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Data diligence can prevent direct mail #Fail

I received a direct mail piece last week which delighted and distressed me in equal measure! I’ll start by explaining why it deserves praise:

It was direct mail. These days, the channel is vastly underused in B2B so almost always has some impact, and I enjoy receiving a genuinely great piece. More often than not I will stop what I’m doing to open post. Even if it goes straight in the bin, it receives my undivided attention for those few seconds. The same cannot be said of email, for example.

The packaging. The piece came in brown cardboard, not unlike an Amazon package. It looked like something I had ordered which was beneficial for two reasons. One, it ensured the package made its way from reception to my desk without getting lost, and two, I was compelled to open it immediately.

Personal effort. First, the mailing piece was sent using real stamps, not a franking machine. Second, the address was hand written (and I checked it was actually written with a pen, not a type of printing that looks like a pen!) and inside was a hand written compliment slip. Whilst a fulfilment agency or junior may have been employed to write addresses and stick stamps, I was impressed with the effort taken to ensure the package didn’t look part of a large campaign but rather, was sent directly to me from a senior member of their team. So powerful is the effect, that a part of me believes the latter may be true!

The piece itself. The actual piece was a book – not a catalogue –  explaining the company’s brand values and some examples of work. Great storytelling, quirky graphics, lots of photos and all on quality paper. It was clearly an expensive piece and as a result, it’s still sitting on my desk as I can’t bear to throw it away!

However, all this effort falls down on one key point. Targeting. The sender was a branding agency. NI work for Harte Hanks. I suppose that because our sister company, Mason Zimbler, is a creative and branding agency doesn’t necessarily mean I will use them for my requirements. They’ve certainly built brand awareness, which may have been the campaign objective, but I won’t convert to revenue.

This agency clearly pulled out all the stops to create a great piece of direct mail but failed to ensure the recipients were genuine prospects. Some pre-qualification activities including tele or top funnel digital content could have helped the agency refine the recipients of the costly book.

Accurate targeting is important for all marketing activities, but especially so when investing in direct mail. It’s notoriously difficult to achieve positive ROI with this channel. Failure to carry out due diligence – such as ensuring data accuracy is spot-on – can hinder otherwise beautifully orchestrated campaigns.

It’s all too common for data investment to be an afterthought. But small details can make the difference between having a campaign that works powerfully to deliver tangible commercial impact and one that fizzles out like a damp squib.