Top 5 EDDM Best Practices & Mistakes to Avoid

Top 5 EDDM Best Practices

EDDM can be a great way of advertising, but there are an equal number of ways to screw it up.

That’s why we broke down decades of direct mail advertising experience into the top 5 EDDM best practices and mistakes you should avoid (and how to fix them).

  1. EDDM plus web approach
  2. Simplify your card design
  3. Unique images and copy text
  4. “Must have” marketing strategy
  5. When to use EDDM

You probably know you need to advertise. 

But actually…

You Must Advertise

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”

Dr. Steuart-Henderson Britt (1907-1979) | Professor of Advertising and Consumer Behavior at the Kellogg School of Management; historian & consultant. Author of Marketing Management and Administrative Action pub. 1978

Top 5 EDDM Best Practices

Again, you need to advertise. 

And, our job is to help people advertise, usually with a direct mail component. 

However, every year we receive inquiries from professionals who are superb contractors, outstanding restaurateurs, wonderful accountants, accomplished lawyers and exceptional hair salon owners.

Pico De Gallo Restaurant during COVID

But…. their phones don’t ring and foot traffic doesn’t arrive. 

No one knows they exist.  It’s because they don’t want to invest in even mild advertising.

Without advertising in some form (something to generate awareness) such professionals exist in name-only, but they are also not relevant.  They simply didn’t advertise correctly (if at all). 

We start with all this because we feel you need to know that advertising is absolutely necessary.  And, you need to take it seriously and do it correctly. 

You must advertise periodically unless you are, let’s say, a sole practitioner and you have achieved a set, maximum number of clients.  Everyone else needs to get the word out.

Be reassured, we also know that you have both limited patience and cash to throw at an EDDM direct mail campaign. 

So, let’s get started.

1. Have an EDDM web strategy

EDDM is good by itself but it can be powerful when combined with a mildly sophisticated web marketing strategy.

You can either pay Google lots of money to buy consumer awareness, or, you could use a correctly designed EDDM piece to help you out.

Have your EDDM card to drive recipients directly to your website. 

You will be rewarded not only with customer/brand awareness, but also with an important bonus prize of moving up in Google rankings.

Even if a recipient of your EDDM piece doesn’t call right away, you will likely pick-up heightened web traffic which only makes you more relevant in future.

Here are some examples of EDDM best practices and mistakes to avoid which help make or thwart web traffic.

EDDM best practices that are web-friendly:  

  • Client website is very clear
  • Client is not trying to drive traffic to Facebook page
  • Client website name is simple and easy to remember
  • Mailpiece incentivizes the recipient to get something from going to the website (assuming the website is designed to reward recipient visitation).

Mistakes made using EDDM plus web:  

  • No website URL
  • Client name is not clear and not easily memorable for a future web search
  • Client asks Recipient to “Like Us on Facebook”
  • No web-based “Call to Action”

Our own research shows that you have maybe 1 – 2 seconds to get your message (and name and web address) across before most of your EDDM pieces go into the trash. 

Your first thought might be that this is an incredible waste of time and money, but it’s not.  

The recipient knows you exist now, and if he/she doesn’t go immediately to the web to check you out, then at the least you have made the most of a brief opportunity to leave a subtle and indelible psychological mark. 

Next time the recipient needs, let’s say, an oil change, a pet groomed or a chandelier hung by a local electrician, your name and website should come to mind. 

An accompanying website makes you look professional and a good, easy to understand domain name will help you get the web-to-smartphone new business call. 

Especially in the age of both COVID-19 and heightened smartphone use, people need to find you quickly and via smartphone. 

Mission accomplished.

Onto the next EDDM best practice…

2. Keep your EDDM card design simple

Too many people “junk up” their EDDM cards with images, text and educational info. 

Once again, we believe that you have only 1 – 2 seconds — 3 – 5 seconds is a lifetime in direct mail — to make your mark. 

