A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Direct Mail Design
Are you worried about making suggestions to your clients about their direct mail pieces? Don’t be. We have a guide for you to follow. Your customers will thank you for your help in getting them better direct mail results!
Designing for direct mail can be broken up into 3 segments, layout, color/images and copy. Since this can be a real challenge we will take on each section in depth at a time. This will give you a better understanding and some tips to get you started on the path to a great direct mail piece.
Let’s start with Section 1: Layout
Sometimes the best ideas in direct mail design have already been used. The first thing you can do is look at the mail that comes to your home or business. Are there examples that stand out to you? There is no shame in taking a direct mail piece that you received and making it your own. Of course, sometimes the opposite is true and you get inspired by a really horrible piece.
Here are 8 questions to ask as you are contemplating design layout:
- What pieces do you like best? What about co-workers and family?: This base will provide you with enough information and perspectives to start.
- Does a certain design function better than another?: Practicality and mail ability are both big factors here. Making sure ahead of time what will work for the post office. What won’t work is a real cost in time and money.
- How were images or color used to draw your attention?: Note each one and how you feel or interpret what they are trying to convey. Does it compliment the message or detract from it and why?
- What language was used to get you curious?: Analyzing the word structure and your reaction to it is a great way to identify what your word choices should be.
- Was the offer compelling?: Sometimes the offer can be compelling but if it is not what you are interested or already have it, you will not buy it. Targeting your messaging to the correct audience is key.
- Were the important points and call to action organized and clear?: This is very important, you can really learn what to do and not to do by looking at the offer you receive.
- What types of response mechanisms were available?: The more the better. Include as many as you can and make sure some of them are mobile. People are using tablets and phones for most of their search and buying needs. Plus you will benefit from instant gratification. They want it now!
- How can you make this piece better?: Make a list of all the things you would change and why. Have others do the same and compare notes. You will gain insight into how your piece should look.
When designing a mail piece, are you taking all of these factors into consideration? Have you looked at your piece through the eyes of your recipient? Remember there needs to be a very strong “what’s in it for me?” for your prospects and customers. Have someone outside of your organization look at your layout to make sure the message you are trying to convey is coming through. Direct mail is very visual and tactile; you need to capitalize on that.
Now let’s look at Section 2: Color
Color, imagery and texture can greatly enhance the mail piece experience. Sometimes picking colors and images can be a challenge as well. How do you know what colors to choose? How should you pick the right images?
Here are 8 colors and some of the meanings behind them:
- Red: commands attention, alerts us, creates sense of urgency, risk, danger and aggressiveness
- Yellow: sunshine hue, spiritual color, represents warning, happiness, warmth, bright shades can be irritable to the eye in large quantities, often used to highlight or draw attention
- Green: money, nature, environmental concerns, freedom, healing and tranquility, is calming, refreshing, easy on the eyes
- Blue: suggests fiscal responsibility, inspires confidence, darker shades are authoritative, dark and bright shades represent trust, security, dignity, paler shades imply freshness and cleanliness
- Orange: warmth, instills sense of fun and excitement, implies health, cheer, makes product seem more affordable
- White: associated with innocence, purity, peace and contentment, considered clean and sterile, cool and refreshing, can have a calming, stabilizing influence
- Black: ultimate power color, suggests strength, authority, boldness, seriousness, stability and elegance, distinguished and classic, too much can be ominous
- Brown: associated with nature and the earth, associated with warmth and coziness, suggests richness, politeness, helpfulness and effectiveness, solid, credible
Now that you have a basic idea of what the colors can mean, sit down and decide which colors and combinations are going to add impact to your layout. We discussed the layout in section one. After picking your colors you need to decide on your images.
Carefully consider your message as you approach design. The images you choose should not conflict with your message or your brand. Make sure to show the images to people outside the organization to see if they make the same associations you do.
Here are 5 things to consider when selecting images:
- Do not use images of just the product. Include people and real settings for a more realistic and connected approach.
- Match the emotional tone of the design to the emotion conveyed in the image.
- Images should not conflict with your color scheme.
- Select images that convey your message so that you can use less text.
- Include your logo. You need to always reaffirm the brand by using the logo.
So by making color and image choices that complement each other you are on your way to a great mail piece. When conflicts arise between different elements in the design of direct mail it can be a confusing message for the recipient. Ultimately your mail is going in the trash and you wasted your money. Clear and concise elements that work together for your message are key to getting the increase in your ROI.
Finally, let’s look at Section 3: Copy
So at this point, after you have looked at the layout and color/images, you should have a general idea of what you want your direct mail to look like. There is another important factor that goes with your design and that is the copy. Words have the power to inspire, empower and create desire. Direct mail marketing is especially vulnerable to a bad choice of words. The visual design catches their eye but if the words do not convince them to take action, you will not get the desired response.
Top 5 list of the best words to use in direct mail:
- Free: Who doesn’t love free stuff? This is very eye catching and sucks people in. We all want a good deal and nothing is a better deal than free.
- Amazing: We all want the best things and if it’s amazing we have to have it!
- Discover: This is a challenge to find out new information. It makes us curious and we want to know more.
- Easy: These days we all need easy. There is just not enough time in the day to get things done. Whenever it can be easier it’s a good idea.
- You: It’s all about the recipient! What is in it for them? There should be lots of You’s in the copy to show them all the great things that will happen to them when they buy from you.
Top 5 words to avoid in direct mail:
- Expensive: Duh! Who buys expensive stuff? We all want a deal!
- Charge: This word just makes me cringe! I don’t want to be charged! I want a positive, charge is negative.
- Price: It is never about the price! Do not even speak of it! It is about what you are doing for the recipient, like saving them time, money, headaches and so on.
- Cost: Just like price and charge, this is a turn off because you are focused on a negative.
- Sign: This is a real commitment it we have to sign for it. What if we are not ready? Think of ways to attract people, not scare them off.
These are by far not the only best and worst words to use, but it will give you a good start. When creating the copy for your campaign be sure to consider how each word builds toward your message and call to action. Your call to action is the most important part. You need to give the recipient a reason to respond and how to respond.
Wonderful words will mean nothing if they are not driving the correct response. Tell the recipients exactly what you want them to do. Then, provide them with multiple ways to respond. Keep in mind that we all have our mobile devices with us 24/7, so you should allow for responses from tablets and cell phones. You will need your landing pages and website to have responsive design to accommodate this, but it will pay off for you big time. Are you ready to get started?
Summer Gould is Account Executive at Neyenesch Printers. Summer has spent her 31 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as the industry chair for San Diego Postal Customer Council. You can find her at Neyenesch’s website: neyenesch.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.