We’ve talked a lot in the past about finding the right tone and format for your direct marketing message—for instance, keeping financial offers in official formats like a #10 envelope, and entertainment offers in promotional layouts with brighter colors and graphics. What we don’t often talk about is the fact that we often present a wide variety of direct mail formats to our clients, ranging from promotional to official, and everything in between.
It may seem a bit counterintuitive to offer a financial institution some of our more unique formats when we often preach about how important it is to keep the tone in line with the creative. Trust me, there’s a reason behind the madness and it’s to find out what the client likes, and just as important, what they don’t like. The best way I’ve heard it explained (so far), is by using a wedding dress analogy. Listen, I have two boys—I’ve never gone wedding dress shopping and have no plans to. That being said, I work with a lot of women who have. One of my coworkers and fellow blogger, Ashley Leone, was even a wedding dress consultant for a while. When I was explaining how we present a variety of creative to clients, she said that she took the same approach with her bridal clients.
Making Options Tangible Gives Us Confirmation on What’s Liked and What’s Not
Ashley said, “I’d show them a wide variety of dresses and make them try them on—even if they came in knowing they want a big ballgown, I have them try on a more form-fitting mermaid.” Why? Because seeing your options in real life can be a very different experience than simply trying to visualize them.
How do wedding dresses relate to direct mail design? A client can come in with a firm conviction that they want a standard letter, but after doing a creative audit, our team determines that a self-mailer would help them stand out more in the mailbox, drive curiosity, and ultimately gain more leads. We could just make the suggestion to them, but that wouldn’t be nearly as impactful as showing them how their marketing message would translate into a self-mailer. So we provide both options, identify the pros and cons of each, and let them make the decision.
Of her gown-fitting experiences, Ashley added, “I’d remind them that they don’t know how they’ll look in the dress until they try it on.” The same could be said for direct marketing: you might think that your message or offer doesn’t lend itself to a certain direct mail format or tone, but until you see your copy, colors, and graphics in place, you don’t really know how it will pop off the page.
Genuine Reactions Provide Us with Clear Direction on Direct Mail Formats
“Once they looked in the mirror, there would be one of three reactions: disgust, shock, or unconditional love,” Ashley said. “And all three reactions were really informative and gave us clear direction. If she hated the new dress, great! Now we know that she gave it a fair shake and we can all go look at ballgown dresses with confidence. If she’s surprised by how much she doesn’t hate the mermaid one, that’s helpful too—it tells us that she hasn’t really given all her options fair consideration. Maybe she’ll end up going with the ballgown in the end, but by broadening her options, we can breathe a bit easier knowing she isn’t going to doubt her decision later.” But what if she loved it?
“If she loves it, then more power to everyone. She ends up with the dress of her dreams, and I get the satisfaction of knowing I helped her find the dress—the one she probably wouldn’t have even considered before.”
I can relate to that feeling of satisfaction, even though I’m still not 100% clear on what a mermaid dress even means. (Does the bride have to swim down the aisle? Ashley showed me some pictures; I still don’t get it.) My clients don’t typically have as much of an emotional or gut-reaction response as someone shopping for a wedding dress, but their reactions and feedback help us in the same way it helped Ashley. A clear “no” on the self-mailer and “yes—exactly” on the standard letter tells us that they’ve really thought this through and have a clear vision they want executed.
A lot of times, there’s a “huh” moment, where the client realizes there might be a better direction to go in. Even if they don’t like the more “out there” creative, they often are able to tell us why, or can point out specific elements that we should avoid, and vice-versa. That feedback gives us clear direction on what kind of direct mail format and design elements the client likes and where we can push the envelope on design (no pun intended). That information is invaluable to us as we move forward with finalizing campaign details and developing testing moving forward.
The key message here is that you don’t know what you like until you try. At IWCO Direct, we push you to try different marketing tactics and creative that we believe will grab the attention of your audience. Send me a note to start learning about your options and about how seeing your direct marketing in a new dress can spur new creative and better results.
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