What’s In Your Mailbox. Junk Mail or Direct Mail?

Designing effective direct mail marketing tools

Direct mail can be a versatile and cost-effective method of increasing your business sales—from retaining existing customers to establishing new ones. The key elements of effective direct mail marketing lie in the message, the design, and the list. These three factors can transform unwanted “junk mail” into a powerful marketing tool known as “direct mail”.

The Message

When developing the message for a direct mail piece the first consideration is a focused goal—what is the purpose of your message? Are you generating leads, store traffic, customer loyalty, customer service, or announcing an event or new locations? It may seem simplistic, but many companies lose focus of the goal and end up sending out confusing messaging to their audience.

If you have more than one goal, you have more than one message. Rather than confuse your audience, think creatively and develop a direct mail campaign. Create continued exposure to your audience by sending one piece for each message over the course of a few months. Direct mail campaigns increase T.O.M.A (top of mind awareness) for your company, increase the potential for consecutive sales, and most importantly, keep your messaging clear and concise.

With your goal in hand, the next step is to create the headline, copy, a compelling offer that drives your audience to act on your goal, and the call to action.

  • The headline must be geared to the audience, focused on the goal, and compelling enough to lead the reader into the full messaging. Providing a powerful benefit in the headline will encourage the reader to follow the call to action.
  • The copy of the message should provide a compelling offer, and focus on the benefits of that offer. A common mistake is focusing on the overall benefits of the company or product—losing goal focus and confusing the audience. If you are marketing a new product, focus on the product—not all of the additional services your company offers. Additional services and products can become the focus of follow-up pieces for a direct mail marketing campaign.
  • Within your copy make a compelling offer, list it at least twice, and keep it focused on your goal. Remember, you are trying to encourage your audience to take the next step to view the product at your sales room, phone in for service calls, or request additional information. A direct mail piece will not close a sale, but it can cause interest in your sales efforts.
  • The call to action gives your audience a clear and easy method to obtain the services you just offered. Do not leave them wondering how to contact you, when the offer will end, or what the next step is.

The Design

Professional design has the powerful effect of turning “junk mail” into “direct mail”. Effective design compels the audience to first look before they disregard—it compels them to read the message.

The designer needs to understand the goal, the audience, the company and the product as well as be capable of creating a visual representation of your goal that will assist the reader with finding the offer, and taking the call to action. The designer takes the following factors into consideration when creating a direct mail design:

  • Company brand—how does the audience know you, and how will they remember you? Your brand image will play an important part in providing recognition—turning an unwanted solicitation into an offer from a well-known source.
  • Color—the psychology of color, how it impacts the audience’s response, and how it relates to your company brand.
  • Typography—make your message readable! Using the proper typeface and punctuation will result in a piece that will be read and acted upon.
  • Images—whether you acquire stock images, or professional photography to portray your message, it needs to relate to your goal and your audience.
  • Layout—from the placement of the headline to the visual lead-in and the call to action, the layout can either confuse or empower the reader. A common error that the inexperienced designer will run into is the mailing panel. Check with the post office to ensure that the layout incorporates postal requirements for all of your mail pieces.

Based on your goal, audience, and actions the competition has taken, your designer may bring new possibilities to the table—a letter turned into a self mailer, a campaign turned into a promotional piece. Listen to their suggestions, and remember they are working for you to provide an effective communication solution.

The List

The most effective way to create “junk mail” is to take your message and design, and then send it to everyone! Remember the goal—was it focused on existing customers, potential customers, or a location demographic? Your list is a key component of your direct mail program and can account for 40% or more of your direct mail’s success.

Working with a professional list service to help define and obtain a list for your mailing is an essential part of a successful campaign. The list service will help you purchase a new list of valid potential customers—or use your client database as your existing list. How much do you know about your customers? What information can you extract from your list to create a dynamic mail campaign?

Customizing a mailing based on list data is just one way to increase the success of your mailing. Personalize the message with any information you have about your recipient—their company name, recent successes or events, a birthday, their preferences within your product line—are just some of the possibilities that can be used to increase the return on your investment.

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