Winning simplified EDDM card design:  

  • Recipient knows what you do even before cognizing or reading text/copy
  • Acid Test:  if the recipient threw your EDDM card away, could he/she could still tell you 2 minutes later what he/she received?
  • Card does not try to educate the recipient, only inform.
  • Images replace text/copy where possible
  • Bullet point essential services/products (no paragraphs)

Mistakes when designing your EDDM card:  

  • TMI (Too Much Information) / crowded text and copy
  • Essential message not gleaned quickly
  • Critical contact information lost amongst the clutter
  • Overly explaining bullet points
  • No idea what the point of the card is for

Your recipient should not have to be asked to invest psychological, and perhaps emotional energy, to digest your message from the unsolicited EDDM card. 

Let’s say you use an EDDM piece to run for Village Clerk or Mayor – you need to get to the point, and fast. 

Remember that you have 1 – 2 seconds to get people to like and remember you.  

There’s an easy way to check your design prior to printing:  ask someone who doesn’t know much about what you or your business, and show him/her the mailpiece for 2 seconds. 

What was his impression?  What was her take-away from what she saw? 

Bottom Line:  did you land your awareness in the yellow of the bullseye or did you miss the target? 

Do this for 2 to 3 people and get a sense, prior to printing, and keep it simple.  If you have a lot of information to share, and you really must share it, then drive people to your website.

Let’s keep going.

3. Use unique images and copy text

We always recommend that people use unique images on their EDDM piece. 

There are too many smartphones out there to make an excuse not to do this. 

Rarely should one be going to the internet and rifling “free” online photo repositories to get pictures.

If an image is “free”, it means that it’s trodden and has been used by everyone else. 

Services such as even show you how many other people have downloaded the same image.

Recognizable text means that you are limiting your cleverness and coat-tailing on mass familiarity with certain words. 

A little wordsmithing is in order here:  your messaging cannot be too hackneyed to become nondescript verbal oatmeal, but you need to avoid indulgent, flowerly statements which, needless to say, detract from the explicit purpose of your EDDM mailpiece.

Winning image or photo & text approaches:  

  • A clear, close-up high resolution image
  • The photo is unique to you and was not pulled from from somewhere else on the web.
  • The image tells a story:  it provides context in light of recognizable EDDM wording
  • The photo is of you or your and your staff — you are happy; the copy supports this

Image or Photo Design & Copy Mistakes:  

  • You use no image at all with your copy
  • Generic or low resolution images
  • Too many images

The recipient is first going to invest time with your mailpiece by seeing if the images are attractive; this process happens prior to cognition of the EDDM mailpiece messaging. 

If the images are not attractive or interesting, then there’s no reason to go further.

4. Ensure the “Must-have” marketing strategy

If you want recipients to take an action (i.e., purchase, call, sign-up, give money, etc.), we believe that your mailpiece must successfully qualify for one (or more) of three essential marketing strategy levels (below) in order to have a winning mailpiece.  

It is unlikely that you could strategize through all three strategies at the same time, but succeeding in any one of these essential approaches will bring you home.  

Sometimes, you could even combine two (although rare).  Here’s what we mean:

The Three (3) Winning Must-Have Strategies [Pick One]:  

1. Present a Compelling Opportunity

The easiest example of a compelling opportunity is to give away something for free (e.g. free cup of coffee, free half-hour consult, free 6oz bottle of shampoo for new patrons). 

What you’re trying to do is to get the recipient to establish a habit of going to you first for a product or services, and you’re going to need to make it worth his or her while.

2. Solve a Massive Problem

Example 1:  you are a tax accountancy firm and you send a well-timed EDDM card letting your immediate community know that you can both help file for an extension and also perhaps get money back; in short, you are solving the problem of anxiety around finances. 

Example 2:  you do tree work and you send a well-timed EDDM card just before or after a major storm helping out with downed branches.

3. Generate Insane Curiosity

 This is a tricky one and typically requires great curiosity, but one approach could be to create a “less is more” card. 

Example: you are a used car dealership and you send an EDDM card with only an image on one side (no wording) and on the other side you provide only your web address, a picture of car keys and the words in small print “your new used car awaits you”.

Missed opportunities

Missed strategies here often involve bad timing, lackluster incentives (e.g. “take 10% off” or “buy 3 get 1 free”), use of generic wording (e.g. “we’re best at customer service”), offering something that the recipient could otherwise just as well get anywhere or online (e.g. we did a card for someone who sold only LED lights and light bulbs; yup, just LED lights and light bulbs, and they weren’t giving them away).

