product, and your ideal customer.


Segmenting your mailing list combined with specific, targeted offers will improve direct mail campaign results.

3. Failing to Send a Compelling Offer

If you've got a clean, targeted, segmented mailing list, but your campaign still under performed, take a closer look at your offer. Was it compelling enough?

Your offer must be clear. When scanning your mail piece, your call to action must be easy to find and understand. If your audience is interested, they will read the details.

This is both a matter of design and execution. A well-designed and produced direct mail piece with a clear message will improve your response rates.

Was your call to action too great an ask? The easier it is to act on your offer, the higher your response rate will be.  

Did your mailer provide your target audience value? It's hard to drive audience response if your message does not clearly communicate your unique value.


Identify your target audience's 'pain' or problem. Design your mail piece with a clear, easy to act on offer. If you've correctly identified their pain, then you'll have their attention long enough to lead them to your product.

4. Sending Impersonal Direct Mail

Have you used personalization in your mailers? Use variable data fields to include personalized details such as their name and previous purchase information.

59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their purchase choices.

Using the word 'you' in the copy of your mailer also makes a huge difference. Including personal details, helps build rapport with your audience and strengthen customer loyalty.


Direct mail benefits enormously from personalization. Your mail campaign can be addressed directly to the recipient. You want your audience to feel as though you are talking to them directly.

5. Lack of Campaign Attribution and Lead Nurture

The next step to improving your direct mail campaign is tracking your campaign's progress and performance.

Do you have a way to attribute new customers to the campaign?

Although it can be more difficult to establish attribution for direct mail campaigns, it can be done. Campaign attribution can be built into your direct mail piece with a QR code or personalized URL that directs customers to campaign specific landing pages attributed to the campaign.

As you collect customer data, you will need a followup process to nurture new leads generated by your direct mail campaign. Our marketing automation platform offers a wide array of tools to track, attribute and analyze marketing campaigns.

Many times, prospects may save your direct mail offer to use at a later time. Those prospects will need to be nurtured to conversion through email marketing and retargeting.

Following up with customers who have made a purchase is just as important. It is easier to convert past customers, so providing them with great followup mailers and offers, will strengthen their loyalty to your brand and make them more likely to purchase the next time around.


Clearly defining your campaign goal, offer, and call to action is the first step to creating a successful direct mail campaign. Tools that allow you to attribute new leads to your campaign and nurture those leads to conversion are essential to getting the most of out of your direct mail campaign.

Using Sharpdots you can clean, enhance and segment your mailing list, develop a clear, easy to act on, personalized offer, and set up a process for campaign attribution and nurturing new leads.

Direct mail is an important, often under utilized channel to include in your overall marketing strategy. It can be used to generate new leads and deliver your message in a form that people are more likely to hold on to. It is a great opportunity to deliver your message to your target audience in an impactful and personalized way.

Rethinking Retail Report, Infosys
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