Direct Mail Isn’t Dead – Creative Guidelines for Success

Direct Mail Isn't DeadAre you using direct mail in your marketing mix this year?

Believe it or not, direct mail isn’t dead–it can still be extremely effective as more companies shift their marketing dollars online.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time you received a mail piece with your name on it speaking directly to your businesses needs? Better yet, when did you last read a handwritten letter? In many industries, direct mail now stands out more than email. It’s also easier to target than paid search ads.

If I’ve convinced you to include direct mail in your marketing mix, let’s talk about creative guidelines.

Before you start, make sure you’ve already covered your campaign basics. Determine your goals and project your metrics. Identify your target audience. Determine your piece’s role in the overall sales process. (It’s a good idea to complete these steps for any of your marketing campaigns.) Then, get the best list you can find!

Direct Mail Creative Guidelines

  • Define your offer. The only thing more important than your offer is your list. What is your offer? Is it strong enough to command attention? If you’re not sure, test it on a few unsuspecting friends or colleagues.
  • Present your offer early. Follow the inverted pyramid that reporters use. Your offer is why you’re writing, so don’t bury it.
  • Keep it short and simple. Stay focused on your offer. Don’t wander off topic and risk losing focus.
  • Carefully use graphics. Graphics should draw the eye to the offer, not detract from the main point. Don’t clutter your piece with unnecessary graphics. Use them sparingly.
  • Prompt action with your copy. Unlike standard copywriting, direct mail copy must generate a response from your prospect. Keep it focused on action.

Direct Mail Copywriting Tips

That sounds easy enough, right? If you’re not a direct mail copywriting genius, have no fear. Hire a freelancer from the web or glean some do-it-yourself tips from a good copywriting resource.

  • Use short sentences. Attention spans are short. Long sentences confuse readers.
  • Give bites (not meals) of information. Break up large blocks of text or information by adding sub-headings or bullets.
  • Use white space. White space is not wasted space; it is an important graphical element. Like long sentences, large blocks of text confuse readers. Give them some white space to breathe.
  • Take it for a test drive. Mail to a random sample of your list and track your response rates. If the piece isn’t working, revise.

Remember, direct mail doesn’t have to be expensive or tremendously exciting. To be effective, a direct mail piece just has to entice people to move one step through the sales process. Understand its purpose, and design it accordingly. As Dean Rieck of Direct Creative puts it, good direct mail design lets form follow function

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