Great direct mail design has the ability to capture a recipient’s attention, get them to read and process content, commit to the message, then execute a specific call to action. Although there is no secret formula for direct mail design that will guarantee 100% participation from all recipients, there are best practices marketers should follow to increase brand visibility, response rates, and overall ROI.

First, know the target audience and determine the end goal.

Before starting to develop direct mail copy and design, the following should be clear:  What are the characteristics of the target audience and what is important to them?  Knowing details about the target audience will help determine the appropriate tone to use for copy, which images should be included, and how to structure ideas in a way the target audience will understand.  Also, the more detailed a marketer can be when identifying qualities and characteristics of their audience, the better the opportunity to refine the message for specific segment groups.  For example, a real estate agent directing a postcard to potential home buyers can segment that broad group into specific categories – investment purchasers, renters, first-time home buyers, expanding families, etc.  Each of these segments would have different motivating factor for purchasing a new home; therefore, the message should speak directly to those issues.

Just as important is clarifying the goal for sending a direct mail piece. What is the intended outcome of the piece?  Is the intention of the message to inform, provoke an action, or just to promote awareness of the brand?  Whatever it may be, there should only be one main idea represented on each direct mail piece. Marketers may only have but a few seconds of the target audience’s attention; therefore, marketers need to choose one goal and drive that point throughout the direct mail piece.

Make an impact with a strong headline and bold imagery.

Like reading a newspaper, the headline is the first thing people see before deciding to read the entire article or direct mail piece.  If the headline is strong and thought provoking, the higher the likelihood that it will capture the attention of the target audience.  Effective headlines may include a surprising statistic, an interesting fact, enticing promotional offer, a question or simple statement. Whatever the structure of the headline, it should relate to the rest of the body copy, the intended goal, and to the audience.

Similarly, visual elements have the power to capture the reader’s attention and evoke emotional response. Use bold colors and choose strong images that speak to core motivations that drive readers toward action. These motivations may include social recognition, self acceptance, love and affection, sense of accomplishment, safety and so on. Using visual elements that trigger these needs can grab the readers’ attention and get them to connect to the message on a deeper level.

Be simple, clear and concise with direct mail messages.

Often times, inexperienced marketers make the mistake of using advanced vocabulary and being too ‘wordy’ when trying to get their point across.  Simplicity and clarity is critical; every sentence should have a purpose and support the ultimate goal.  When reviewing copy, marketers should try to read with the audience’s perspective in mind and ask, “Why should I care? How does this benefit me?”  That exercise might help weed out any unnecessary information and keep marketers focused on being direct with their idea.

Additionally, an effective direct mail piece guides recipients’ behavior by providing a clear call-to-action item. Marketers should be blunt and clear in describing what the next step should be for the recipient. Keep the design of the direct mail piece simple and uncluttered, emphasizing call-to-action items and main ideas.

Include a compelling promotional offer to promote responses.

Highlighting compelling and actionable promotional offers on direct mail pieces such as free or discounted trial, free service consultations, access to valuable information and so on, have the ability to capture a readers’ attention and motivate response. Furthermore, consumers are more likely to provide a fair amount of personal information to redeem a coupon or other promotional offer. For marketers, the advantage of using promotional offers with direct mail is the ability to collect consumer data, identify warm leads, and track direct mail success.

Test, test, and test again.

Once a marketer understands the best practices of direct mail design, they have the opportunity to adjust elements and test what works best for their audience. Split the mailing list in half and always test something; one thing at a time (i.e. – headline only, offer only, positioning of images, etc). Be sure to have a strategy in place to measure responses.

Originally posted by Cynthia Fedor on the directmarketingvoice.com

The first half of the title of this post is a question I get, in some variation, quite frequently these days. You could change the subject to email or face to face networking or press releases, but the implication is always that some long established marketing tactic has been supplanted by Twitter or Facebook.

My answer is always the same – nothing is dead – but the ways we use them have changed.

My take is that if you establish a strong marketing strategy, one that helps you build trust, and you fully understand the behavior and objectives of your ideal customer, then you can use almost any tactic to build your business.

