direct mail

Postcard Design Webinar for Ripon Printers.

Don’t dismiss postcards as low-end, low-value promotions for companies that can’t afford anything else. Postcards can certainly be used to attract high-value buyers, promote sales and offer coupons, even change the narrative surrounding your brand.

In this one-hour webinar, you’ll learn about:

Design postcards with an edge.

  • Understanding postcard design building blocks
  • Incorporating content elements (including photo-personalization) into your design
  • Designing postcards to support your business goals
  • Exploring creative substrates
  • And using metrics to improve your design solutions

Drumming Up Leads with Dimensional Mailers.

The best thing about a small target of high-potential customers is that you can afford to spend more money on them. In fact, you better, because everyone else is trying to reach them too. If you don’t have something different to say, and a different way of presenting yourself, you’ll get quickly tossed aside.

That’s why elusive, premium prospects are perfect candidates for three-dimensional packages. So put on your creative hat for a few minutes, and let’s look at how you can make dimensional packages pay off for you.

Why Dimensional Packages Work.

One of the big challenges in moving up the prospect food chain is getting your marketing materials past the admin-assistant gatekeepers. The odds of a postcard or self-mailer making the cut are pretty slim. And electronic alternatives such as email are almost unthinkable unless you’ve established a personal relationship.

What you need is a package that looks personal and stands out from everything else that hits an executive’s desk—or tries to. A box, a tube or other dimensional package that comes personally addressed to the executive, along with a really good headline, is very likely going to get opened. Human curiosity gets the best of all of us, no matter what position we hold. And everyone likes something that seems like a present.

So How Can You Miss?

Easily. Dimensional packages might seem like no brainers (How can you fail with a cushy budget, right?) but just the opposite is true. They need lots of thought and solid creativity to work effectively. To avoid a disaster, let’s look at the two main ways that marketers bring dimensional doom upon themselves:

  • Getting caught up in clever. Your dimensional campaign can go down the tubes (no pun intended) just like the entertaining TV commercials that people like but then don’t buy the product. Remember that there’s a business point to be made, and it can’t get totally lost in the fun.

    None the less, a dimensional mailer is a big opportunity to be creative. Just remember that you still need to make a case for people wanting to do business with you.

  • Coming across as a bribe. This can be a really fine and dangerous line, but error on the side of caution. My personal guideline is $25. As soon as someone perceives the contents to be inappropriately expensive for a promotion, you’re in trouble. Sometimes it’s best to stick with things that relate directly to your business.

    For example, I did a dimensional package for a major printer that wanted to reach marketing executives in different sectors. The campaign was multi-stage and went out during the summer with a “grilling” theme. Sales reps got to pick a certain number of prospects that were high potential but contact resistant. Here’s how the program worked:

    • Prospects received three envelope mailings over a short period of time with each consisting of a personalized letter and a one-page case history appropriate to the market and service being promoted. The mailings also included a favorite grill recipe from an executive at the printing company, including a picture of the person and a little personal history behind the recipe.
    • The final mailing came in a box set and included the popular How to Grill cookbook by Steven Raichlen, a product the printer also happened to print and distribute for its publisher client. So the campaign offered a little fun, came across as executive-to-executive and included a useful tie-in premium that demonstrated the printer’s capability. It also was dynamite at getting the attention of difficult-to-reach executives without overstepping the gift-value component.

Are Dimensional Mailers Strictly for Business-to-Business?

Most are, but that’s primarily a function of being able to more easily whittle down your target in the business sector. But again, dimensional mailers are all about creativity, so don’t necessarily think they’re out of the question if you’re in the consumer space.

A quick simple example is the Republic of Tea catalog, which always includes (or at least mine does) a sample tea packet attached to the cover. It gives the catalog a third dimension, puts it at the top of the pile and gets people to try teas they might never have bought otherwise.

Companies with high-ticket products are also obvious candidates. Manufacturers of luxury automobiles and other premium products can afford to spend more on customer acquisition and have smaller target audiences.

The Time for Dimensional Packages Has Never Been Better?

Although it might sound contradictory, slow economies are ideal for dimensional packages. They force you to do the all-important database work and follow up, help you stand out even more as companies cut back on marketing expenditures and tend to have much higher ROI than conventional direct mail and other marketing efforts.

So start working on that creative brief today.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop dimensional packages that result in sales more ROI. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Dimensional Packages.

