It’s pretty well accepted that direct mail (or any other advertising program) tracks along a bell curve. In other words, the response comes slowly at first, then accelerates, then peaks, then declines and eventually disappears. If you don’t recognize and plan for this, you may fall prey to one of two classic advertising mistakes.

The first mistake is to expect too much for the first mailing. The impact of advertising is cumulative, which means that response increases as the message is repeated. To put it simply, the vast majority of people who see the first mailing will barely register the message, but more will take it seriously the second time they see it, and the third, and so on. Sadly, many businesses have put all their hopes on a single mailing, and they’ve come away with the attitude that they tried direct mail, and it didn’t work.

The second mistake is to keep mailing too far past the point of decline. No matter how successful a mailing may be, it will eventually saturate its market and bring in less and less response. When it stops working, you want to stop mailing it, but here’s a key point — you want to start mailing something else! Again, it’s sad, but many businesses have seen how well direct mail works but then sacrificed much of its value by letting the message get stale. It’s a far better strategy to freshen the message and then ring the bell again!