In fact, some of the more “traditional” offline approaches have never been more effective when fused with technology and newer online approaches.

Digital has changed the customer communication environment fundamentally over the years and caused many to forgo the traditional broadcast tools.

But, smart marketers are discovering new ways to use old tools that are more in line with inbound marketing practices and are taking advantage of technology leaps to make a tactic like direct mail even more effective.

I return once again, as I do often, to my definition of marketing – getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you – if you can find a way to use a tactic to do that, than no tactic is dead or even out of bounds.

Even the often maligned Twitter auto DM is fair game if you can find a way to use it to build trust – the fact is few can, but my point is there are no set rules or magic tactics in this game.

Here are a few examples of new uses for old tactics:

  • Use variable data printing on demand printing to create highly personalized direct mail pieces with unique images, stories and calls to action based on your customer database. The technology is there to do this in small batches with hundreds of variations.
  • Use technology to produce postcards that invite each recipient to a personal landing page that features information tailored to their interests and alerts a sales team to initiate a further contact.
  • Use traditional broadcast and print advertising to drive prospects to a series of free online videos that educate, entertain and inform – oh, and build know, like and trust.

Reaching markets and creating buzz about our products and services still requires an integrated approach – that part won’t ever change, but before you drop a proven way to reach your prospects from the mix consider how you might use it build trust instead of move product.

Originally posted by John Jantsch on ducttapemarketing.com

When Macy’s Inc. was established as a national brand in 2004, its leadership insisted that each store stay connected to its local community. The resulting “My Macy’s” localization initiative gives stores the latitude to be good corporate citizens in their communities while selecting merchandise according to local tastes, preferences and seasons.

The company took this “stay close to your customer” strategy to a new level in November 2010, when it personalized its direct mail marketing strategy to target regional preferences and individual shopper habits, too.

Customers who made credit card purchases received catalogs that reflected their specific shopping histories. For example, a shopper who purchased mostly clothing, cosmetics and jewelry received a catalog with more pages featuring those products and fewer pages with items they didn’t normally buy.

Macy’s produced more than 30,000 catalog versions with page counts that varied from 32 to 76. It was more expensive than a traditional one-size-fits-all catalog — the company’s marketers had to create content showcasing four times as many products and match customer data with product options — but the new approach paid off.

“We mailed a traditional catalog to 10 percent of the list and saw enough of a lift in sales from the customized version in comparison that we knew we needed to continue this and get some traction behind it,” says Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president of Marketing & Advertising. The company is doing eight more similar mailings in 2011.

The lesson, according to one-to-one marketing specialist Mark Klein, is that because these mailings generate so much more in sales, the results pay for any extra cost.

“When you individualize the mailings, response rate goes up enormously,” says Klein, CEO of Loyalty Builders LLC in Portsmouth, N.H. Individualization, he notes, involves using predictive analytics to offer different products or discounts to individuals. See how personalized mail helps build customer loyalty.

Creating Custom Mailers on Any Budget

Klein offers the following tips for individualizing direct mail to generate Macy’s results without a Macy’s budget:

  • Collect data. Recognize that your customer transaction data is a “gold mine.” If you aren’t collecting that data, start doing so.
  • Analyze transactions. “Even if that’s just rudimentary RFM — recency, frequency and monetary value — it’s better than doing nothing, and it’s easy to do,” he says.
  • Interpret the results. Use that analysis to understand who is most likely to buy, and mail your offer to them.
  • Determine what to offer and when. “If I get an oil change today, don’t send me a coupon for another one next week,” he says. If you don’t have the capability for this in-house, find a vendor that does.
  • Use postcards. Klein’s company sends digitally printed individualized postcards to customers of businesses as varied as a regional chain of tire service centers to a medical supply company. The cost? Less than 50 cents per card. The payoff? Klein’s clients generate enough sales in three to six months to cover the entire year’s postcard mailing budget.

“In the past, this process was so expensive that only companies the size of Macy’s could afford it, but automation has changed that,” Klein says.

Take it from Macy’s: “If we didn’t think it was a good idea, we would have stopped,” says Reardon.

