Why They’re Not (at All) the Same
Sometimes direct mail gets a bad rep. Why? Because it’s commonly mistaken for junk mail. But other than being mail, these two have nothing in common. Direct mail only falls into the category of junk mail when it’s poorly executed. When done right, direct mail targets, entices, and benefits a specific customer. Someone, who through market research, is most likely in need of your product or service. It’s designed with purpose in mind, is backed by research and data, drives audiences with calls-to-action, and is highly customized and personalized. Take a quick read to further understand how direct mail differs from junk – and why it should be a key part of your company’s marketing strategy.
Direct Mail Starts with a Good List
The biggest difference between direct mail and junk mail is a good list. A list that’s backed by data, and one that targets the right people – not just any people. Before making an effective, comprehensive or specified list, first review the mailing lists you currently have. Who are you sending mail to? Who have you sent to in the past? Are they the right audience(s)? Are there more audiences (or more specific audiences) you should be targeting?
A wrong list will fail to target those who’d be interested in buying from you, and will often also target those who’d have no interest at all (cough, cough – junk mail). For example, sending “get 10% off your first order with us” to a loyal customer, or even worse, trying to sell meat to a vegetarian. Junk mail goes to anyone and everyone, and often with irrelevant and impersonal information. Plus, it’s often a waste of money, as many of those unspecified and uninterested customers will throw your mail out without a second thought.
In contrast, direct mail is sent to people in data-driven lists, and with messaging that makes sense for their specific customer profiles. Compiling this strategic list makes all the difference in targeting the right customers and catching their attention. Direct mail, unlike junk, is sent to direct people for direct reasons. In fact, 42% of recipients read or scan direct mail that’s relevant to them.
Types of Direct Mail Lists
Direct mail lists come in many forms, so it’s good to take a look at them all before deciding what will work for your company and its marketing needs. Here are the 4 most common ones:
House List: A list you’ve collected on your own time of prospects and customers you’ve made connections with. People on this list are likely to respond, because they’ve already responded to previous offerings.
Response List: A list you’ve put together of people who’ve responded to and reacted to your outreach before. Whether they’ve purchased something or have asked for more information, these people have some level of interest in your offerings.
Compiled List: A list of candidates that went through screener questions and possessed a characteristic or set of characteristics you searched for. These characteristics are fixed, and are most commonly age, gender, location, or income level.Another characteristic could be new movers – those who just moved in and are looking to become loyal customers of your services.
Segmented List: A list curated through a high-tech analysis platform that defines key prospects. This type of list accesses information far beyond age, income, and gender, and gives you the ability to micro-target your market for more extreme results and higher ROI. This type of targeted list also helps you avoid sending to “do-not-mail” contacts.
Direct Mail Has Personally Relevant Messaging
After you decide on a list, the next step is deciding on the right messaging. Direct mail isn’t just about knowing who to send to, but how to speak to them to get them to notice, develop interest, and potentially buy from you. Look into your customers’ buying habits. What entices them? What offerings are they most interested in? And, how can you best reach them? Knowing the proper way to connect with your current and potential customers will help your mailer stand out. Don’t just use a cheesy, typical slogan or generic text. Craft words that highlight who you are, what makes you unique, and why they should use your surfaces or buy your offerings (over others). Make your mailer personal by adding their name, incorporating content that makes sense to their age and other demographics, and including offers applicable to them. Lastly, a clear call-to-action can educate the recipient in how to respond in the most efficient and convenient way possible.
Direct Mail Has Purposeful & Impactful Design
Lastly, once you’ve crafted effective messaging, design your mailer with intentional and engaging visuals. Make sure you’re thinking through the following key design aspects:
Sizing: Think about what size mailer makes sense for your audience, and what will help yours stand out in the mailbox among others. And, in terms of font size – think over what message is most important to get across. Use sizing hierarchy to emphasize words like “free” or “grand opening”.
Layout: Always consider how you want the viewer’s eye to be lead across your mailer. One good technique is the “s-curve” layout – which leads the eye down and across by using imagery on the left and words on right, or a similar variation.