You can create a buzz with dimensional packages, to say nothing of generating valuable leads. Here’s how to ensure that recipients will not only open your dimensional package, but will open it first.

Do

  • Put something inside that is valuable, fun—or preferably both.
  • Make the sales message simple, to the point and easy to find.
  • Use a parcel delivery service rather than the USPS, if possible.
  • Tie the contents into what you are selling, though you don’t always need to be literal—copy can make a strong tie-in.
  • Use a standard size box if you want to minimize costs.
  • Think beyond paperboard if you have the budget and really want to stand out—try wood or fabric, for instance.
  • Incorporate other channels—a pURL or a QR Code on an enclosure can add more involvement and personalization.
  • Demand accountability from the sales force—involve them as much as possible.

Don’t

  • Use a dimensional package with the intention of closing a sale—it’s a lead generator.
  • Make the contents so expensive they look like a bribe, though you can get by with a bit more if your target is owners of independent businesses.
  • Think that boxes are your only alternative—tubes as well as lumpy mailings or sturdy, gusseted envelopes can also work.
  • Get lost in cleverness at the expense of an action-generating message.
  • Do anything that would make your package look potentially dangerous or prankish.
  • Forget to use a stringent pre-qualification process—dimensional mailers are too expensive to waste.
  • Send more mailers than your team can follow-up with promptly.

By Larry Bauer

mb-2010-do-dont-v22bMissed Getting Your Copy of The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts? Not to worry. We’ve made digital versions available via SlideShare. The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts is a collection of the most viewed “Do’s & Don’ts” published by our MondoBeat newsletter including:

  • Taglines
  • Print Advertising
  • Referrals
  • Trade Shows
  • Corporate Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Thought Leadership
  • White Papers

Simply visit our SlideShare page to download your complimentary copy.

Creating Clutter Busting Dimensional Direct Mail.

I know it sometimes seems that you have to do something REALLY BIG to break through the mailroom clutter. But honestly, size doesn’t matter. You don’t need to build a Taj Mahal for your prospects. Even those C-level folks.

What you MUST do is make sure your mailing’s message supports your goals and is relevant to your target market. And above all, match the quality of your 3D object to your brand.

For example, if your key marketing message is about protecting your clients, don’t mail something like the cheapest umbrella that’s going to break after the third or fifth use. That will reflect poorly on your key brand message. Likewise, don’t overshoot your brand. Sending out gold-plated key fobs could be perceived as bribery if your brand is all about affordable office supplies, for instance.

The best way to start is with your creative brief: define your goals and targets, and THEN your message will naturally follow. Assuming you’ve written your creative brief, here are some examples of 3D mailing types to get your creative juices flowing.

3D Campaign Types.

I categorize 3D mailings into three types:

1. The fun gadget:

Stromberg Allen direct mail series: Even though Stromberg Allen gained approved vendor status with several new clients, they still needed to snag the attention of the clients’ internal buyers. As a printer of K-12 learning tools, they have the capability to produce very complex dimensional products using many components, and they wanted to demonstrate this expertise. We created a campaign of four boxed items that displayed their ability to produce fun, yet educational tools by marrying a gadget with a marketing message and booklets inside the boxes. The sales team then received instructions to send these to their specific targets one week apart until they snagged a meeting. Without sales’ cooperation and follow through, an expensive campaign like this would be wasted. Be sure to train your entire team before implementation of any campaign.

Benefit Downside
Fun to receive; if done right, can be memorable AND get your message across. May end up with kid at home if it’s TOO fun, which defeats your purpose of having it stick around as a reminder on the recipient’s desk.

2. The helpful tool:

Ripon Printers printing tools series: Ripon Printers’ capabilities include practically anything you’d want in a printer: digital/offset/web, cold and heatset, fulfillment, custom ink jetting, list hygiene and maintenance, catalog/education/direct marketing expertise, and web-storefront capabilities. To spread the word of their wide range of expertise, MondoVox concepted and designed a series of handy Tips Books (one per service area) and a video that would serve multiple marketing tasks. Not only do sales representatives distribute these tools to their existing customers, MondoVox also created a multipart direct mail campaign targeting new prospects. We created a handy book box for the tips books and a disc mailer for the video DVD. Ripon uses these 3D mailings along with a personalized introductory brochure to complete a three-part campaign for all new prospect lists.

