4 Direct Mail Truths HubSpot Got Wrong
Editor's Note: This article was submitted in response to the blog post "6 Horrific Practices of Direct Mail (and What Great Email Marketers Do Instead)," which was originally posted on HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Blog and was included in the Around the Web section of Tuesday's Today @ Target Marketing.
I have long admired the people at HubSpot for their online marketing acumen. I routinely download and read their marketing e-books with pleasure.
But their recent analysis of direct mail—"6 Horrific Practices of Direct Mail"—displays a stunning ignorance of what works and what doesn't work in direct mail.
To begin with, they go down the slippery slope of criticizing marketing without knowing what the results of those marketing campaigns are.
Whenever you do that, you operate largely out of ignorance. If I am tempted to say a direct mail package is bad, I will not do so unless the marketer confirms that it bombed.
Now let's look at some specifics. You can click on the link above to see images of the mailers under discussion.
1. In their horrific practice No. 1, HubSpot shows a direct mail envelope inviting the recipient to open a new credit card.
The teaser, which HubSpot author Jay Acunzo says "blatantly violates my trust," reads: "Time-sensitive account information."
Unlike Acunzo, I know this ploy works, because I have used variations of it in many direct mail packages throughout the years: adding a sense of urgency increases response.
Since the offer is to open a credit card account, and the special savings inside are good for a limited time only, the teaser is not only effective—it's also accurate and honest. Nothing about that violates my trust.
2. HubSpot's second "horrific mistake" is the use of a plain envelope. In direct mail lingo, these are called "blind" envelopes—and they have a long history of performing incredibly well in the mail, a fact that Acunzo seems blissfully unaware of.
3. Skipping ahead to horrific mistake No. 4, Acunzo criticizes the mailer for promoting the firm's money-back guarantee. In this he is wrong: money-back guarantees are standard in subscription marketing offers. To not have one is folly.
Acunzo asks "How is this building my trust and converting me to a customer?" I suggest Acunzo try the mailing without the money-back guarantee, and he will have an answer to his question.
He also takes a direct mail piece to task for using the phrase "real savings." His complaint is that it's unnecessary. "Should I be concerned about fake savings?" he asks.
While grammarians loathe redundancy, copywriters know that redundancy can be an effective copywriting method.
Example: "free gift" is a popular phrase in direct mail. But by definition, all gifts are free, so the phrase is redundant. Yet over the years I have heard from several marketers who tested "gift" and found that the omission of "free" depressed response.
4. On horrific mistake #4, Acunzo scolds a direct mailer for making the call to action (CTA) hard to find.
But look at the sample. The CTA isn't hard to find. It's right there under the cover price. Not hidden at all.
He also objects to the copy "Professional Benefits Form," saying that this copy adds no value. But there is value: the form is for professionals, and it gives them benefits. Experienced DM copywriters know from long experience that giving the reply form a value-added title (instead of "Order Form") can lift response.
My problem with this article, aside from almost everything in it being wrong, is that when it comes to direct mail, Acunzo seems to be an "armchair marketer." All he says is purely his subjective opinion, and none of his claims are backed up by results.
The most valuable thing I ever learned about marketing was a casual comment copywriter Peter Beteul made in a meeting: "Never let personal preference get in the way." Acunzo's article, sadly, is all about personal preference, and not so much about facts.