Direct Mail Marketing in the coming decade
Some will tell you
Direct Mail is dead.
Those folks are dead wrong!
Mail has been with us long before Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster
of the USA, was on the scene. There are stories from the B.C. era with
reports of carriers delivering mail between generals in battle, friendly
governments and good friends.
And Direct Mail will be with us for as far into the future as anyone
can "see". Neither phone or fax killed it. E-mail and the web will not,
either. At least not in the next decade.
Yet today most of us, in fact, take mail for granted. We expect it. Why?
Because it has "always" been there. What we may forget is that it doesn't
just happen. Like all media, it must be planned to enjoy maximum success.
If for no other reason, we each get a lot of mail every day. In fact,
the United States Postal Service delivers more mail in just 2 days than
a leading overnight delivery service does in a full year! And around the
world mail as a marketing tool continues to grow.
Since direct mail is such a factor in our life it needs to be as good
as it can be. This collection of words are to remind each of us of the
power of Direct Mail. Starting with foundation ideas. To build upon what
you already do right ... to make it just a wee bit better.
Direct Mail Marketing Defined
Direct Mail Marketing is both an art and a science.
Science in that there are "rules" that affect response. These rules come
with a small "r", and are there to be challenged - even broken! When it
can be proven going another direction is best.
Which also makes Direct Mail an art. As none of your competitors have
the same measurable objectives as you do. Or brand. Or mission. Direction
or focus. Customers. Or marketplace.
Direct mail can be defined with 4 short phrases;
1. Direct Mail is Action Oriented . . . meaning it is written
and designed to generate response. The receiver is supposed to do something.
Call or fax. Fill-in and return the coupon. Visit a specific location.
DO something. Direct Mail is a dialogue. It is active.
2. Direct Mail is Measurable . . . you can count the Action that
happens. How many people respond to what. By when. And how ... by mail,
by phone, fax, E-mail or walk-in. You Measure the Action.
3. Direct Mail is Persuasive . . . the copy and format is designed
to get Action. It is strong vs. soft. Hard-sell. Yes, pleasant and personal.
Still selling in style and content. You create Action from Persuasion.
4. Direct Mail is A $ales Discipline . . . it leads to the sale.
It is more than image, awareness, position and interest building. It must
be all of these ... and more! Direct Mail - when it's at it's best - gets
you the Action that puts sales into the bank.
All of which means a direct mail package to your customer or prospect
should not look like a direct mail package from a competitor to that same
person. In addition to your brand and logo, you also need to be truly
different. Because you are different!
The 4 Customer Choices
Let's talk about your customer. Those who receive Direct Mail from you
have 4 choices;
open and read your mail right now,
stack it to read at another time,
route it to another person,
trash your mail!
Research has shown one of these 4 actions takes place in just 2 or 3
seconds per piece of mail. It does not matter if the receiver has 2 or
10 or 20 pieces of mail that day - they make a choice to read / stack
/ route / trash in just 2 or 3 seconds per piece of mail.
The obvious message here is your Direct Mail must be as good as it can
be if you are to get maximum response. Even to your customers who know
you, who expect to hear from you, who "love" you.
The 5 Direct Mail Objectives
For Direct Mail to work best there needs to be a very specific objective
for each effort. When you have been thorough in strategy and planning,
including mail, you will know your objective. Your direction. You undoubtedly
already know all this about objectives. Yet, the points are important
enough to state again;
There are 5 very different objectives for successful Direct
a). to get new customers - an effort that truly never stops,
b). to keep the customers you already have - this is the base for
the following objectives,
c). to upgrade your customers to another level - i.e., from "green"
d). to cross-sell your customers another product/service - to to
sell all your services,
e). to urge them to come back for more - even if you are unable
to upsell and cross-sell you still want your customers to return again
You will have one of these reasons for selecting Direct Mail as your
marketing tool. Your mail will work best when you have a single objective,
vs. 2 or more within the same mail piece. Multiple objectives are best
achieved with multiple Direct Mail.
6 Steps to the Best Direct Mail
How do you get your audience - to do what you want them to do?
Well, there is no magic. And there are no secrets. There is no guarantee.
Yet, we've learned there are 6 basic steps to take, that
will give you more than a fighting chance to win more repeat visits;
... Design your Direct Mail to get noticed.