This is a great example of how you can be 3D even if using relatively flat objects like books or DVDs. No need to throw in a pen just to get a bump on your envelope. It’s also a good example of a series within a series; the tips books can be mailed individually with the first one going out with the book box and the others arriving one week apart until the recipient fills the box.

Benefit Downside
If it’s truly a great tool, it will have a high sticky factor. In fact, don’t be surprised if prospects take your tools from job to job if they find them particularly valuable. Can come off as matter-of-fact and serious rather than providing any sort of clever gotcha moment. BUT if concepted carefully, a tool series can accomplish both.

3. Custom product samples:

Gourmetceuticals Taste Test Kit: Being new to the market, Gourmetceuticals needed to quickly convince food ingredient buyers that their nutritional ingredients did not impart negative flavors in final products but did offer all the benefits of nutritional supplements. We created a Taste-Test Kit using a granola product developed by a partnership between Nuts Are Good and Gourmetceuticals. The granola packs were designed to resemble grocery-ready food items while containing technical information directed to the buyer. Accompanying the samples was a cover letter and instructional booklet that walked the buyer through tasting the product, ultimately convincing them that Gourmetceuticals’ ingredients provide added nutrition while not imparting negative flavors or aftertastes. Careful pre-qualification of a limited number of targets allowed us to mail the kits via a parcel delivery service.

These kits were so successful that we expanded to include a print ad + landing page kit request to attract additional buyers.

Benefit Downside
By carefully controlling the message with a custom product sample, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your product AND get the meeting. Seemingly the most boring of all options, BUT could actually be quite effective if matched with a catchy message and the right target market. Also more labor intensive than just ordering a box of pens, but the potential payoff is much greater.

Don’t Be a Joke-in-a-Box.

While everyone wants to do the fun, gadget-type of campaign, that’s not always the most appropriate or most effective 3D object to incorporate. Consider carefully your brand reputation and key marketing messages to determine what type is best for you.

By Julia Moran Martz

Envelopes—Your “Get Opened” Tool.

You have a lot of direct mail formats available—postcards, self-mailers, dimensional mailers and, of course, the good old envelope. Many factors from budget and objective to the nature of your offer and audience enter into your format decision. So let’s begin our discussion with when you should use an envelope package.

Four Reasons to Choose Envelope Packages.

The first and most obvious is that envelopes provide an ideal solution when your offer requires more space for multiple components such as a cover letter, brochure, buckslip and reply envelope. After all, something has to keep the components from falling on the ground.

Second, envelopes better accommodate the fact that people buy in different ways. The letter-brochure combo provides alternate ways of presenting information—one more verbal and fact oriented, the other more visual.

Third, real people send things to real people in envelopes. Recipients feel more catered to when they receive an envelope package—especially a personalized one—and that’s essential in today’s marketplace.

Fourth, envelopes tend to look less promotional than postcards and self-mailers, so they have the ability to lift you above the marketing fray with a classier presentation.

Then There’s the Offer Thing.

Some types of offers just beg for an envelope. After analyzing lots of tests and studies, most direct marketing authorities consider envelopes more effective for these types of offers:

  • Financial products—loans, credit cards, securities, insurance
  • Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • Continuity/membership clubs
  • Charitable solicitations
  • Professional services
  • High-ticket consumer goods
  • Technology products
  • Telephone services

But perhaps the most important and often overlooked reason to use an envelope is that it can contain a letter. A real, honest-to-goodness personal letter. Oh, I know we don’t write so many of them anymore, but that’s not because they don’t work.

If fact, letters are incredibly powerful either as a standalone component or as part of a package. Many direct mail authorities still believe that a letter is the most important single element in a direct mail package. And many tests show that letters can hold their own or even exceed the performance of postcards and self-mailers.

Consider including a letter when your message needs to:

  • Come from one person by name.
  • Be addressed to an individual by name.
  • Requires added credibility or confidentiality.

And the more personalized you can make the content, the higher the letter’s impact will be.

Sealing It Up.

Well, I suppose I digressed a bit from envelopes. But perhaps it highlights the most important point of all. Nothing really stands alone in marketing. We talk about integrated media while sometimes forgetting the integrated relationship of components within a single element like a direct mail package.

Now about that envelope….

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop direct mail packages that result in sales. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Envelopes.

