5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail

Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

what not to do in direct mailFor the last 26 years, we have worked with customers to send really good direct mail. Of course during that time there have been some flops for many different reasons. We have learned much more from the flops than the greats. Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

5 Things to Not Do in Direct Mail

1. Font: The most important thing in your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily read. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters, too, so make it larger.

2. Lie: Your direct mail should never lie to people or as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

3. Old List: Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is three years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change, too. Sending to people who are not there or no longer interested is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean it up, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

4. No or Unclear Call-to-Action: The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call-to-action where you tell them what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either. A clear concise call-to-action is a must to drive response.

5. Features: Do not focus your direct mail on features — no one cares. People buy based on benefits, not features. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service. If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try listing the features on a paper and next to each one list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner, a feature is the motor power. A benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

This list could really keep on going, but we have hit in the five major areas. Have you made any of these mistakes or others? What else would you include in this list? We all make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing is to learn from them, to make your direct mail better. It’s time to make some great direct mail!

3 Type Facts You Don’t Know, But Should

Back in 1979, we were taught the old-fashioned way, and everything was done by hand. You had to understand all aspects of typeface design and letterforms. You learned how each letter was created and how they fit together perfectly. So here are three facts about type that you don’t know.

Margie Jones. That name had many a Parsons’ student, me included, cursing under our breaths and panicked at the same time. She was our Typography I & II professor. To say she was tough would be an understatement. But she was good, really good. She held us to a high standard and never let us off the hook.

And you could spot Margie Jones’ students a mile away. All you needed to do was simply look at their work compared to other students who didn’t have her. It always rose above.

Back in 1979, we were taught the old-fashioned way — with rapidograph pens, Letraset rubdown type, Lucy machines and a strong lupe. Everything was done by hand. You had to understand all aspects of typeface design and letterforms. You learned how each letter was created and how they fit together perfectly.

There were no computers. No InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop. You had to not only have great creative skills; you needed excellent hand skills too. It was hard, but you learned how and why you did things.

Thank you Margie Jones!

Here are three facts about type that you don’t know and, sadly, many young designers also might not know.

1. Round Letters Go Above and Below the Line

This is one of my favorite tests of young designers to see their knowledge of type; to let me know if they paid attention in class or how good their professor was.

Round Letter Above Below

Look at the example above. Notice how the round letter will rise above or below the base, ascender and x-height lines. Why?

If the round letters did not go above and below, the round letters would appear to look smaller than the rest of the straight letters. See the example below:

Round Letters Smaller

The reason for this: When the round part of the letters just touch the base, ascender and x-height lines, there’s less surface area as compared to the straight letters. To make the letter optically correct, you must have the round letter actually go above and below the base, ascender and x-height lines. This is just one of the many optical fixes that typography uses.

13 Ways Direct Mail Works Best

Direct mail can be a very powerful marketing tool. When executed correctly you can see a great return on your investment. Usually we focus on what not to do since there are so many pitfalls with direct mail.

Direct mail testDirect mail can be a very powerful marketing tool. When executed correctly you can see a great return on your investment. Usually we focus on what not to do since there are so many pitfalls with direct mail.

However, this time we will show you how and when direct mail works best. This is not a guide on what format your direct mail should be in, such as postcards versus letters, but instead about ways to use direct mail that work best.

Here are the best ways to use direct mail:

  1. Generate traffic to a location, a website or event: When you want to direct customers/prospects to a store, event or online location, direct mail is a great way to do that.
  2. Generate sales leads: You can target and reach qualified and interested leads easily with direct mail.
  3. Counter a competitive offer: Reaching out to customers and prospects that have received an offer from a competitor with and even better offer through direct mail gives you a chance to acquire the sale without the competitor knowing about your offer. Unlike online offers direct mail has some secrecy to it.
  4. Customer loyalty: Reaching out with direct mail to customers with special offers and giveaways is a great way to reward your customers.
  5. Customer acquisition or referrals: Include these in your direct mail as a way for your message to be passed on to friends and colleagues. Providing a recommendation to others is a powerful selling tool.
  6. Improve customer service: Sending a thank you note to your customers is a great way to make people feel appreciated.
  7. Cross sell or upsell: With variable data printing you can mention other things you offer that they may be interested in based on what they have already purchased. This can give you a great ROI boost.
  8. Announcements: Since direct mail it taken seriously it is a great way to get important information out to people quickly.
  9. Augmenting other media efforts: Direct mail ties in with so many other channels like email, web, social media, mobile, and so much more…
  10. Improving sales efficiency: Sending out direct mail that helps to qualify and clarify people before you sell to them is extremely important.
  11. Catalog, custom publications or newsletters: Each of these types of direct mail give you the ability to showcase new information or offers to the people most likely to buy from them.
  12. Combining mailings with other companies: Think value added or coupons for this option. Co-branded mailings work well when each brand has the same target audience.
  13. Building brand awareness: Direct mail is the most trusted form of marketing so using it to strengthen your brand is important. Remember the more they know your brand the more they buy from you.

Direct mail is more effective now than ever before. With less volume in mail boxes and ways to integrate direct mail with online and mobile content, there is now a bigger ROI for you to go after. When used as part of a multichannel campaign direct mail can significantly enhance your response.

Out of the 13 methods listed above what two could you start to use better right away? When you take the time to focus on what your customers and prospects need, you can better target your offers to meet them. Be the offer in their mail box that they could not wait to respond to!