Direct Mail: What REALLY Goes Through The Female Customer’s Mind


Flipping through my mail the other day, I came upon this direct mail postcard from a local contractor.  Before my marketing consultant brain kicked in to instant-critique mode, I thought I’d share the piece with several women in my brain trust.  I sent a jpeg of the card out with a simple message:  “I’m curious what you think of this postcard – no technical jargon, just your first reactions.”

I’ll translate their responses below into a list of what to avoid in copywriting, but I thought you should see what ACTUALLY goes through a woman’s mind when reading a direct mail piece like this.

[Click on the images to enlarge for easier reading]



Think that’s harsh?  Then you ain’t seen nothin’.  Remember:  With four times the connections between hemispheres of the brain, a woman’s human operating system is directly linked to her BS meter.  Hype, bluster, and poor messaging don’t even begin to make it through the purchasing process filter.

Here’s what you can learn from this direct mail example:

1.  Hire a copywriter.

You have about 4 seconds to plant your brand into her right brain.  Poor grammar, bad spelling, and run-on sentences get you immediately kicked to the curb.  Mixed messaging (“best contractor” vs. “need to keep my employees busy”) will also short-circuit the entire sales process.

The tone is also critical.  Overuse of exclamation marks, sensitive language like “come-on,” and pushy phrases such as “Don’t call unless you’re ready to go” are all no-no’s.  You’re trying to persuade her to do business with her, not bully her into it!

2.  Back up your claims with proof.

How can you say you’re the best contractor in the area without facts to back it up? If you don’t have proof, don’t say it. And don’t expect that women are going to go to your website to look for awards or testimonials, because they don’t have the time.

3.  Without a pay-off, your guarantee is worthless.

Saying that you guarantee lowest price means nothing unless, once again, you can back it up.  Receipts and pay stubs won’t be enough here.  You guarantee it or what – you’ll do the job for FREE?  Guarantees without a customer payoff are just empty promises that send the BS meter into the red.

Will this contractor get 5 jobs out of this direct mail piece?  I’m doubtful.  My guess is he’ll try sending this piece out next month, and the month after that, pouring good marketing money down the drain.

I’ve sent the contractor an email offering to help re-write the copy and get him those 5 jobs he’s desperately seeking – we’ll see if he takes me up on it.

What other things do you see on this direct mail piece that raise red flags for you?

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15 Responses to “Direct Mail: What REALLY Goes Through The Female Customer’s Mind”

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  1. Tom Wanek says:

    Lots of old-school sales tactics: ad-speak, hype, unsubstantiated claims and conflicting messages.

    My favorite is the last line, “Don’t call unless you’re ready to go.” It’s like a bad pickup artist playing hard to get. Nice try.

    Great post Michele!

  2. I always by-pass these types of ads. Too much rah-rah and smell of the old MLM ads that go on and on and on and….

    Nothing relational. Doesn’t work for me at all.

  3. Sarah Clark says:

    Your article is interesting and thought-provoking.

    Normally, I don’t spend time on critiquing flyers. When I go through the mail, t’s a split-second decision. Either they end up in the trash, or the company offers what I need done.

    This guy has nothing to offer me. It was all about him. He wrote about his business, his employees, his financials, his need for 5 clients. And, he insisted that I be ready to go and spend $4,000 ($3,997 – give me a break!). That’s a phone call I would not make.

    Hope he responds to your email – you could really help him!

  4. Charle Moger says:

    The first five homes triggered my baloney slicer. Nice try at exclusion, but it has no teeth.

    He could have lured the reader to a website with:
    1. See receipts from my last five jobs.
    2. Read what customers say, see the work we do.
    3. Get our project planning worksheet.


    It’s old school push-push. Where’s the seduction?

    I’m betting he would get far more than five jobs from a Michele Miller marketing remodel.

  5. Jeff says:

    Great post, Michele,

    You nailed most of the biggest points, but I just wanted to follow-up on the “… If you’re the best, why do you need to keep your employees busy” comment bubble.

    To paraphrase Roy Williams: the persuasive power of your limited-time offer is directly linked to the credibility of your desperation.

    Methinks that the mailer would have done a lot better if the business owner was a little more transparent about WHY he needed to drum up business so desperately. Maybe he had just expanded to 2 crews right before the financial meltdown and has been working hard not to let his new hires go. Maybe 50% of his business used to come from new construction and he is looking to move entirely into renovations on existing structures? Or maybe he’s totally lying about what contractors “usually” charge and what he’s offering isn’t really that great a deal. Or he’s getting kickbacks from his suppliers, or…

    I think that lack of transparency – especially when combined with the intentional vagueness of “…before the end of this month!” – creates an insurmountable amount of suspicion in the mind of the reader. It smells way too much like a scam.

    – Jeff

  6. Mary Schmidt says:


    I’d actually like to receive a postcard now and then from a truly reputable local contractor…or landscaper…or auto mechanic. I don’t have time to find them. Unfortunately, most of what I DO get looks a lot this (or even worse.)

    And, the contractor will complain that “direct mail doesn’t work.”

  7. Kat Gordon says:

    As a copywriter, this postcard was like Christmas for me. Such machismo. The cojones to ask for — no demand — a $4,000 sale in a 4×6 space. The blatant disregard for apostrophes. The false intimacy of “to our neighbors at” greeting. The bragging about $50 million budget projects in the past, despite falling from grace 12,500% to $4,000 projects today. My advice: forward this to Scottsdale’s best morning deejay for an on-air call posing as an interested customer.

  8. Wow, guys – all fantastic comments! If I hadn’t just spent 12 hours in client meetings, I’d address all of your excellent points individually. You found new stuff, added some personal insight, and definitely made me laugh. I’ve had a couple of people also email me, wondering if this is so much of a “gender” issue vs. copywriting issue. The only real part of “gender” here, for me, is that with four times the number of connections into the right brain, the female brain is going to process this BS faster and kick it to the curb with utmost speed. Male brains are definitely going through this process, too — maybe not quite as deeply (from a linear sense) or as quickly.

    Thanks again – keep the comments coming!

  9. Gerry Myers says:

    Is it a copywriting or a gender issue? Good question. I would say both. The grammatical errors and poorly worded copy are definitely copywriting, but the tone and choice of works reeks of machoism. As we all know, women are usually the major decision maker in home remodeling.

    Even if it was well written, which it isn’t, it is way too long. It needs to have some easy to read, perhaps bullet points, that tell you what he does, why he is qualified, what he is offering, as well as how to get more information about his business if you are interested.

    I don’t want to duplicate others’ comments on the massive mess this “sales tool” is.

    Let us know if he hires you.

  10. ou at least read the piece. I would have tossed it immediately. Bad design, bad promises and bad copy! That equals crappy contractor.

    Thanks for posting!


  11. Laura says:

    Nice approach!

  12. Randy says:

    Wow, I have learned over the course of the year that my marketing is geared mostly to the woman of the house. I have a copywriter that I get my stuff from, since I am just getting started I will make sure to follow the suggestions made.

  13. Good for you, Randy! Be sure to share your success stories with us. And thanks for commenting.

  14. That postcard has way to many exclamation points. Whenever I see exclamation points like that I immediately get the feeling like they are trying really hard to sell me on something I don’t really need.


  1. […] Direct Mail: What REALLY Goes Through the Female Customer’s Mind – Michele Miller takes you through some women’s reactions to a Direct Mail piece making the rounds in Scottsdale, AZ.  Get the brutal truth. […]

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