Creating effective envelopes doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money. To the contrary, it means understanding your audience and offer and then creating an appropriate fit. Here’s how to ensure that recipients welcome your next envelope package.

Do

  • Ensure your envelope is at least ¼” larger than the inserts.
  • Put your company name on the envelope if you’re confident it will cause a positive reaction from recipients—otherwise leave it off.
  • Match images, graphics and copy appropriately to your audience.
  • Use postage stamps if possible, especially for small mailings or anything that requires a personal touch.
  • Use metered mail as a second choice, but avoid the dreaded indicia—studies show that Fortune 500 companies route 30% of Standard Mail to the wastebasket immediately.
  • Personalize—that can mean anything from variable-data messaging to using a legible script font or actual handwriting—non-profits read this again.
  • Include teaser copy that is compelling, intriguing and invites curiosity.
  • Test envelope color, size, style and paper—differences might attract people who pitched a mailing before.
  • Consider an enclosure that creates an envelope lump—people can’t resist them, but be aware that it will add to postage costs.
  • Play the angles—an angled teaser line or even a slightly angled stamp can make your envelope get noticed.

Don’t

  • Use form letter or bill formats—they typically either get tossed or put with the bills.
  • Use a window envelope—possible exceptions are if it’s the only way to get killer personalization inside or if it’s a full view that shows a compelling graphic.
  • Put your offer on the envelope—especially to a cold list.
  • Underestimate the power of envelope tone—official, fun, etc.
  • Neglect to plan well in advance if you want to use a specialty envelope—custom envelopes take longer to produce.
  • Address your B2B mail to generic titles if at all possible—nothing screams mass mail louder than generics.
  • Skimp on any element of address accuracy—Cathy with a “C” might tune you out in a heartbeat if you spell her name with a “K.”
  • Dupe recipients into thinking your envelope contains something it doesn’t—tone needs to fit the actual contents.
  • Use statements like “Open Immediately”—see above.
  • Forget to order 5–10% more envelopes than you need—you’ll likely lose some in setup.
  • Time your mail to arrive on Monday, the heaviest mail day of the week—aim for Tuesday, the lightest day, or Wednesday, the second lightest.

By Larry Bauer

mb-2010-do-dont-v22bMissed Getting Your Copy of The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts? Not to worry. We’ve made digital versions available via SlideShare. The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts is a collection of the most viewed “Do’s & Don’ts” published by our MondoBeat newsletter including:

  • Taglines
  • Print Advertising
  • Referrals
  • Trade Shows
  • Corporate Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Thought Leadership
  • White Papers

Simply visit our SlideShare page to download your complimentary copy.

The Art of the Envelope Tease.

One of the biggest mistakes designers can make is ignoring the envelope that contains their client’s direct mail components. Envelopes are the key tool that determines whether your direct mail gets opened or gets ditched.

Design Tips for Creating Intriguing Envelopes for Your Direct Mail Campaign.

  • Vary the size: think outside of the standard #10 envelope. Look at oversized envelopes or even undersized. Anything to break out of the normal in-box clutter.
  • Use color: consider envelopes that reflect your brand’s primary color or consider anything that isn’t white, yet fits your offer. White envelopes tend to blend in with everything else in the recipient’s mailbox. Consult your designer or printer for interesting textures and colors.
  • Print a teaser message on the envelope: the operative word here is ‘teaser.’ There’s no rule that says you need to give it all away up front. Leave a little something to reward them for opening. Keep the message enticing.
  • Consider using a translucent or clear envelope: if your budget allows, there are a myriad of clear and translucent options. Choices include vellum, glassine and polybag-type envelopes. But be cautious when sourcing vellum as not all are crack resistant. Consult with your printer for vellum options that minimize cracking. And also don’t assume that polybag-type envelopes are only available in crystal clear. There are many exciting color choices that ignite the imagination. ClearBags has a great online resource to get your creative juices flowing, but do work you’re your printer for larger quantities.
  • Consider the design of the interior components up front. Don’t’ just toss them in a clear envelope without thought to what will show through. Again, you may need to redesign the outward facing messages on the interior components if you’re using a clear envelope.
  • You may also consider window envelopes as an alternative to solid paper or clear poly envelopes. There are several sizes including booklet envelopes with nearly full-view windows that deliver a similar effect.

