Make Your Mail Stand Out From the Rest

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Every day, direct marketers send letters and mailers to solicit responses from business audiences. The targets and mailers are extremely busy. Somewhere in all that mayhem they might read their mail, though it is more likely that they will just glance at it.


The rest gets tossed, and many hours of creative writing and design and thousands of dollars in production costs are wasted.


So why didn't it work? Direct response is tricky, and there is no one secret to success. Here, however, are tips that should help:


Use the right list. Your best bet is a list that contains the names of prospects that already expressed direct interest in your company. When you know the specific interests of your audience, you stand a better chance to craft a meaningful message that won't get "junked."


This "A" list most likely will come from your company's own database. Hopefully, your database already contains names of customers and prospects who "raised their hands" and inquired about your products or services as a result of ads, public relations or trade shows.


Save your mailer from the "sieve." Some people on your list may not open their own mail. The person who does open the mail often is called a gatekeeper, but I don't like that expression. I think these people should be called "sieves." Every piece of mail of a certain size, color, style, etc. will pass right through this sieve and into oblivion. To ensure that your mailer gets through to the right person, you have to design it so that it won't fit through the sieve.


If your mailer looks important or at least unusual, the sieve will have to stop and think about it. Most likely they will pass it along to the boss, not wanting to make a mistake by discarding something that could be of interest. My favorite tactic for beating the sieve is to create a piece with dimension. Boxes are the best. Tubes are good as well, though the shape limits what you can stuff inside.


If your budget won't cover a box or tube, try an oversized or padded envelope. When forced to go the envelope route, I like the padded variety. The padding implies something valuable or important is inside.


Push the envelope. Dimensional mailers can be very effective, but they are expensive and are mandatory only when you know you have to beat the sieve. Usually you can be reasonably sure that your mailer at least will reach the target. But you still have to ensure that your mailer gets opened.


Look at the mail on your desk. Chances are most of it is good old standard white #10 envelopes. Imagine your message is hidden somewhere in all those envelopes. What are the chances that it will be seen, let alone stand out from the others? Not much.


The first thing you must do to get your mailer noticed is break out of the #10. Supersize your mailer. A larger and unique size literally stands out from a stack of mail. If you are bold enough, you can even go with a round mailer.


To really stand out, break away from envelopes completely and print your mailer on an interesting material. Digital presses can print on metal, wood, plastic - almost anything you can think of. And if the digital press can't handle it, there's always silk screening.


If your company makes a product that can be used as the mailer itself, print your message on the actual product and create a promotional piece and product sample in one.


Of course, the wilder you get, the more your costs rise, especially mailing costs. But there are cheaper ways to get attention.


Whether you send your DM piece in an envelope or as a self-mailer, it can get a lot of attention with bright, bold colors. When choosing a palette for your envelope, push to be unique. Consider magenta, yellow, orange, bright green and bright blue. I am not advocating going overboard, but a little color goes a long way.


As a designer, I would like to think that design alone compels prospects to open a DM piece. But I realize that is not the case. That is why some of my best friends are copywriters. Combining bold graphics with targeted teaser copy on the outside is the best way to get opened. There are theories that counter my point and warn that teaser copy can backfire - alerting your prospects that what's contained within is a sales pitch.


Make your mailer meaningful. Take a moment and think about your day. Your week. The past quarter. I am sure you have been nagged by problems in some aspect of your business. Your computer network may be inadequate for the growing needs of your sales force. Or you may feel that you spend too much on business travel.


Now imagine that a piece of mail came across your desk and in big, bold, colorful type made this offer, "Upgrade your computer network and cut travel expenses by 40 percent." You probably would read that one.


Once you have a reader's attention, deliver the juicy part of the message and make an offer upfront. Even interested readers may only scan your copy for five seconds, so it does not pay to create a build-up that fails to make your strongest points until the end of your message.


Finally, narrow the focus of your message as much as possible. The real power of direct mail is that you have the chance to target your message to a specific group of prospects. A very specific offer that solves specific problems will have the most effect.


You are not powerless against preventing your art from becoming junk mail. Always remember the definition: something of little meaning, worth or significance. Pin these words on your message board and every time you design a DM piece or write a letter, be honest with yourself. Think how you would fare versus the "sieve."


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