People are harsh, at least in regard to direct mail. Even the sweetest little old lady who greets strangers on her morning walk will throw away a direct mail postcard without a second thought. Let’s not think about what that guy you cut you off on the way to work would do. In fact people will only give you about 3 seconds of their time before they decide if they want to read what you sent them, or pile it on top of the credit card bill in the recycling bin. It’s that tiny window of opportunity that makes design so important. Like I said in Direct Mail Beginning to End – Data Lists, your data is the most important part of a direct mail campaign but design comes in a close second.
It’s the design of your direct mail piece that will get you past the 3 second window, and get the recipient to read your message. While there is no single “best” or “right” way to design a mailer I can give you some fundamentals to think about during the process. First, you need a designer. Your nephew who likes to mess around with Photoshop is NOT a designer. Well, probably not anyway and if you want to create a good mailer you will need to work with someone who not only knows what the terms bleed, cmyk, and ppi mean but can create something that looks professional. Since every direct mail campaign is or SHOULD be unique I can’t help answer questions like what color you should use, or is this font better than that font. Those are questions that need to be addressed with your designer along with a few other basics.
First things first people need to be informed who you are and what you are offering. If you sending out mailers to clients you have already worked with, or you have a level of brand recognition that Nike would envy than all you need may be a logo. If you are an unknown then you will need to give the reader a bit more to go off. It may just take a photo, or a slogan but you need something. Remember reading “is no single “best” or “right” way to design a mailer” about 20 seconds ago, there is another approach you might want to take. Give the customer no explanation and see if pure curiosity can drive them to get the information. If I got a postcard in the mail that only had a QR Code I would pull out my phone and find out more.
Next there should be an offer of some kind. You can offer to give them a discount, you can offer to give them more information, you can offer to give them free kitten with each dog house sold, but you need to offer them something. This is the part of a direct mail piece that appeals to the “what’s in it for me” attitude that permeates American society today so make the offer good. You are not creating a direct mail campaign to use up a budget surplus.
Finally you will want a call to action: come in and get free appetizer, call to hear movie times, register your account and get a free death ray! Tell the person getting the mail how to take advantage of the offer. Directing someone to take action has been proven to work better than simply telling them about the deal. Your call to action can be as direct as “Come buy my Nachos!” or it might be more passive like “When you get a moment, log in and see what we can do for you.” The best call to action is dependent on who are marketing to at the time, and you will probably want to talk to your copy writer about what will work best.
Now here is the tricky part you need to hit all three points in a way that is personal to each person who receives the mailer. Since you have a good data list you know enough about your targets so you can integrate their name into the mailing as a first step. Then you can use a series of images to talk to a potential client on an emotional level. If you know your customer likes to sail thanks to a data list that includes hobbies include some images of people using your product on a boat. If your client is a college professor include academic related images. If the prospect is a mechanic a picture of grimy hands is a way to connect. Reach out in an emotional way with imagery, and logical way with facts to get the best chance to connect to a potential new sale. If you are concerned about the complexity of creating a direct mail campaign with this level of detail don’t be. It is much simpler than you may think. Variable data printing allows you to print all the direct mail pieces in one run while changing the images and names on each individual mailer. Designing a direct mail campaign that truly is customized to each recipient will increase response rate, and get you a better return on your investment.
Your design is what will catch people’s attention, get them to read your message, and get you past the 3 second trashing. Think about how many number 10 envelopes you get in the mail every day, then thing about how many triangle shaped self mailers you get in the mail. Are you going to be more likely to spend more time looking at the standard form letter or a three panel self mailer tied with a bow? The unique piece will always get more attention but creativity costs money. The post office does its job very well, but they do not embrace creativity. This is might be a bit obvious but I’m going to say it anyway; the size and shape of your direct mail piece directly affects how much it costs to produce and mail. Next week I will start to talk about automation and post office regulations and how to create something that won’t use all or your annual advertising budget.