Now that football season is  over I really hate to use football analogies. Unfortunately when you live and die with the Washington Redskins it is difficult to ever stop thinking about THE great fall sport. I apologize up front to anyone who is against using sports as an analogy in business, but I just couldn’t help myself. In my opinion creating a successful direct mail campaign is very similar to developing a strong football squad. Here is what I mean:

Know Your Goals
Like a good group of hard nosed football players you will never get where you want unless you have set goals in advance. Do you want to increase response? Improve ROI? Decrease CPO (cost per order)? Know what you want to accomplish with your campaign before you do anything else or risk fumbling throughout the whole production process.

Form a Strong Team
One person cannot do everything. That is true in football and it is true in direct mail. Even if John Riggins (notice the Redskins reference) is your record setting running back, he needs someone to block for him and get him the ball. The same is true for anyone doing direct mail. Make sure that you get a strong team of people around you and allow them to help you do your job. Your team should consist of people both inside (co-workers) and outside (vendors) of your company. Bring these individuals to the table as early in the process as possible. They can help you make your campaign as effective as possible as many brains are always better than one.

Watch Your Back (Side/End)
Ask any quarterback what keeps them up at night and they will probably say the fear of getting hit from the back side. In direct mail the fear is slightly different but the negative results are just as likely. While a quarterback is worrying about their back side people, in direct mail people need to worry about their back-end. If you do not know up front that your back-end system has the ability to track and analyze the results of your campaign, there is no way for you to know if it met your goals. Always check your back-end to make sure you can read your campaign results effectively.

Check the Clock
Time management is very important to a good football team and to good direct mail production. If you do not set out timelines and expectations for deliverables you will not be prepared to meet your goals and your deadlines. Before you do anything, work with your team to put together an achievable timeline that will be used to guide you through your campaign.

As the coach of your direct mail team, it is your responsibility to put together a strong game plan that your team can follow. If you follow the play book listed above you are almost guaranteed to have a better chance of ending up a champion instead of sitting on the sidelines.