Top 5 direct mail design best practices

Mike Gunderson
Top 5 direct mail design best practices

Key Takeaways:

  • How consumers engage with direct mail
  • 5 design best practices in direct mail
  • Why it’s important to stand out in the mail
A strategically-designed direct mail campaign will give you the best chance of standing out from your competitors and position you for success

When it comes to the components of your overall marketing strategy, it’s crucial to understand and employ design best practices for each medium to maximize your returns—and direct mail is no exception.

Your prospects engage with direct mail differently than other marketing mediums. According to the U.S. Postal Service, 81% of people sort through and read their mail every day, whereas only 20% of emails get opened. And, because four out of 10 of those who read their mail look forward to the activity, there is a higher likelihood that direct mail will capture the recipients’ attention and make a strong impact.

But sending an effective piece of direct mail starts with best practices, specifically when it comes to the design. Let’s explore some of the most effective direct mail design best practices to help you achieve maximum returns.

1.  Pull emotional strings

Studies show that direct mail inherently elicits a stronger and more emotional response than other marketing mediums. Therefore, when creating your next campaign’s direct mail design , think about who will be reading the mailer and what is important to that group of people. Is it savings, security, family, or something else? Inject elements that will further appeal to the recipients’ emotions by showing them throughout your direct mail’s design and copy how your product or service can make their lives better.

2.  Make the message personal

With rapid advancements in technology, marketers can now economically use variable-data-printing to personalize their design and copy to their target recipients. Think about what you know about your audience. When did they last buy from you? What is their birthday? Are they married? Do they have children? All of these circumstances can be incorporated into variable graphics and text to help fully customize the message and design. Choose carefully when personalizing to avoid the “big brother” perception that could turn prospects off.

3.  Keep the design simple

A big mistake marketers make when creating their direct mail design is simply trying to fit too much into a relatively small space. Overcrowding the design with too many images and lots of text can make it hard to read, subsequently overwhelming and confusing the audience. Whether you’re sending a postcard or a different type of direct mail piece, remember, white space is your friend. Incorporating an appropriate amount of white, or negative, space will help guide the recipient’s eye through the message and directly to the call to action. Keep it simple. Stay away from offers that require the target to take complicated steps to redeem.

4.  Emphasize the envelope

Think of the envelope as a store window. Unless you can entice people to take a peek inside, the mail won’t get opened. Too many marketers place well-designed direct mail pieces in generic, bland envelopes. Consider making the envelope stand out by using bright colors, enticing or alluring text, different sizes, shapes, and textures, real stamps, or handwritten addresses. Whatever you do, don’t overlook the importance of the envelope. It’s the first thing people see, and first impressions matter.

5.  Remember that texture matters

As humans, we enjoy the tactile experience of giving and receiving tangible objects, and the sensation of touch is a powerful and fundamental human sense. Research even shows that tangible materials leave more of a lasting impression. Therefore, to make an already memorable experience even more enjoyable, give direct mail pieces a little bit of unexpected texture. Use chunky or velvety card stock or incorporate raised or metallic print to allow recipients to fully engage with the products.

A strategically and creatively designed direct mail campaign will give you the best chance of standing out from your competitors and the dozens of other companies who are also vying for the attention of the target audience. Being able to rise above the crowd with high-quality and intentional direct mail designs, stellar copy, and personalization throughout your mailers will position you and your campaigns for success.

Need help designing your next direct mail campaign? Drop us a line.

Mike Gunderson

Mike is the founder and president of Gundir, the award-winning direct marketing agency. Since 2003, Gundir has helped businesses drive new leads and close more sales through traditional offline channels, especially direct mail.

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