Due largely to the fact that direct mail is still such a powerful and valuable marketing method, people receive a tremendous amount of it on a weekly basis. According to research reported on by HubSpot, 2.6 MILLION trees around the world are cut down each year to produce these types of materials. By some estimates, direct mail materials make up roughly 50% (or more, in some cases) of all mail shipped by the United States Postal Service each year. People get approximately six pieces of direct mail marketing materials each DAY and in just five days, enough of it is produced around the country to literally reach the moon if you lined them all up end-to-end.
All of this is to say that for businesses trying to reach their ideal audience through direct mail, they’re still facing something of an uphill battle for attention. People receive so much of it that they’ve become masters of tuning it out – they can decide in mere seconds whether or not something is worth opening or destined for the trash bin.
So how do you grab hold of the natural advantages that direct mail brings to the table while avoiding being thrown into the ever-present “junk mail” category? The answer, thankfully, is quite simple – you use some basic elements of direct mail design to your advantage.
Understand the Situation You Face
First thing’s first: some much-needed perspective. Many people think that the only goal of direct mail marketing is to encourage action on behalf of the reader. You spend a lot of time focusing on things like personalization and the perfect call-to-action, all in an effort to build anticipation and get someone to pick up the phone or stop by your location.
This is incorrect.
While this is A goal of direct mail, your number one goal is and should always be to get opened in the first place. You need to do whatever it takes to stand out in a crowded marketplace and successfully compete with every other piece of direct mail a person received that day. Starting your campaigns from this basic place will give you the perspective you need to make the right choices moving forward.
Direct Mail is a Visual Medium – Never Forget It
One of the reasons why direct mail is so effective in the first place is because it’s an inherently visual medium. You spend big money designing the perfect company logo, finding just the right font or picking colors that represent your product and your values at the same time. Let them do as much of the work for you as possible.
Try to keep the actual words in your mailer to an absolute minimum and let colorful illustrations, exciting photos of your product or service and other visual elements do a lot of the talking. This will go a long way towards not only making your piece more visually engaging (thus further separating it from the other materials they received that day), but also communicating your message in a much more powerful way than reams of word-filled paper ever could.
Color is Important, Too
The road to engagement is paved with human emotion and in direct mail design, there is no more effective way to tap into that emotion than with the use of color. A wide range of studies have been conducted over the years that reveal color has a massive impact on the way someone FEELS when reading or experiencing something.
Warm colors like red or orange, for example, can instantly spark a variety of emotions like comfort and warmth. Cooler colors like greens, blues and purples can trigger emotional responses like calmness. This means that depending on the type of action you’re trying to take, your use of color can be a gateway towards absolutely controlling the way someone FEELS when they read what you have to say.
Sit down with your team and think about what your intention is. Are you trying to get someone excited for your product or service? Do you want them to feel uneasy or worried about a problem they have, at which point you will reveal that the solution rests with what you have to say? Once you’ve nailed down what you’re trying to do, you can get to work picking colors that help you achieve that organically.
Appeal to the Senses
As you and your team get to work on your direct mailer design, it’s always important to remember that people have more senses than just sight. While what you can see is essential, sometimes just making an effort to appeal to another one of a person’s senses is all the difference you need to increase engagement in a powerful way.
Case in point: even doing something as simple as alternating paper stocks or finishes can literally make your materials FEEL different than anything else that may be in a person’s mailbox. Sleek, glossy finishes automatically give the impression of importance, which can sometimes be the attention-grabbing element you need to get someone to start reading – and finish.
The Size Factor
Another one of the best ways to instantly separate yourself from the competition is also one of the most subtle. Sometimes all you really need to attract the attention of your intended recipient is the right SIZE of direct mail material. If you think about the types of direct mail that you receive at your own home each day, a lot of them probably come in envelopes that at a glance are indistinguishable from one another. Breaking that form and going with something noticeably larger or noticeably smaller is a great way to subliminally say “my materials are different – and worth your attention”.
Use EVERY element of size and shape to your advantage. Experiment with larger envelopes that aren’t in a traditional “envelope” shape at all. Include something in the envelope to make your package lumpier or make it feel irregular – both of which are unique properties that can pay off big down the road. Many people use traditional envelopes because they’re cheap, yes. You might spend a little more money experimenting with size, but if your open and response rates increase accordingly, it was ultimately all worth it.
This is true even in the event that you’re not shipping something in an envelope at all, but are rather using postcards. Mail Shark offers a host of special sizes of postcards that many others do not, all of which can be an incredibly effective way to instantly attract someone’s attention just by being unique.
The Curiosity Factor
Finally, it’s always important to never underestimate just how powerful the curiosity factor can really be. It’s already been stated that including something in your envelope to make it feel lumpy or otherwise irregular is a great way to make it stand out from other materials. It’s also a great way to pique someone’s interest, getting their curiosity to demand that they open the envelope to see what’s inside.
Inexpensive items included in your mailer like pens, magnets and even a business card or two all go a long way towards using the curiosity factor to your advantage. Remember that people absolutely love free stuff – they can’t get enough of it. Making the decision to include something like this in your direct mail will check a lot of boxes in terms of the design elements you need to generate the reaction that you’re depending on.
Engagement Through Design
In the end, your direct mailer materials are more than just words on a page. They should be an experience in every sense of the word. Your design is your ability to control that experience from beginning to end, from how easy it is for a reader to notice your material in the first place to how they feel when they get to the call to action. The right direct mail design is an investment that can literally pay dividends for a lifetimes in terms of not just increased engagement, but also valuable response and customer loyalty as well.