I recently came home from the office and sat down to go through the mail. I am referring to the regular kind of mail that gets delivered by the U.S. Postal Service in a mailbox. I found a yellow envelope addressed to me with the words “X-Ray Enclosed.”

At first I thought for a brief moment I had received someone's real X-Rays by mistake. Then I opened the envelope to discover a local auto dealer's clever marketing piece telling me I had been approved for “bare bones” pricing. The mail piece included a color print insert on a regular piece of paper and a smaller half page on X-Ray film.

In comparison I received an email recently from a gentleman by the name of Andy. He wanted to sell me some product to enlarge my...well, “member.” I am sure if you have a male sounding name you have probably gotten this email message. (I would not be surprised if a few females have gotten the message as well since I seem to get messages offering to enlarge my breasts.) The point is that the message was direct and I knew instantly what I was being offered.

These two recent experiences got me thinking about why some marketers are very clear and honest with their message while others have to trick recipients into opening their advertisement.

I began to wonder if tricking people to open a direct mail piece or email is a good way to start a relationship with a prospective customer. From a consumer's point of view I personally don't want to do business with someone who attempts to deceive me with their marketing efforts.

So How Should Real Companies Treat Direct Mail and Email Marketing Messages?

As a marketer we must approach our direct mail and email marketing messages with the attitude that this may be the one and only opportunity to start a relationship with a new customer. Thus:

  1. Messages should be honest and reflect the company's credibility. Take the high road with your creative. Tell people who you really are and what you really do.
  2. Be clear and concise with the offer. Don't make it difficult for the reader of your message to figure out what you are promoting.
  3. Test your message. Try your message out and ask for feedback. This will be the best way to assure you are not misleading.
  4. Know your audience. The shotgun approach to marketing does not work with direct mail or email. Sending your message to the wrong audience is wasteful spending of your advertising dollars.

Treat any solicitation for a new customer as a personal invitation to do business with your company. Your marketing message should represent the way you do business. Remember your message is a reflection of your brand, product or service and employees. Make sure your message is something you can stand behind with pride no matter how it is delivered.

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Doug Edge serves as Vice President of Rumba Direct Inc. (www.rumbadirect.com) a top 100 direct marketing agency. Doug has served as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ball State University.