Direct mail campaigns are a powerful resource for any business. Not only are they highly targeted, measurable and flexible, they are also easy to personalize and cost effective. The tips below will help you get your direct mail campaign on the right track for a great return on your investment.

1. Research Your Target Market – Knowing who you are selling to is one of the most critical steps in direct mail advertising. Since your research shapes the rest of your decisions, it’s important to understand your target market from the start. Research tools such as data lists are useful at helping you make better decision.

2. Remember Important Components – Every direct marketing message needs to have three basic elements: an offer, reduced risk, and a clear call to action. If you aren’t offering something, the likelihood that people will respond to your piece is very low. Another important component of a successful direct mail piece is offering reduced risk to recipients. Whether that means a money-back guarantee, a free trial or reduced cost, reducing the risk will increase conversions. The last component is a direct call to action. Your direct mail piece should offer a clear call to action and provide multiple ways for recipients to respond to your offer.

3. Use Your Printing Company’s Mailing Service – This will help you to save time and money because your advertisements will go from the press to the mail. Printers also utilize bulk mail rates, which will cut your mailing costs.

4. Test your Advertisements – Use a short run first and keep track of how many people contact you and actually make a purchase. If you’re not getting the results you expected study your direct mail piece for possible weaknesses and make changes as needed. This will save you a lot of money in the long run so remember to keep testing as your campaign can always be made stronger.

5. Remember to Follow Up – An appropriate follow up with an important customer can be the extra little nudge they need to choose your company over a competitor. Use a phone call or personal note to help sway their decisions.

Originally posted on blog.oneims.com

STAMFORD, Conn. – Pitney Bowes Inc. today announced the winners of its first annual Brilliant Communications Awards. The awards recognize leading high-volume print and mail organizations that are finding new ways to streamline workflow, ensure accuracy, and market precisely to get the greatest value from their customer communications. The inaugural recipients of the awards were recognized at the Company’s annual Global Document Messaging Technologies Customer Summit, June 6-8, 2011.

“The winners of our Brilliant Communications Awards are innovators, early adopters and creative problem solvers who can point the way for others,” said Ramesh Ratan, president of Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies. “They are helping to lead a customer communications evolution using solutions to help lower costs, enhance the value they provide to their customers, and make their organizations more successful.”

The winners of the 2011 Brilliant Communications Awards include:

“Powerful Communication Award” – Tri-Win Digital Print and Direct Mail, Dallas, TX, USA
Tri-Win Digital Print and Direct Mail, a direct mail house and digital print shop, won the Powerful Communication Award for improved productivity, efficiencies and quality. Tri-Win used FlowMaster RS Flex Inserting Systems with optional camera verification systems, and in-line inkjet printing station capabilities. The solutions helped Tri-Win increase the speed, and reliability of its envelope insertion process, and more importantly, increase its statement mailing customer base.

“Colorful Communication Award” – Emdeon, Toledo, OH, USA
Emdeon, a leading provider of healthcare revenue and payment cycle management and clinical information exchange solutions, won the Colorful Communication Award for migrating to full digital color White Paper Factory solutions. Emdeon used IntelliJet roll-fed printing systems; APS and MPS Advanced Productivity Series Inserting Systems; a FPS Split Drive Inserting System; and Pitney Bowes software to drive the printers and provide reports for tracking and management analysis. As a result, Emdeon can now print full-color, eye-catching patient statements quickly and easily in a single print run at full production speed. Emdeon also streamlined operations for greater efficiency, eliminated costs and storage space for millions of sheets of paper, increased print capacity to better handle volume spikes and future growth, and shortened mail delivery time to the consumer.

“Profitable Communication Award” – Logistic Mail Factory GmbH, Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany

Logistic Mail Factory, an alternative, private-run postal company in Bavaria, won the Profitable Communication Award for creating more relevant, precision marketing communications. Logistic Mail Factory used a VariSort Mixed Mail Sorter, Olympus II Flexible Tier Sorter, DI950 Inserting Systems, DM1000 Digital Mailing Systems, P/I OfficeMail, P/I Output Manager software with VIP centralized output management, and P/I Enhancement Manager software with VDE centralized output management. The solutions enabled Logistic Mail Factory to receive and register letters from companies electronically instead of physically, as well as automatically print and finish mailpieces and bill customers for services. Each mailpiece is assigned a tracking number and is enriched with final sorting criteria based on a software database. As a result, this simplified and optimized the physical sorting process. Also, Logistic Mail Factory increased productivity, accuracy and efficiency; and decreased production costs by fully automated scanning and sorting.

