By Jessica Biondo, Marketing Communications, Modern Postcard
Just like The 12 Days of Christmas, successful direct mail design can reward you with an abundance of gifts — and by gifts, we mean new customers! They may not come from your true love (get it?), but we’re pretty confident new business will warm your hearts and fill your pockets in the New Year.
At Modern Postcard, our creative services team gets the opportunity to work with an eclectic range of clients on a daily basis, from small businesses to mega brands you’ve most likely purchased from. Our graphic designers live and breathe direct mail design, as do many of us on the artsy side of the business. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but we’re pretty skilled in defining what good versus bad design looks like, especially when it’s in our beloved direct response industry.
So, back to the gifts and 12 Days of Christmas theme: we’re gifting you with a collection of direct mail design to-dos to help your company not only improve the look and feel, but also the end results of your DM campaigns.
1. Strong call to action (content)
Get to know the art of the call to action (CTA). It’s an instruction of the immediate action you want viewers of your marketing piece to take — and it’s pivotal to the success of your campaign. Make sure your CTA is super clear and simple, such as "call [phone number] to cash-in on your offer by [deadline]" or "visit [special URL] to sign-up for your free [offer], " etc. Adding an expiration date will create a sense of urgency for your potential customers to respond. If you’re not sure what makes a get-up-and-move offer, here’s a great read on offers to help you decide. Remember, you have one chance to catch your prospects’ attention and direct them to make the next move, so choose your words wisely!
2. Strong call to action (design)
Your CTA should pop out from the support content on your mail piece, whether it's in a bright callout, has movement, an arrow pointing to it, has prime real estate on your design, etc. We recommend your CTA be listed twice: once on the front of your piece and once on the back of your piece (or exterior/interior). If your mail piece needs to be opened or flipped through like a booklet, you can entice people to open it with creative callouts like "peek inside for amazing discounts" and such. Use a typeface that's legible but can also stand out from the crowd. Plus, make the CTA decently larger than the body copy so it's easily recognized as important content. Read more on design violators to help your CTAs stand out in Tip #5 below.
3. Wow-worthy imagery
Compelling images and graphics will turn heads fresh outta' the mailbox more than a blank or boring background. Many times, we ask ourselves, "Would people want to keep the piece we’re creating; would they want to hang it on their office or bedroom wall?" If it’s a flat-out no, you probably haven't hit the mark with your photos or design. We’re not saying you need to use shock-worthy imagery, but it should be relevant to your brand and interesting enough to make viewers hang on to your mail piece for a few seconds and consider your company's offer.
4. Thoughtful font use
When it comes to fonts, less is more. It's typical among professional designers to choose two different fonts per piece: one for headlines, one for body copy. Maybe three, if there are special circumstances. We suggest a maximum of two contrasting fonts that also complement each other. Too many fonts or use of hard-to-read fonts can make your marketing piece look cluttered and amateur. Stick with a clean design and consistent use of fonts to look like a pro. If you need more help, we think this is a good read on font use.
5. Be a design violator
In direct mail design, "violators" are a good thing. They are the creative elements in your design that disrupt your readers' eyes from the body copy and strategically pull them into your offer or sales pitch. For example, have you ever heard of a snipe? A corner snipe is a callout or CTA we place in the top or bottom corner of a mail piece, enticing viewers to turn the page and see the backside offer (or whatever else you’re promoting). Other forms of violators include arrows, callout boxes, circles, bursts, banners, strips, ribbons and whatever you can come up with to help your CTA get immediately noticed by prospects' scanning eyes. In web design, violators would look like pop-up ads, appearing forms, slide-in sales offers…you get the idea.
Fun fact: Frank H. Johnson, a pioneer in direct mail marketing, invented the Johnson Box, which was "an enticing paragraph just before a letter’s salutation that efficiently and pleasingly synthesized the sales pitch to follow, " according to the New York Times. He understood his target audience had very little time to read an entire letter, so this was his solution to demand attention and get to the point.