¿Habla Español? and Other Direct Marketing Annoyances

enterprise.jpgEarlier this week, I received an email offer from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Too bad I couldn’t read it. It was sent to me in Spanish. Now I’ve supported Direct Marketing IT operations in the past, so I understand how this could have happened. Still, that doesn’t make it right. Companies who use direct marketing often walk a fine line between sending junk mail/spam and something that will be of value to the customer. The objective of course is to be highly accurate in the targeting to maximize response rate and minimize costs. Web-mail marketers don’t have the cost incentives that snail-mail marketers have, but they should still be vigilant to ensure that their marketing is, at a minimum, not an annoyance, and optimally, seen as something of value to the recipient.

In the case of Enterprise, I don’t know if just my record has been mistakenly updated to indicate a Spanish preference, or if this was a larger problem affecting many people. Apparently Enterprise either doesn’t know about it either or perhaps they do but don’t care enough about their customers to send a follow-up explaining what happened. Either way, it’s sloppy marketing and reflects poorly on their company.

With that as a backdrop, here are a few other annoyances that I’ve been meaning to whine about for some time now.


It’s bad enough that your monopoly (in my area) on highspeed internet access allows you to gouge me for your services, but when you send glossy, four color mailers to me every other day and usually send multiple copies (one for me and one for my wife), I have to wonder how much less I could be paying each month if I didn’t have to subsidize your highly inefficient marketing.


Geico must have one of the largest advertising budgets of any company. You can see their messaging everywhere from TV (multiple simultaneous campaigns) to banners flown behind crop dusters that fly up and down the Northern Outer Banks of NC and yes, I switched a year ago and I am saving 15% or more on my car insurance. So why do you keep sending direct mail pieces to me telling me to switch to Geico??? Do you not update your prospects list after people switch to you? Like with Comcast, I wonder how much more I could be saving if you stopped wasting money soliciting customers you already have.

Capital One

Back in August, both my wife and I received notes from Capital One saying that they would be raising the rate on our cards to some outrageous figure north of 20% in 60 days. That was an effective campaign for their competition as we immediately took the “offer du jour” from one of the other 10 credit card companies that solicit us and transferred our balances to fixed low rate accounts. Perhaps that’s what Capital One wanted, but clearly, the message that I heard was that we were not valued customers. Of course, Capital One continued their weekly barrage with offers telling me I can get low interest loans and even transfer balances at a low fixed rate to our newly zeroed credit cards. They never did raise the rate on our cards and I have not used any of their services since.


I could go on with things like misspellings and blatantly wrong names, but you get the point. Whether big or small, companies that choose direct mail/webmail, must earn and maintain the respect of their valued customers and prospects. Here are some thoughts on that:

  1. Take the time to validate your campaign at critical points prior to release. Was the target group selected accurately and was that same group sent to the production house?
  2. Are you ensuring that your data is scrubbed and accurate. If you don’t care enough to get my name right, why should I consider your product or service? Are you sending things addressed to people who no longer live at my address? Does the rest of you operation lack the same attention to detail?
  3. If you are selling a service (like Geico or Comcast) stop sending solicitations once your prospect signs up with you. I know that the target lists are often selected weeks ahead of the actual mailing, but it’s pretty easy to insert a process to pull names from the list just before the pieces are generated by the production house. A couple of weeks overlap is OK, but much longer than that becomes annoying for me and costly for you.
  4. Ensure that the message you are sending in a marketing piece does not conflict with other messages, whether from marketing or other parts of your organization.

What are your direct marketing pet peeves and what suggestions do you have for direct marketers to help them earn and maintain the respect of their customers?


Apparently Enterprise became aware of their Spanish email problem. Today I received another email from the apologizing for their mistake and offering me a discount or upgrade on a future rental. Which reminds me of another takeaway:

    • Make sure you monitor your campaigns to ensure that they execute as planned. When they don’t, as in the Enterprise case, make sure you follow-up with your customers with an apology.

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