“Innovators Choice Award” – PSC Info Group, Oaks, PA, USA
PSC Info Group, a national provider of innovative, technology-enabled solutions and proven revenue acceleration tools to streamline the collection of consumer payments, won the award for the most innovative solution. PSC Info Group accepts data from various clients, most of which are collections or medical in nature. PSC Info Group uses P/I Output Manager software with VDE centralized output management and P/I Wizard software along side their document creation software, and developed a way to pass information to the P/I products from the document creation software by embedding them in the document files themselves. PSC Info Group is now able to group significantly more jobs together for increased efficiency. In addition, the solutions have helped PSC Info Group simplify the process of linking Intelligent Mail barcodes with stored return data, resulting in reduced server overhead.

Winners of the Powerful Communication Award, Colorful Communication Award and Profitable Communication Award received a $25,000 credit toward future solutions purchases, as well as travel accommodations and transportation to the Customer Summit. The winner of the Innovators Choice Award received a prize package including an iPad with 16GB Wi-Fi, as well as travel accommodations and transportation to the Customer Summit.

Pitney Bowes customers submitted entries for the Brilliant Communication Awards from March until May 2011. Applications included physical, digital or hybrid-mail. A panel of industry experts including Andy and Julie Plata, co-CEO’s of the OutputLinks Communications Group, and thought leaders from Pitney Bowes selected the winners of the Powerful Communication Award, Colorful Communication Award and the Profitable Communication Award. Industry peers viewed and voted for nominations for the “Innovators Choice Award” online.

For additional information on the Brilliant Communication Awards, please visit www.pbbrilliantawards.com

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While it is true that baby boomers tend to respond more to direct mail and print marketing initiatives than younger generations, it is important for small businesses to recognize that this older age group is fairly engaged with the internet.

According to Greg Bayer, of the marketing network Adknowledge, more than three-quarters of baby boomers – roughly 78 percent – are online. What’s more, they spend approximately 39 hours per months using the internet.

Additionally, people aged 46-65 also contribute the largest portion of consumer spending – approximately $2 trillion.

The web and related mobile channels represent a vast marketing potential that businesses should bear in mind when developing marketing strategies. Of course, it is also important to incorporate a broad, multi-channel approach that includes print, direct mail and web, among other mediums.

“Since baby boomers represent a substantial and often untapped gold mine, make sure you lavish sufficient attention on this demographic. In order to succeed in reaching this audience, make boomers feel good about themselves by engaging their desire to maintain a youthful and active lifestyle while remaining financially independent,” Bayer writes.

Originally posted on www.123print.com by EVELYN BRANDT

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For the past three months, I’ve been looking for a new TV. I read articles about the latest technologies, searched for reviews, watched product videos, visited retailer websites, received product brochures both via email and the good old mailbox, and even used my phone to compare prices while standing in the store. I won’t tell you which brand we picked in the end, but I will say two things: 1) that 3D is pretty cool with the right movie, and 2) it was a multi-channel research project. Display, video, mobile, email, direct mail – all played a role in my decision.

While the content experience was decidedly multi-channel, the marketing experience was anything but. Did I get display ads that were retargeted based on visiting retailer’s sites? Of course. Did I get ads for televisions when watching product reviews? Absolutely. Were these two programs coordinated? Not at all. And how about that print brochure – was it tied to any other marketing channels? Not even close!

For marketers, this represents a major inefficiency; but it’s also an incredible opportunity. Imagine if you could understand the consumer across every media channel and coordinate your messaging, frequency, and sequencing to tell them the story of your brand in a way you know will resonate with them. I’m the same regardless of what media channel I’m using – but because today’s marketing solutions treat every channel as a silo, my marketing experience was completely uncoordinated. Had they seen it, it would have been more efficient for the brands and a much better experience for me!

