Last week my colleague Matt Shanahan discussed improving your return on marketing investment (ROMI) by using direct mail designs that can be produced efficiently. IWCO Direct’s Creative Services team works closely with our partners in Product Engineering to ensure the direct mail we develop can be economically produced, but we also focus on designing direct mail pieces that are effective in driving increased response rates, rather than just showing off the latest design trends.
However, we sometimes run into initial resistance when recommending design changes. Parents everywhere can relate to the phase most kids go through when they want to dress themselves. There was a time when my son, Parker, wanted to wear his Darth Vader Halloween costume to every public event there was. Sports games, school, dinners out—he wanted to wear the black cape and don the mask.
The instinct of wanting what you want, even if it looks ridiculous to everyone else, never really goes away. It even applies to direct mail.
Direct Mail Design Must Apply Best Practices
More often than not, when a direct mail piece fails to produce, it’s because the piece doesn’t follow basic direct mail best practices. Best Practices like including a P.S., having dual readership paths, utilizing sidebars or buckslips, and including multiple calls to action can’t be overlooked. They’re fairly simple fixes, but sometimes clients are hesitant to change anything because they “like the way it looks now.”
Parents who have been through the outfit stage before will tell you that sometimes you just let your kid wear their Halloween costume—it’s just not worth the fight. However, designers everywhere will tell you that the fight is always worth it. That’s because applying best practices has a huge impact on response rates—that’s why they’re best practices.
Focus on What Matters—Response Rates
I understand a marketer’s inclination to stick with what they have. They’ve probably put a lot of work into their concept, and they think they’re checking all the boxes in terms of branding and offer. I’ve heard more than once that they don’t want their mailpiece to look like “traditional mail”; they want theirs to stand out. What they don’t realize is that they’re standing out in the wrong way. When it comes to effective direct mail designs, you have to put your personal preferences aside. It might look “boring” to you, but if it works, isn’t that what’s most important?
In fact, I’m often quoted as saying you can have the best design in the world, but if it doesn’t work, who cares? That’s why we start with a foundation of best practices and build from there, adding elements that are unique to their product or service to make it stand out among the crowd. But you must have the basics down—otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If there are elements a client feels strongly about, but don’t meet our best practices, we try to give them options on how to tweak the elements so they continue to meet their aesthetic, and also work in the mailbox. Our suggestions are not a critique of their creative ability. A lot of times, we really like the designs that clients furnish, but know they just haven’t been optimized for the direct mail channel. We’re not trying to take away their creativity, we’re only trying to channel that creativity in the right way for maximum response. Ultimately, that collaboration creates something that’s really unique and eye-catching and brings in a solid ROMI.
If your direct mail isn’t preforming as well as you would like, ask yourself if perhaps you’re wearing a Darth Vader costume in the wrong venue. If you’re not sure, contact me and our team will help get you in an outfit that will turn heads for all the right reasons.
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