While this is obviously more of a guideline than a hard-fast rule, if nothing else it should show you where your efforts need to be placed when undertaking a direct mail marketing campaign. Too often, business owners will spend an inordinate amount of time on coming up with the flashiest, snazziest, most eye-catching design that they are sure will blow everyone away, and then rush to put together the offer and/or the list of folks to send it to. It’s one of the most common mistakes of a mail marketing campaign.
There are organizations called blacklists like Spamhaus as well as other filtering organizations like Cloudmark and Brightmail. Email clients like Yahoo and Gmail and Hotmail rely on them to help block spam (yay!). These blacklists leave spam traps or honeypots for shady list sellers to collect. Then, if one of those email addresses ends up in your purchased list, you're in big trouble! It's like having bad credit - it can take a long time and a lot of hard work to rebuild trust with blacklists and until you do, you'll have poor delivery results even if you've stopped using the purchased email list.
E-mail promotion is widely used by e-marketers to send new product/service information to their registered customers. For example, airline companies periodically e-mail their registered customers about their e-fares and promotional vacation packages. Spamming refers to sending millions of e-mail promotions to recipients who have never asked for the information. These recipients' e-mail addresses are often purchased or swapped with other businesses. Spamming is at best unethical and at worst illegal.
Once your list is targeted, you need to spend an equally large portion of time coming up with a great deal – even if it means you might lose a bit of money on it. The underlying goal of any marketing campaign is to gain new customers, and it’s worth it to significantly reduce your profit margins to gain said customers. Once you have a surgically-honed list and an amazing offer, then you can spend some time on the design, copy, delivery methods, postage rates, date of delivery, size of the mailer…there are a lot of other options to consider, but following the 40/40/20 rule you can see how important audience and offer truly are.