Because mail works so well mail boxes in America are "full". More Direct
Mail is received every year by American homes than anywhere else on the
So, to be who you are AND to get read and acted upon, your Direct Mail
first must be noticed. Meaning something on the outside must pull
the reader to the insider. That "something" can be color, copy, design,
layout, shape, size or almost anything else.
Frequently when you write to people who know you - customers and >hot'
prospects, your name and logo may be enough to hook you into their thinking
- to get you "noticed".
... Design your Direct Mail to get opened.
Opened is different than notice. "Notice" is your customer /
reader sees your mail in the mix with all the other mail they receive
that particular day.
Opened is the next step - your customer begins the action process.
Your audience begins to investigate what you are saying - what you are
offering - to learn why you writing to them today. They open your Direct
... Make your Direct Mail readable.
Readable - meaning copy that is clear. Meaning a message that
has meaning. Meaning an offer that is easily understood. Meaning a choice
of words that your customer will "get".
It is easy to write over the head of your audience. Yes, even your
audience. The simple and basic everyday language you use with your customers
is the same language you will find brings you the best results in your
And readable is also layout, format, look. Today computers make
it very easy to over design a piece of Direct Mail. Instead, think what
it is you want your customer to do - the action you wish them to take.
Make your Direct Mail readable.
... Make your Direct Mail understandable.
Direct Mail is a "read" medium. It is words, text, copy. Sure, graphics
can - and should - make it better. Still, art, photography and illustrations
will not replace copy. The purpose of graphics is to make your Direct
Mail more readable, so as to be more understandable.
When your customers know what you mean, what you offer, what's in it
for them, your Direct Mail will gain you larger and more profitable results.
... Always make your very best Direct Mail offer
Your audience, your marketplace, your customers is the most important
part of your Direct Mail. People always come first.
Next in importance in Direct Mail is your offer.
An offer is a reason for your reader to consider you, to read for understanding
and to respond. Direct Mail with an offer always out pulls Direct Mail
Your offers should and will vary. Depending on the level of customer
or prospect. "Soft" offers works well for your higher level customers,
just as "hard" offers do for others.
The key here is always have an offer. It will always improve your Direct
Mail response. Always!
... Always be certain to A.F.T.O.
Always Ask For The Order. This is a sales
axiom that is equally applicable to Direct Mail Marketing. All good Direct
Mail has a message that states the action needed to gain the offer, that
leads to a sale. That clearly spells out what is expected from the customer.
Direct Mail is kind, friendly, personal - and hard sell! Always, and
A Direct Mail Package is . . .
A Direct Mail package has 4 pieces to it;
- outside, the envelope or outer part of the mail,
- copy, the words, the text, the message,
- graphics, art, illustrations, charts, photography,
- response, the response card, fax-back, coupon, the call to action
... whatever it may be.
Some like to "play a game", and say one part of this mix is more important
than another. That is not so ... they are each equal in importance.
Why is this fact so? Because unless you get your reader through the outside
to the inside, it will not matter what is inside.
Because unless the copy carriers a clear message it will not matter how
delightful the graphics are.
Because unless the graphics support the copy your reader will be confused
and move on anyway.
And because without a response - it will not matter how "nice" or pleasant
looking your Direct Mail package is.
... a few Direct Mail Creative ideas You probably already do good Direct
Mail. Still, the basics, the foundation, this platform of ideas may be
helpful to you as you plan and prepare future mailings;
... indenting the first line in every paragraph of everything you write
gives the reader a place to begin. indenting pulls the readers eye into
... ragged right margins are easier to read than those block right or
... a letter is the most read piece in a Direct Mail package. not the
brochure or flyer or other colorful / promotional piece. the letter!
... the opening paragraph in a letter, brochure, anything printed should
not exceed 11 words. the second paragraph not more than 50 words. why?
to "slip" the reader quickly into your copy, to your message, to the action
... all sentences in anything written should average 14 words or less.
things longer are not only difficult to read, they are difficult to understand
... copy with 70% of your words 1,2,3,4 & 5 letter words will increase
the understanding of your offer. writing at a 13 year old (junior high
school) reading level will increase your Direct Mail response. (the Wall
Street Journal and Fortune write at a 16-17 year old reading
... type size less than 9 point is too difficult for most readers. a
better size is 11 or 12 (although this does change with the face, as some
are more open and easier to read than others).