Now here’s the exciting part: everything I just described is rapidly becoming a reality.

It wasn’t long ago that marketers were first able to optimize campaign performance for digital display advertising. They were able to use predictive modeling capabilities and ad exchanges to buy, deliver, track, and optimize display ad campaigns. The goal at that point was simply to create incremental audience reach and meet performance goals.

Now, marketers are beginning to apply a more “holistic” strategy, as reflected by the flow of marketing dollars from offline to online. They are leaving the traditional siloed marketing approaches behind to create a more integrated presence across multiple media channels: social media, mobile, video, TV, mail, email, search, and display. The integration of audience data from multiple sources makes it possible to correlate customer attributes and interests to replace the wasteful shotgun approach to marketing with more targeted, effective, and memorable multiple-channel campaigns.

Advertisers and marketers certainly don’t lack data; what they lack is the ability to integrate the data they have to extract valuable and actionable insights. The emergence of data management platforms (DMPs) provides a means to manage the flow of data between consumers and brands and between brands and agencies, enabling marketers to improve campaign performance across all media channels. The multi-channel optimization offered by DMPs lets advertisers and brands deliver a consistent message no matter which channel is used.

No one can deny that marketing is undergoing a major shift. New channels have created new opportunities to reach a broader spectrum of audiences more effectively. Traditional channels won’t be going away any time soon – which leaves marketers with the challenge of selecting which will be the most effective channels for a particular campaign and determining the optimal budget allocations on a channel-by-channel basis. This is a Herculean task. Thankfully, DMP technology is available to help. With the proper data management system, multi-channel marketing campaigns can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, and through the most effective channel for real-time marketing success.

I’ll be in the market for a new car in the near future – hopefully marketers will have their act together and I’ll have a fantastic multi-channel experience.

Originally posted on www.clickz.com by Bill Demas

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By: Lindsey Graham

Small businesses may want to put more of their business marketing efforts into direct mail, as the medium has recently witnessed significant growth after spending several years on the decline. 

According to a report revealed by the Winterberry Group, direct mail advertising sales saw a 3.1 percent increase in 2010, compared to its 20 percent decline from the three years prior. This figure is expected to increase further next year to 5.8 percent, Medill Reports noted, a boost that experts attribute to a rebounding economy.

“As companies see the economy turning around, they tend to increase their spending on marketing, because so many of them have cut back their spending during the recession,” Bob Lieber, CEO of marketing strategy and services firm Original Thought told the source.

This news could be beneficial to the United States Postal Service, which has been fighting to regain growth and draw in new direct mail advertisers via beefed up marketing and advertising campaigns.

According to the source, the rise may be due to the fact that many consumers’ email inboxes are filled with an overwhelming number of messages. Due to this, many opt not to open them and instead choose to delete them. Therefore, it may be easier to target consumers with a piece of correspondence that they can hold in their hands and interact with directly.

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posted originally on www.amsterdamprinting.com

New blood. Fundraisers are busy trying out non-direct mail channels (email, mobile, social media) in varying efforts to retain their current donor bases. But regardless of how successful these channels are for any nonprofit, you can only go back to the well so often.

In other words, the donor stock must be restocked for a nonprofit to survive today, and by far the best way to acquire new donors remains direct mail. That was the topic of the recent DirectMarketingIQ webinar, “Acquiring New Donors through Direct Mail: Best practices and case studies from leading fundraisers.”

Besides speaking during the webinar, Bob Merrigan—President of Merrigan & Co., a Kansas-City based firm specializing in strategy and messaging for non-profits—took time to answer many questions from attendees.

Here were a few highly relevant questions and answers:

Question: What is the best delivery for your direct mail piece? #10 envelope? Taped flier? Color? Plain?

Merrigan: Ask yourself, “How can I get attention in a way that sets the stage for for my ask, but doesn’t give the prospect an opportunity to say ‘no’ before being asked?”

There’s no single solution. I tend to prefer having the organization clearly identified; we all want open relationships … why would you start out as a mystery. I tend to prefer printing design/copy rather than leaving the envelope blank. That’s valuable real estate; you only have a few seconds to get attention and you need to use it. I like to invite (tease?) the reader into the package.

