Results-Driven Direct Mail Design

All Eyes on Your Direct Mail Piece

Tips for creating a standout direct mail piece through design, messaging & personalization 

Designing a mail piece that delivers results involves a certain finesse. After all, unlike an email that contains a direct link to a sale or service, a physical mail piece needs to engage recipients enough to take an external action. 

So can a snappy design really increase the likelihood that recipients make the long slog to a retail store? As it turns out, yes. The more engaging your piece looks, the more likely it is to be handled, read or skimmed by the recipient, and the longer it tends to stick around on the top of the mail pile reinforcing your message.  

While designing, remember that it’s crucial to balance aesthetics with USPS requirements and to consider postage savings options to deliver the highest possible response rates.

A checklist for creating a standout mail piece involves three core components: the design, the messaging, and the personalization. 

We don’t care what anyone says, size matters. In addition to keeping your piece in alignment with USPS requirements for your specific category of mail, the dimensions of your mail piece determines how well it stands out in your recipients’ mailbox. Designing a mail piece with a slightly larger size, interactive folds, or choosing specialty finishes and substrates can also increase engagement, keeping your mail piece in hands for longer.  For instance, an oversized mailer at 11″ x 13″ is close to the length of a mailbox but still qualifies as a flat mailer under USPS regulations. The larger size provides plenty of extra real estate for your design without sending costs through the roof. 

Also linked to increased response rates are enhancing elements like embossing, foil, ultraviolet coatings, die-cutting and tactile features that appeal to the recipient’s sense of touch. Specialty finishes are especially important when marketing higher-end or niche-market products, where the mail piece needs to reflect a more upscale image.

Graphically speaking, authenticity is always better. Choose images or photography with your specific audience in mind, that align with your messaging and stay true to the visual identity of your brand. Incorporating strategic use of white space and colors, and ensuring your printer can reproduce them in a way that’s consistent with your brand standards, reinforces trust and can even elicit certain emotions

Rule numero uno for direct mail copywriting is ‘clarity’. A concise message trumps cleverness and grandiose vocabulary eleven times out of ten. If you can pepper in humor or wit without diluting your core message, by all means do so… then send us your resume. Don’t feel compelled to fill every space with content to get your money’s worth. In fact, a few simple, strong words can amplify your message and garner better results.  

Consider the audience’s demographics and interests while writing, after all, you’ve got the attention of the recipient for roughly two seconds so use it wisely! Review the contacts on your mailing list and look for patterns among your existing customers. Are there recurrent trends in their buying habits? Common complaints or pain points? Do they tend to fall within a certain age bracket or location? Understanding specifics on who you are targeting allows you tailor your messaging to achieve more impact.

Unless your piece is contained in an envelope, you’ll most likely need a strong headline to draw the recipient in. Generally speaking, your headline should be no more than 8 words, and include all the information your customer needs to know even if they don’t make it through the rest of your piece. Your piece should also feature unique activation codes, and typefaces that are easy to read. The most important element is your call to action, responsible for roughly 40% of your campaign’s success. Keep your CTA short, and keep it clear. Call Thysse’s mailing experts today! See what we did there? 

Blanket mailings like EDDM offer the highest cost savings per piece, and can be extremely effective for certain messages. However generally speaking, the more personalized your mail is to each recipient, the higher the response rates tend to be. Response rates for non-personalized mail pieces average about 2%, while personalized pieces have response rates of 6%. For all the math haters out there, that’s a 300% increase!

One of the most efficient ways to tailor your design and messaging to specific recipients is with a digital print option called Variable Data Printing (VPD). VDP digital printing offers flexibility of design during press runs that allows text and graphics within each printed piece to become interchangeable as needed. Each piece can be printed with a different recipient’s name, a unique barcode for tracking, even a unique promotion based on the zip code’s median income. 

VPD extends far beyond text variations. It also applies to things like color and image choices. For example, say you own a store that sells pet supplies. VDP allows you to tailor each mail piece to feature a dog, a cat or a parakeet based on each customer’s past purchase history. Likewise, if you’re a clothing retailer running a sale on t-shirts, you can feature a different color shirt on the cover of your mail piece depending on the gender of the recipient.  

Smart design decisions not only drive strong direct mail response rates, they can also ensure you aren’t paying unnecessarily high postage rates. Balancing the two components in accordance with your goals will give your next direct mail campaign the highest chance for delivering results.  

A strong mail piece involves careful consideration of your budget, target audience and goals. If you need some pointers, or have a unique idea for a mailing you’ve been dying to execute, give us a shout! If you’re more the ‘explore-on-your-own’ type, get the full rundown on mailing services here.