And finally…

5. When to use EDDM

There is a sweet spot for EDDM. 

We see mistakes all the time regarding under-mailing, over-mailing and mis-mailing. 

While each industry and specific business has a multiple of variables related to effective marketing, here are a few (but not all) “best of” considerations whether EDDM the right tool at the right time for you and your industry.

BUSINESSEDDM EncouragementEDDM Caution
HardwareGO FOR IT
80/20 rule = most customers (80%) will be within a 2 mile radius of your business.
If you have specialty services, such as Tool Rental, then consider collecting names & contact info. for either small direct mailings or email blasts.
RestaurantsGO FOR IT
Terrific for restaurant opening; stick within 5 mile radius  and consider especially “lines of transit” (major roads to your location)

Great for take-out & delivery-inclusive services (e.g. pizzerias, Chinese, Diner, Mexican)

Include offer for a small free item (e.g. free cup of coffee, free Wonton soup, free fountain drink, etc.)
Not appropriate for higher-end restaurants; here, do not use coupons or provide discounts; consider an on-going invitation card approach vs. EDDM.
ContractingGO FOR IT.
Excellent across the board, especially for residential-level contractors such as Handyman services, electricians, home repair, decks/flooring, etc.; success found even for high-value residential homes
Niche contractors may find challenges (e.g. stonework, copper metal roofing, commercial electrical, high-end woodworking) with a generalized mailing; look to an income qualified or real property verified mailing instead for higher-end services. 
Non-Profits (Non-Church)CAUTION:
There are limited applications for most 501(c)(3) organizations; also, do not use EDDM for appeal mailings!
ChurchGO FOR IT.
To encourage attendance, EDDM works; be sure to have actual, friendly images of pastoral staff & congregants; effective for driving online services (in the age of COVID-19).
People attend church as much for community as for God – ensure your EDDM card reflects your community with positive group images.  Also, there are lower, non-profit rates available; email for further information.
LaundromatGO FOR IT:
Recommended for business openings only
Consider sending a non-EDDM direct mailer card to apartment occupants only (email to discuss)
Chimney SweepGO FOR IT. 
Residential only homes in highly residential areas; look to where your customers are already.
No need to discount services – just have positive “5 star” reviews on your card from customers in the area
AccountingGO FOR IT.
Personal taxes will have to be your focus to start; try sending a limited EDDM mailing and see what happens.
No way to send to “Businesses Only”; timing is crucial here – send a card beginning of January if you can.
HVAC/PlumbingGO FOR IT. 
Very little downside here as long as you can support the calls.  It’s surprising to us at CRST that more HVAC/Plumbers don’t use EDDM.  For this industry, this is a highly effective recurring strategy for growing your business.  Combine with Facebook Advertising.
As with most EDDM approaches, make sure that your Google & Yelp reviews can justify the recipients’ calling you (you will be “checked out” first online by educated users)

Commitment to Advertise

Back to Steuart-Henderson Britt…. Professor Britt wasn’t just a stereotypical American professor — he was a NYS Bar-admitted attorney, a certified Psychologist, Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Army as well as a commercially successful Advertising Executive. 

He understood the psychology of war and warfare and was able to apply his real-world training to winning in the “war” of Advertising. 

Note: he was personally called upon by Admiral Ernest J. King, WWII Commander-in-Chief of the United States Naval Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, to develop psychological warfare and military training for the U.S. efforts to achieve victory in the Pacific Theater.

He was respected enough by his students, that many of them signed a petition to the University requesting that he not step down from his professorship(s) upon the mandatory retirement age.  (We could only hope that our customers be so loyal.)

Very simply, your EDDM approach could benefit by recalling another quote from Prof. Britt:

“There is no significant relationship between intelligence-test scores and sales success.”

[Marketing Management & Administrative Action, 1978, p. 586]

Just do it.  You know you need to advertise.  Stop winking in the dark.  Turn on the lights through a modest but conscious EDDM mailing and adjust from there.  And maybe you’ll get more than a few winks back.