How to set your direct mail campaign up for failure.


It just blows me away when smart business people invest in a marketing campaign only to make absolutely certain that it will fail. They choose not to present a compelling offer.

Right now our agency is working on a restaurant guide project for a local community organization. Certainly outside the sweet spot of our expertise in “marketing to the when” that we are known for, but it is our way of giving back to our community. Call us humble Joe Citizens.

Anyway, the advertisers are spending up to $200 to get an ad in this publication that will be distributed to 1200 pent-up, out-of-town, certainly-will-get-hungry visitors to the community. A solid value for a local restaurant that wants to drive customers in their door.

So these restaurants fork over the cash and some decide not to present an offer. They just want their ad to announce that they exist.

No one cares if you exist! I certainly don’t. Prospective customers only care about the value they will receive in visiting your restaurant.

Some of the restaurants are presenting solid values. A FREE dessert with entree. A FREE fish taco. (yes, Martha, a fish taco…. They are a sort of phenomenon here in the San Diego area) Others only give you their address & phone number. Which offer do you think has the best chance of creating a line out their front door?


There is a rule in direct marketing called the 60-30-10 rule.


Those that know me probably are tired of hearing this, but it is such a direct marketing fundamental that it can not be ignored. This is the equation that defines your direct marketing success.

The 60 represents who you are trying to target. 60% of your success is based on the targetability and quality of your database or list. This restaurant guide has this nailed. Visitors in town for a week long athletic event with no idea where to get some good grub.

The 30 represents your message, and more specifically your offer. 30% of your success is based on how compelling of an offer you’re presenting to your audience. Think about matching the optimal offer for that specific audience. Make the offer relevant. The advertiser in this restaurant guide offering the FREE fish taco has it all figured out…. hungry visitors, free food. The advertisers that simply tell you they exist are doomed for failure. There is no incentive to visit. There is no candy to attract.

The 10 represents the media or the look of the piece. Is it red? Is it blue? Is it direct mail or is it email? Is it a letter or an envelope? We can go really deep in this 10% space, but it plays a distant third place to matching the right offer to the right audience.

So what to do? Our client, the local community organization, is the one responsible for selling the program to the advertiser. We are functioning as the good guy, volunteer design and print partner in the shadows. We have no control over the advertiser’s decision. And it is killing me.

Please don’t ever make this same mistake. Dude, present an offer.