Production Considerations.

  • If going with a translucent or clear envelope, you’ll have to reconsider how you handle addressing the envelope. Depending on the color and translucency of the material, you may have to use an address label. Or you could design the backside of the inserts to contain the address info.
  • Remember what I said about vellum. While insanely cool, you must work with a good printer to spec a stock that is crack resistant.
  • Some envelopes don’t come with a sticky seal. Some glassine envelopes, for instance, may require you to use a label to close the flap. This is another opportunity for messaging.
  • While an envelope mailer will cost more to produce than a postcard, a well-designed envelope can outperform a postcard if the message is right for a closed-envelope package. The challenges are the budget, of course, and ensuring the envelope is the right vehicle for your direct mail’s desired outcome.
  • Spec converted envelopes to save money. The only drawback is that you won’t be able to print across folds or bleed off a cut edge. But a good designer can certainly work within these restrictions to save you money.

Ignore at your own peril the envelope’s ability to tease, entice, intrigue and seduce the recipient. But also remember what mom advised in your youth: don’t give it all away up front and do leave something to the imagination. Envelopes are no different. Enticing someone to open is often a matter of making a promise but only enough to generate excitement. Like wearing just the right dress on your first date. Not too much, not too little.

By Julia Moran Martz

Increase Your Direct Mail “Open” Rates

Let’s establish three important points about direct mail:

  1. Direct mail works. It outperforms digital according to a recently published article by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The clear advantage over email and other electronic forms of communication is that paper is relational while electronic is transactional. At the same time, direct mail marketing integrates well with electronic media. Sending an email announcing a print catalog, for example, can increase response to the catalog and also drive more online sales.
  2. The direct mail model is changing. Direct mail started years ago with cheap postage and inexpensive paper. That combination made a low response model work. Today’s costs are much higher, but superior targeting capabilities, combined with the ability to highly personalize and customize print, produces response rates that easily justify the investment. But if you’re still using the old mass communications model for direct mail, you’re in trouble.
  3. Many companies still don’t understand direct mail. They are particularly uninformed about how recipients deal with direct mail. This lack of knowledge can result in campaigns that either under perform or tank entirely.

clingo-250

A Touch of Consumer Reality

There are more similarities than you might think between email and direct mail. Typical “open” rates for permission-based email campaigns fall into the 20-30 percent range. That doesn’t mean the recipient is going to do anything further, it just means that you caught their interest enough to take a glance. Direct mail is about the same. Approximately 20 percent of your recipients don’t immediately use the analog delete button, otherwise known as the trash can.

Similar to an email, opening direct mail also doesn’t mean that the recipient is ready to devote the morning to considering your promotion. Experts estimate that the average person will spend about 20 seconds scanning headlines, images, captions, offers and other trigger points.

About half of the skimmers will likely abandon your mailing at this point, so your piece better be convincing to those who are actually interested in your offer. According to an article written by direct mail copywriter Dean Rieck for MelissaDATA, those who continue reading are seeking confirmation that saying yes is a good decision. Your piece better give them that reassurance, because your number of live prospects is obviously dwindling.

How to Improve Your Odds

Direct mail isn’t a medium of subtleties. So don’t get hung up on minor creative tweaks like worrying that the sky in your image is the perfect color of blue. According to Rieck, spend your time and money where you’ll get the most return. Those areas include:

  • Choosing the best lists. Nothing is more important than offers and lists. Fail at either and your direct mail campaign is in deep trouble. Proven direct mail responsive lists are the best performers after your house list, but you’ll still need to invest in testing to determine if a particular list works for you
  • Choosing good products and services. Be discriminate in what you offer. Your best products and services are definitely an easier sell. Carefully select images to support them, and put an emphasis on showing the product or service in use.
  • Working hard on your copy. Keep in mind how people read direct mail and spend lots of time refining your headlines and subheads. Include plenty of information for those who go beyond the hot spots. Direct mail has always been a long-copy medium, and don’t be deceived into thinking that it still isn’t. Clarity in copy counts heavily, and that includes your call to action.
  • Keeping design simple and to the point. While not belaboring the perfect shade of blue for your sky, it is critical to not clutter your key message. Clarity in design also counts heavily, enabling readers to act more quickly.
  • Making great offers. Like we said, a lot of your success will center on lists and offers. You need to entice people with a great offer, and this doesn’t involve price only. Offers such as premiums, outstanding guarantees or risk-free trials can be just as important as price in motivating someone to take action. If you’re dealing with a more complicated multi-step sell, be sure to offer something of value for taking the next step.

