Do you make this direct mail mistake?

Like most business owners, I get a lot of direct mail from other businesses.

And Ive noticed that a lot of these mailings make one big mistake they dont make an offer.

By "offer" I don't necessarily mean a discount or a special concession, what I mean is something for me to respond to (i.e. direct response advertising).

I'll give you an example:

I received a letter last week from a local printer I had never heard of.

(I can't remember their name, I've already thrown the letter away).

They basically said "hello" and told me they'd be "happy to take care of my printing needs".

(you know this type of letter, you've received letters like this yourself)

Now, this means nothing to me.

I'm not on some "printers' blacklist" where I struggle to find printers who'd agree to take my business. As long as I'm willing to pay their fee, any printer in town is going to be happy to do business with me.

So, all I know about this particular printer is what I already know about every printer in town: that they'd like my business.

I don't know anything about how they compare in the areas that matter to me:


speed of service
quality of printing
quality of design

So, there was nothing in the letter that had value for me.

I have no reason to respond positively to this printer and my response was simply "so what?"

(actually it was "poor guy, he probably got some bad marketing advice")

So, my advice to anyone who's thinking of doing a mailing is to ask themselves "what am I offering here" before they send anything out.

Because, if you're not offering something of value to the reader, his response is probably going to be somewhere between "so what?" and "who cares?"

The notion that he's going to file away the letter so that, at some point in the future, he can put in the time and effort to find out if you've got something special to offer, is fanciful.

It makes a lot more sense to give him this information right up front and, if he believes he might benefit from your services in the future, he's more likely to file the letter ... and call you first once he's in the market.

One of the key features I look at when I critique marketing materials (particularly sales letters & adverts) for my clients is the offer.

The first 3 questions are:

Is there an offer?

Is the offer clear?

Does the reader know how to respond?

You'd be amazed how many sales letters (or flyers or ads) fail on just these basics.

... and the business wonders why they get few or no responses.

Steve Gibson

PS If youd like your copy reviewed by a professional marketer, drop me an email at and let me know what youd like me to review, and I'll quote you a price for a critique or a re-write.

Steve Gibson Consulting, Edinburgh 2007