Clients often ask us to look at their direct mail pieces to see if we can find any areas that could be improved. These pieces may be new designs from the client’s internal marketing department before they are sent to production or they could be the client’s current mailpiece after it has been in the market for a while and is producing less than favorable response. We call this process a Creative Audit.
When we receive mailpieces for a Creative Audit, we make sure best practices for direct mail design are being met. This isn’t necessarily a full redesign or a creative makeover; it’s making sure that what’s being used is as focused and prepared for success as it possibly can be. That includes making sure the flow is right, the call to action (CTA) is prominent, production set up is aligned to our printing specifications and optimized, and ensuring the piece meets postal regulations.
I approach a direct mail Creative Audit the same way a recipient approaches their mailbox: I open the piece like anyone else would and see where my eyes wander, what message and tone I’m getting and whether or not the piece does its job of captivating me and selling its product or service. I give it the same amount of “eye-time” as I would if the piece had been mailed to me. Sometimes I get through the entire letter; other times my interest is only held for a few seconds. The first run through, that’s all the time I’ll give it.
Afterwards, I do a postmortem to answer some critical questions. Do I know what the key benefits are? Do I know what the offer is and how to act on it? Am I interested in learning more? If I can’t answer those questions, it means there’s a problem with the layout, design or copy. More often than not, the piece doesn’t work because the key benefits, offer and CTA weren’t prominent enough and the piece itself didn’t flow correctly to keep my eyes moving through that information.
Here are four ways to avoid those pitfalls and tune up your direct mail design to ensure that your mailpiece is working to its full potential:
1. Don’t bury the important stuff
Even if the recipient only glances at the piece, he or she should still be able to see what you’re selling and how to buy it. Sometimes marketers try too hard to be subtle and the offer isn’t made apparent until a recipient has read the entire letter. Those techniques are typically a waste of time in the direct mail world—let your audience know right off the bat what you’re offering, why it’s great and how they can get it. Make the offer and CTA large and in multiple places so it’s reinforced and can’t be missed.
2. Make the copy work harder
A lot can get lost within copy, and having a lot of copy can scare away potential customers. Cut up big blocks of copy into manageable, bite-sized pieces that are easily skimmed. Use subheads, bullets or other interrupters to break up the copy and make it seem less daunting. It’s also important not to try to cover too much in your copy. Streamline your message and limit your copy to the biggest selling points and the CTA.
3. Create multiple points of entry
People absorb information in different ways, so it’s a good idea to state key benefits and other important information in multiple locations and reiterate it in a variety of ways. That way, no matter where the recipient’s eye lands or what kind of material they are drawn to (graphics, short bullet points, text, etc.), they will still receive the most important information: the key benefits, offer and CTA. Think in headlines, letter copy, sidebars and the P.S.
Speaking of which, I always recommend letters have a P.S.; it’s direct mail 101. Not only is it a common convention that people are used to seeing in real letters, but a lot of times, the P.S. is one of the first (and sometimes only) things a person reads. Having a P.S. gives your reader another point of entry into the letter, can act as an engagement tool, and when done correctly, it will inform them about the bare bones of the offer and CTA.
4. Keep your direct mail design simple
Too much emphasis on design, color, photos and graphic elements and not enough emphasis on key benefits, offer and CTA can drive a mailpiece’s effectiveness way down. Keep the mailpiece simple and eye-catching so it can be an attention-grabber, an aid for visual learners and a flow creator. Let it direct the recipient’s eye throughout the form and to the most important messaging points.
Designing a mailpiece around the core message often means looking at the end product through the eyes of the recipient; if you aren’t drawn to it on first glance, chances are they won’t be, either. The practices above, when conducted by experienced designers, can make sure that your message doesn’t get lost in the mailpiece or in the minds of potential customers.
If you’d like a Creative Audit of your own, contact me or your IWCO Direct sales executive today.
Subscribe to SpeakingDIRECT to have new articles delivered to your inbox as they post. We promise to keep it fresh and interesting.