Get Hung Up on the Right Numbers

Like all direct marketing vehicles, direct mail is about accountability, measurability and return on investment. That’s part of what makes it so attractive, especially today. But in doing your evaluations, be sure to focus on quality rather than quantity. For example, a lead generation campaign that results in 200 prospects of marginal quality isn’t nearly as effective as a mailing that yields 35 interested, high potential prospects.

You need to measure not only short-term response rates and sales, but also how customers develop over time. People talk about lifetime value, but too few companies do a good job of actually measuring it. When you run a direct mail campaign, do you even track basics like:

  • How many prospects turned into customers?
  • How individual reps performed in converting prospects to customers?
  • How long leads took to convert?
  • How subsequent year sales compared to first year sales for individual customers and the campaign group?

The good news is that there is lots of affordable software available to help you track and measure the success of your campaigns. But no software will help you set good objectives or strategy.

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop winning direct mail campaigns from list selection through strategy development and creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

By Larry Bauer

A Dozen Direct Mail Do’s & Don’ts.

bondo-400

It pays to learn the basics of direct mail, because mistakes are expensive. When you’re investing in lists, copy, creative, printing and postage, you don’t want to blow it. Run your next direct mail campaign against this checklist for better results.

Do

  • Invest in targeting and learn how different levels of personalization and customization can impact your ROI.
  • Consider unique format sizes that conform to postal regulations.
  • Use postage stamps as opposed to a printed indicia whenever possible.
  • Consider an off-color envelope unless white makes a graphic explode from the paper.
  • Emphasize key elements like testimonials, guarantees and order forms.
  • Test lists, offers, price points, copy, creative and formats as opposed to trusting your intuition.
  • Create a sense of urgency with deadlines, extra incentives, etc.
  • Communicate benefits—early, often and clearly.
  • Take advantage of the space direct mail gives you to provide vital information—but do it tastefully.
  • Commit to a regular mailing schedule—every six weeks for current customers is a good starting point.
  • Write copy from a peer-to-peer perspective—especially when approaching top executives.
  • Have objectives and calculate return on investment

Don’t

  • Design the piece and then have the writer fill in the “Greek” copy blocks—strategy, writing and design are most effective when done as a team.
  • Think that envelope teaser copy is appropriate for every mailing—you might never get out of the mailroom on B2B mailings.
  • Shortchange the amount of time you spend on a cover letter—it’s still the most important component of a direct mail package.
  • Buy cheap creative or, worse still, buy creative from any source that does not know direct mail—and we mean really know direct mail.
  • Hesitate to pull out all the stops—dimensional mail, express mail, high-value information incentives (white papers, survey results, etc.)—if your audience is senior managers.
  • Forget that a good list and a good offer account for 80 percent of your campaign’s success.
  • Neglect to create a strong, clear and visually obvious call to action.
  • Fail to break up long copy with bullets, graphics, call-outs or plain old white space.
  • Make it hard for recipients to purchase or respond—give lots of options.
  • Forget to put yourself and several “seeds” on the mailing list.
  • Fail to publicize your direct mail campaign—take extras to trade shows, include PR contacts on your mailing list, etc.
  • Try to do things internally if you don’t have the skill set.

Personalization Improves ROI. Study after study shows that personalization improves response—often dramatically. For example, an InfoTrends study indicated personalized direct mail resulted in:

  • 34% faster response rates
  • 48% percent more repeat orders
  • 25% average order value increase

But plastering a recipient’s name all over a direct mail piece isn’t what we mean. That’s old hat and only marginally effective. Make the effort to learn more about your customers and use that information to create promotions that show you understand them. There is lots of print technology available to help you execute programs at whatever personalization level your database capabilities can support.

By Larry Bauer

Avoid Direct Mail Design Doom.

brando-250Folks in the business, like me, are generally the most critical of what works for direct mail and what doesn’t. While some designers will be focused more on what they can do to win their next award, the better ones realize that awards given for design rather than results are not what’s most important. Successful results for our clients and their customers are the ultimate goal.

