Stupid direct marketing tricks: Dr. Bob’s Compendium of DM Dos & Don’ts

Feeling results-challenged? Looking for ways to add vim and vigour to a flagging campaign? Take a dose of good, old-fashioned DM common sense, as prescribed by Dr. Bob.

Feeling results-challenged? Looking for ways to add vim and vigour to a flagging campaign? Take a dose of good, old-fashioned DM common sense, as prescribed by Dr. Bob.

DON’T go for short-term gain if it’s going to cause you long-term pain. Exceptional response is a wonderful thing, but not if it costs you your brand.

DO use e-mail and direct mail in concert. Boxers would call it a one-two punch; direct marketers call it effective.

DON’T sound like one person in one medium and a totally different person in another. Sound like the same person, but one who wears different clothes depending on the situation.

DO change type sizes and fonts when writing order form copy, depending on who’s supposed to be talking, i.e. typeset, ‘Yes, I want to help promote world peace,’ one way and, ‘Complete, detach and mail in the postage-paid envelope provided,’ in another. Otherwise readers get confused as to who’s talking. And once they get confused, they stop completing the form.

DON’T use reverse type, even in a classy brochure, if the copy is longer than half a dozen words. People don’t read it, literally, half as much.

DO include an envelope teaser on your promotional package if you send customers invoices by mail. The lack of a teaser may trick many people into opening the envelope because they think it’s a bill, but few tricked souls continue to deal with a disingenuous company.

DO get adventurous with your envelopes. Think four-colour. Think different sizes. Think double windows. Think windows on the front and the back. Think such techniques don’t make a difference? Think again.

DO send lumpies but DON’T send them in ‘stealth’ packaging, i.e. with no identification as to who the sender is. Although anthraxophobia has abated from its height of a few months ago, it’s still in some people’s minds.

DO let your audience know, right away, that they’ve been segmented. In a fundraising campaign, for example, thank donors for their previous gift in the first paragraph and let lapsed donors know right off the bat that you’re sorry they haven’t donated for a while. Or if you’re a financial institution, let the reader know that you know they bank with you.

DO SPAM unto others the way you would have others SPAM unto you.

DON’T use dollar signs or all caps in the subject line of your e-mails or many anti-spam filters will delete your message before your recipient gets the chance to. The same with typical spammer words like ‘Free.’

DO test your e-mails. Test subject lines. Test short vs. long copy. Test html vs. text vs. rich media. It’s cheap. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it can make a huge difference when it comes to response.

DO plan for the day when virtually all of your target audience will be able to accept rich media e-mail.

DO plan for the day when rich media e-mail will no longer have the power of novelty going for it.

DON’T forget to add a viral aspect to your e-mails and Web pages. Word of Mouse advertising is almost as cheap and effective as word-of-mouth, plus it’s trackable.

DO invest in responder lists.

DON’T let your direct mail package look cheap unless you’re a fundraiser; people don’t like buying from cheapskates or those with no taste. And if you’re a fundraiser, DON’T let your package look expensive; people don’t like giving their money to organizations who appear not to need it.

DO include a letter in your envelope package. It will be the cheapest AND the most impactful component in it.

DON’T personalize a B2B letter if you’re not sure whether you’re reaching the right person. You’ll get higher pass-along with ‘Dear Executive.’

DON’T produce long-copy, multi-component direct packages if you’re trying to generate leads. You’re not going to get many questions from recipients when you’ve already given them all the answers.

DON’T be afraid of negative words or thoughts. Remember one of the best-pulling headlines of all time: ‘Do You Make These Common Mistakes in English?’ And one of the most stirring pronouncements in history: ‘I have not yet begun to fight.’

DON’T worry about the length of copy; worry about how interesting it is. Make it as short as possible but as long as necessary.

DO hire highly talented and experienced people to prepare and execute your campaigns. As oil well firefighter Red Adair said, ‘If you think a professional’s expensive, wait till you try hiring an amateur.’

Dr. Bob and his alter ego, Bob Knight, refuse to follow lists of dos and don’ts, recognizing that the biggest breakthroughs come from breaking the rules. But they DO recommend that you put them on your list of people to contact for DM planning. E-mail: