21 Direct Mail Mistakes to Avoid - Part 2

Oct. 14, 2016

The is the second of two articles about direct mail mistakes to avoid. The first article showed mistakes one through ten. Click here to read it. Here's the rest of the story about common mistakes I frequently observe in contractor direct mail.

11. Stress Features, Not Benefits

Contractors often get trapped in promoting the technical specifications of a product.  The engineers who receive their marketing probably appreciate this.  Most consumers do not care and do not even understand.

Instead, talk about what the products does for you.  UV lights make the home healthier by eliminating microbial contamination in the duct system like mold, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.  Since the ducts are the lungs of the house and all of the air passes through them several times each hour, it’s an optimal place to locate an air purifier.

12. Lack a Compelling Call to Action

Amazingly, many contractor direct marketing pieces lack a basic “call to action.”  The reader is not told what to do next.

Tell the consumer what you want her to do.  Give her a reason to do it by a certain date.  Here’s what you should do and here’s why you should do it now or by this date.

13. Include Too Many Offers

Since direct mail costs money, contractors feel the need to throw everything at the helpless consumer and hope something sticks to the wall.  Instead, the consumer is overwhelmed and/or confushed.

Limit yourself to one main offer with another low level, low risk, compelling offer that helps you verify you have the right target and a good list.  The low level offer should be subordinate to the main offer.

14. End Up With the Wrong Graphical Focal Point

Contractors are not trained in graphic design and the marketing pieces they create reflects it.  Some are unbalanced, making them hard to read.  Some are designed such that they eye is directed off the page or to something inconsequential.

Get the help of a graphic designer.  At the very least, think about where the eye is being directed. 

15. Fill Every Inch

If they are going to the expense of sending direct mail to consumers, some contractors feel the need to take advantage of every inch.  They fill the direct mail piece.

It is okay to have some white space.  Empty space focuses the eye on what’s not empty.  Good use of white space can make direct mail much more effective.

16. Use Lots of Fonts

Once, I received a direct mailer from a well-known contractor that featured nine – count ‘em – nine different fonts on one side of the page.  Too many typefaces drives people crazy.  It’s hard to read.  Garish.

Limit yourself to two typefaces or fonts.  Use a clean san serif for headlines, like Helvetica.  Use a serif font for the copy like Times Roman.

17. Forget Tracking

Another common mistake is the failure to set up a tracking number.  Without a tracking number, it’s hard to know how effective the piece is.

Today, it is very easy to set up special tracking phone numbers that automate tracking.  At the very least, design the offer so that it identifies the marketing piece or include a tracking number in the corner.

18. Add Meaningless Clutter

You may be proud of all of your certifications, memberships, and social media buttons.  Your website and your presentation book are both great places to display them.  Your space limited direct marketing is probably not.

Consumers do not recognize some of the symbols and likely, do not care about most (all?) of the others.  In some cases, they are assumed.  In others, they will not cause someone to call or not call.  The exception is an affinity marketing program.  Unless you are practicing affinity marketing, you are just adding clutter with no benefit.  Leave it off.

19. Load Up on Fine Print

The direct mail piece I received from a contractor today contained a full column inch of small print.  Consumers do not read the small print and assume it’s in place to allow you to wiggle out of whatever offer you are making.

Leave the fine print off.  Yes, your attorney might object.  Fortunately, you are not marketing to please your attorney.

20. Forget Full Contact Information

Some contractors include a phone number, but not a website.  Some include a website, but not email. 

Give consumers multiple ways to reach you in multiple locations.  This includes phone numbers, websites, email addresses, fax numbers, Twitter handles, and so on.  Make it as easy as possible.

21. Use Poor Grammar and Do Not Spell Check

I am continually amazed at the bad grammar and spelling mistakes that appear in contractor marketing.  It looks like no one proofs anything before mailing.

Poor grammar and misspelled words suggest carelessness and a lack of attention to detail.  If you are careless in your marketing, consumers wonder where else you will be careless.

Execute Well

Even if you avoid all of the mistakes, you can still screw up a direct mail campaign with poor execution.  Most often, this arises because direct mail pieces are never tested, the wrong list is selected (simply a bad list or one with the wrong target), or the effort is one and done.  Direct mail may generate stellar results on the first attempt.  More often, it takes repeated mailings to be effective.  Do not quit too soon.

Do not reinvent the wheel.  Take advantage of the Service Roundtable’s vast library of contractor direct mail templates.  Learn more at or call 877.262.3341.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.