Now don’t mistake that for a license to create something completely cluttered and too busy to be legible, too ugly to leave out in the open or too poorly printed to be taken seriously. Even the ubiquitous used car salesman needs to be taken seriously and trusted long enough to make the sale.

In a nutshell, you have three goals to achieve in mere seconds:

  1. Grab attention/look legit.
  2. Engage.
  3. Compel to act.

That’s it. How you accomplish these goals is up to you, but you can learn from those who’ve come before.

Design Tips

Even if you’ve done everything right, decent response rates can still be tough to snag. So let’s assume your list is dead-on, your offer is proven and your brand is strong. What else should you be looking out for to nail that extra response rate beyond the “barely surviving” 1-2% rates experienced by many direct mailers? In no particular order:

  • Avoid stock images that are already used and seen everywhere. Look for the unique and if you can afford it, create unique imagery that no one else will ever have. And make sure it supports your brand’s personality. I received two direct mail post cards, each with a man wearing a dress shirt and tie, same camera angle. Not even the same photo, but I laughed anyway (after which, they ended up in the trash receptacle).
  • Invest in a quality product photo. Don’t include a product photo that’s taken off your website or shot poorly. Make sure the product is clear and details are visible if needed. If it’s food, make it drool worthy.
  • Don’t use paper that’s wimpy. Makes you look wimpy and cheap, like a poorly fitting suit or worse yet, a limp handshake. Ick!
  • Do use bumps in enclosed envelopes. They significantly increase your open rate. Just make sure your envelope is sturdy enough for the bump so it doesn’t break through. And particularly if it’s a large mailing, be certain to check out mailing costs.
  • Snipes, bursts, intercepts—a designer’s nightmare. Yeah, designers hate these because they’re ugly. Yes, they are truly ugly. But in the right situation, under the right light, with the right neighboring elements and the right message, an intercept can be the right thing to do. Just don’t use it to say something lame. Make it purposeful and make absolutely certain it supports the primary goal of the direct mail rather than confusing the message.
  • Keep your direct mail focused on a single goal. You’re not creating a catalog here. Get to the point quickly and don’t be too wordy (or graphicky) about it. Time is of the essence. You have mere seconds. Seconds!
  • Make sure the format of your direct mail is appropriate to your goal. Small ticket item? Consider using a post card. Selling a $500 watch? Better send a brochure with a lifestyle message and ditch the intercepts, keep it classy. Looking for donations? A cover letter is in order along with a good story about where the money’s going.
  • Don’t ignore your brand’s personality and look. Just because it’s ‘direct mail’ and we previously told you not to worry about the color of the sky, you can’t abandon your brand’s personality either. And I’m not just talking about the logo. If your brand is as classy a brand as, say, Tiffany’s, you’d better not skimp on quality. Fail to print the right turquoise or remember to focus on what sells (i.e. sparkle) and your mailing is sure to go south. However, if you’re brand is kitschy by nature, include that kitschy look in your direct mail.
  • Don’t convolute your product with a misleading or meandering story. Stay on point and be clear and concise.
  • Don’t forget the incentive. Whether direct or implied, make sure it’s there. Is it 15% off the first purchase? Is it a gentle reminder not to forget a holiday like Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day coupled with an offer? Direct mail is not the best tool for corporate or brand awareness, but it is perfect for timely incentives.
  • Be careful if using teasers on the cover with the complete thought on the inside. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but it’s hard to do well. Most folks won’t take the time. In fact, eight out of 10 trash advertising mail instantly. The remaining two will take only a few seconds to make a decision. If it doesn’t peak their interest, in the trash it goes. If it doesn’t appeal to them viscerally, in the trash it goes.
  • Don’t underestimate a good design’s ability to create a positive gut reaction. But steer clear of designers who want to make your text too small (unreadable in the hallway light) or writers who think they’re writing general advertising copy.
  • Scanning trumps actual reading. Make your direct mail scannable. Once you’ve landed folks with the key points they’re looking for, feed them the details. And remember, your headlines matter more than your body text in direct mail, but you still need body copy that provides necessary information in a clear and concise manner. Make every word earn its space.
  • Too many screamers (that’s exclamation points to you writers). Looks cheesy and desperate. Don’t do this!!!!! (Yeah, that.)

Whether your direct mail is 3-dimensional or flat, making sure your strategy, design and offer fit the targets is the best way to improve your ROI.

By Julia Moran Martz