There are economic realities to deal with, too. Most acquisition efforts won’t support a closed-face, hand-addressed envelope, but that may work well with higher dollar donors. We’ve tested four color vs. two color. Four color typically gives a lift in response, but it really depends on your mail quantities and production capabilities. If I were starting out (not much reference in terms of return to expect) I would probably go with 2 color.

Similarly with self-mailers … I would start with a letter and flyer in an envelope and establish some benchmark patterns. Then I’d try to test in a self-mailer to see if the expected drop in response is more than offset by the cost savings.

Question: Can you provide “best benchmarks” on average cost to acquire a new donor, average cost to retain an existing donor, and average cost to convert (2nd year) across your NP clients? And you mentioned that the first gift amount is really important in the long term investment return. What did you mean?

Merrigan: First gift tends to be indicative of future gifts. It’s much harder to take a $5 donor to a $25 gift level than vice versa. The first gift tends to be indicative of the donor’s giving tendencies—not always, of course, but indicative.

Lifetime value is always going to be determined by average gift size x frequency x longevity. An effective fundraiser is going to establish benchmarks in each of those areas and constantly look for strategies to implement that could bump up those numbers.

Question: In your experience, is there a major difference if the letter is written in first person by the organization’s client, instead of written by the President/CEO?

Merrigan: I’m a huge fan of personalizing the organization … through its clients, through other supporters, through volunteers, through key employees. I would encourage you to collect and tell those stories in as many ways as you can.

That said, I’d ask myself before putting your cover letter over that signature, “Is this the most natural/comfortable way to make this ask?” It may be that the ED can tell the story of a client … or set the stage, include the client’s story, and then make the ask. It might be that the story is on a buckslip.

The key question is this: What is the “voice” that is most likely to elicit a response? The fact is, sometimes the president/CEO is not able to balance the need to maintain their personal voice and also be the voice of the organization.

Another consideration is how many appeals you are making. Do they all need to come from the same person? If your prospect is receiving multiple asks, it may make sense to try having some of them come from different people.

Ethan Boldt is the chief content officer of DirectMarketingIQ, the research division of the Target Marketing Group and publisher of special reports, how-to guides and books for the direct marketing industry

Originally posted on targetmarketingmag.com

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With the high cost of advertising, small companies need to uncover a way to sell their items or services in the most economical way doable. Direct mail advertising is the perfect advertising strategy for tiny businesses since of its affordability and effectiveness. Corporate stationery can be reproduced at a really reasonable price through letterhead and envelope printing services.

The purpose of direct mail advertising is not limited to just promoting your enterprise this strategy can also be used for the following objectives:

Brand Recognition: Sending your own organization stationery is much better than employing generic postcards for your marketing copy. Personalized stationery strengthens your branding efforts. Your corporate stationery contains your brand name, logo, and company colors. These branding elements assist consumers remember who you are. Guarantee brand recognition by placing your logo in a prominent location on your envelopes and letterheads.

Customer Loyalty: Direct mail advertising is a more personal approach for communicating with your customers. This builds customer relationships and increases consumer loyalty. Adding a individual touch to advertising is the greatest way to show customers that you value their enterprise. Send them direct mail in the course of the holidays or to just simply thank them for their continued support.

New Consumers: Your organization need to be able to extend its services to a new pool of customers to allow it to grow and expand. You can do this by asking for referrals or exchanging mailing lists with other companies. Gaining new customers not only rewards your revenue, it also increases your visibility.

Newsletters: Maintain your customers up-to-date with your new merchandise or services, sales, or new store openings. Doing so allows consumers to participate in your company’s milestones or take advantage of your special provides.  Maintaining visibility helps minimize competition.    

Whether you are utilizing direct mail advertising for promotions, news updates, or special greetings, often maintain in mind that your message need to be straightforward, concise, and total. This way you can be certain that you are communicating effectively. Lastly, you ought to be careful in choosing the right printing company to print envelopes and letterheads for your marketing campaign to guarantee high-quality.

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Originally posted on txcsl.org