... serif type increases readership in Direct Mail by 55% over san-serif.
this is true in anything printed you hold in your hand - newspapers, magazines,
brochures, mail, fax messages +++.
... 2, maybe 3 typefaces within the same mail package, is usually enough
to give the graphic team license, and still keep the copy readable.
... text printed on top of pictures and illustrations ruins that graphic
- and makes the message nearly unreadable.
... all CAPS decreases readership about 25%. in small amounts CAPS are
... reverse type decreases readership by 33%. if it is to be used at
all very large type (14 point and more) is suggested.
... small amounts of italics is fine - lots of it is not
... hyphenated words are nearly impossible to read.
... abbreviations are best spelled out. exception being titles, and others
where the abbreviation has become the "spelling" of the word.
... long lines of ALL CAPS BOLD AND UNDERLINED "scream
" at your reader. short amounts of bold or CAPS or underline
work well. with underline being the softest way to pull your reader
to an important point.
... separate pieces in a Direct Mail package increase response. a coupon
cut & sliced from a letter will usually bring a higher return than
one left as part of the page.
... a set of 6 coupons separated into 6 pieces (vs. all being on a single
page) will get more response for each coupon.
... if you want your customer to fill-in a form or coupon or application
give them room to write. everyone does not have neat handwriting.
... Direct Mail letters gain more response when they include a P.S. and
sometimes a P.P.S., too. why? because 4 out of 5 readers will look at
the P.S. before they read the balance of the letter.
... a P.S. is a repeat thought, offer, idea, call to action or something
else previously mentioned in the letter. it is not anything new to the
... a running headline, a graphic, a Johnson Box or something attention
getting at the top of a letter is the best read part of your Direct Mail
... 3 of 4 people who touch your Direct Mail will turn the envelope /
mailer over before opening and reading it. thus, almost anything meaningful
on the back of the envelope has a high likelihood of being read.
... the envelope of a Direct Mail package needs to answer who is this
from? / what is it about? / is this for me?
... paragraphs of more than 7 lines are difficult to read. shorter is
easier for the reader. your customers are most likely among the 70%+ of
the world who wear contacts or glasses to read - shorter paragraphs are
best for them.
... in Direct Mail, particularly in messages to your customers, short
and long is not an issue. it is only interesting or uninteresting. i.e.,
What's In ItFor Me
... the best Direct Mail is personalized. Yet, nothing is worse than
personalization with spelling and address errors.
... when using numbers, the numbers 7 and 11 are much easier to read
than the words seven and eleven.
... exact numbers are more believable than rounded. 481 is much more
believable than almost 500. 39 is better than Amore than 3 dozen".
... lists of things you deem important are best read when they are numbered;
1, 2, 3. numbering keeps people with you. it directs them where to go
next, keeps them on a path you set.
... lists can also be highlighted with bullets, asterisks and other symbols.
... stickers, stamps, tokens, perforations, punch-outs, puzzles, pop-ups,
die-cuts all get your readers attention.
... illustrations rectangular, horizontal or vertical are easier for
the eye to accept. pie-charts, circles and things round are difficult
... illustrations with people get more attention than those without.
... illustrations and photos require a caption. just as in the newspaper
or a magazine.
... "widows" (a single word on a line) are to be avoided.
... titles, phrases and names that go together are best read when they
are on the same line, vs. being divided.
... post cards and self-mailers are powerful mailers. particularly when
they are part of a series of mailings - with letter packages being dominate.
... the hot colors of red and yellow do very well to get attention -
orange less so / purple less so. green depresses response / brown is "old
fashioned" (except when brown becomes a fashion dress color). black is
bold, dominate, in-charge. blue is the world's most popular color.
... the use of testimonials and quotations in your Direct Mail will increase
... "hand written " notes get noticed. on the back of your mailing envelope,
in selected locations within your letter. on the response device.
... including Q&A inserts and lift notes in full letter packages
will increase readership and understanding of your message and offer.
... E2'0, a formula which says when you emphasis everything you emphasize
nothing. Not everything is equally important to your customer - talk with
them about what you know is important to them. That's it. A collection
of creative thoughts and ideas for you to continue to enjoy a high level
of success with your Direct Mail. Well into the 21st Century.