How can I add impact to my direct mail campaign?

I have confessed on my blog before that I am a direct mail junkie.  But I really do believe that many companies that use direct mail don’t use it as effectively as they possibly can. So, you now may be asking “OK, Mr. Know-it-all print dude!  How DO I use direct mail more effectively, and WHY?”


The why is pretty simple.  Direct mail – if done properly – can cut through all the other direct-mail-marketingmarketing messages your customer is receiving, and even encourage action on your customer’s part.  With the constant bombardment of ads now on websites and social media, with newspapers ramping down production, with telemarketing becoming even MORE annoying than it has (and the national “Do Not Call Registry not as effective as it should be), and with email marketing, customers are overwhelmed with advertising that seems intrusive.  Add to that very little of it provides a call to action that is appealing, or a means to respond that is easy.  Direct mail can provide a fresh and different voice in the cacophony, and if it’s personalized, can add a lifespan of two seconds more to your direct mail piece – that’s two more seconds to get your message across.


postcardoverview3I did a recent post about how to set up files for Variable Data Print, but let’s look at the levels of which you can take your direct mail.

  • Basic personalization – this is not just the address block, but the recipient’s name prominently on the piece, such that they see it and stop to read.  How many of us take that extra two seconds if our name is part of a salutation?
  • Call-to-Action – Add a call to action along with the name, and you can further engage the reader.  For example, I’ll read something that has copy in big font saying “HEY, JOHN PROTHERO – TAKE 15% OFF ON YOUR NEXT VISIT TO….”
  • Call-to-action married with way to respond – make sure that the personalized call to action has an easy way for the recipient to respond.  Provide an 800-number, or generic email, or even provide the name of a specific contact with a direct number (which can also be a part of the variable if there are multiple agents and they are assigned specific customers).
  • Call-to-Action with a generic website – this one takes you even further, because I believe most people would rather stay slightly anonymous and NOT make a call, but they’ll gladly sit at their computer and go to a website to find out more.
  • Call-to-Action with a pURL (personalized URL) – the concept behind a pURL is that your customer can go to a personalized landing page, with content and product targeted to them. You can also capture more data at this point, which provides you with even MORE chances to do personalized mailing.
  • Track it – many CRMs have a way to track responses, either by manually entering the information, or (if using a pURL), automatically tracking the visits, and captured data.
  • Don’t stop! – the BIGGEST mistake isVDatacard_example(4) doing a direct mail piece once – it HAS to be part of an overall campaign.  The best thing about direct mail marketing is that you can change the message slightly with each mailing – change the design slightly, the call-to-action, the pURL – anything that makes it look “fresh” to the recipient.
  • Make sure it looks GOOD! – I think I can speak for most of us that even if a piece is highly personalized, has a good call-to-action, if it looks like someone designed it in MS Word, or there’s too much copy, or they use Times New Roman as the font, we’re likely to toss it out.  Your message, your investment, is trash.  So make it a GOOD investment by hiring a designer who can design for direct mail.  Keep the copy simple, make sure the design looks good and matches your brand.  Keep the contact information concise and the font readable.

Direct mail can be a very powerful tool!  But make sure you have a good plan, a good execution, and a good follow up.

Connect with John on Google+Twitter and LinkedIn.


About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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