Graphics: Using unique and eye-catching graphics is a great way to make your business stand out from the rest. Be sure to use high quality images as well as consistent branding elements – such as a logo, fonts, colors, and textures. And, go further by using variable images depending on who’s receiving the mailer to make it resonate with the viewer.
Color: Pops of color are also a great way to spice things up – especially when they’re not expected, or to emphasize a call to action. For example, use pops of color on new services, departments, or special offers, or to emphasize a QR code.
Altogether, the key to good mailer design it to ensure it resonates with the customer and emphasizes who you are and the message you’re trying to send. For more help with mailer design, specifically, check out our blog on current direct mail trends.
Now that we’ve gone through what makes direct mail, well, direct – we hope you can see that it is drastically different than unsolicited junk mail. If you’re looking to make a change with your direct mailers or simply want to learn more, contact Strata’s experts.
Straight from Our Creative Designer
If you’ve read any of Strata’s blogs, you know that we believe in the power and effectiveness of good marketing. We believe not only in planning, strategy, organization, touchpoints, messaging, and call to actions, but in the great design. Without great design, you could be missing out on a ton of potential customers through failure to grab their attention. Because design has such a wide range of options (nearly endless), we’ve compiled a shortlist of design trends you should keep in mind when planning and executing your next marketing campaign.
Revitalized Layout & Structure
Minimalism is a buzzword that simply never goes out of style. Minimalist design is clean, simple, and sleek, and because of its bare nature, makes the viewer pay attention to the most important details on the page or in the email, letting them know exactly what you want them to do (for instance, a call-to-action) or what you want them to understand. When designing minimally, don’t be afraid to use white space, interesting hierarchy, and unique spacing. Mix it up and surprise your audience with something different and less busy than the rest of your work.
Digitally, audiences are now looking for “simple, sleek, easy-to-use interfaces. If you’re unsure how to simplify your website for a more minimalist design, use tools like eye-tracking tests to see where your viewers are focusing. Once you have eye-tracking data, you can simplify your website to include just those areas that are important to and effective on viewers. It’s also important to eliminate unnecessary pop-ups that can distract from relevant content. “Ensure the user journey is purposeful by opting for simple and time-saving design features so they can easily search for items of interest.”
In marketing, we’re almost always telling a story. It’s important to make sure that the story is not only conveyed by words – but by imagery and layout too. “…more than ever, consumers are looking to buy from brands they can relate to, that feel approachable, relevant and authentic. To achieve a genuine connection, designers and marketers should use storytelling.” Make your story even stronger and increasingly significant to customers with personalization and tailored content, product value, and authenticity. One of the best ways to tell your story is through video, which is why we’ve just launched our new YouTube channel. Take a look to see how we tell our story(s) through imagery and video.
The “s-curve” layout is a unique way of leading the viewers eye down or across a webpage, email, or even a printed document. It’s formed by using imagery on the left, words on the right, and then words on the right, and imagery on the left (or another similar variation) to bring the viewer’s focus from left to right, back and forth. This helps potential and current customers better understand the marketing they’re looking through, but also keeps their attention as they do so.
Spruce Up Your Imagery
This type of design can help your company stand out among the rest of the modern, boxy design that’s more popularly used. In today’s digital world, “it is so rare to get a handwritten note from someone that when we do, it feels extra personal.” Adding a small sketch or unique handwritten note to your design, without overdoing it, can increase its authenticity, personalization, and the overall personality of your marketing materials.
Iconography has been hugely popular for a long time, mostly due to its easy-to-digest nature. It’s a simplistic way to get certain company ideas and information across, such as product offerings, features, and company values. Yet, these days, “icons have been granted much more visual prominence. Conveying brand personality, unique artworks and most importantly, clearly communicating the intended message”. We’re now using them for much more than just features, and making them a lot more interesting to look at than just a simplistic phone symbol. Illustrated and unique icons can be used to help your company stand apart from the crowd, and distinctively illustrate your brand. “Aside from speeding up loading times with lightweight graphics, icons—especially zhuzhed up icons—soften brand identities and encourage an emotional connection to be made with the audience.”
Since the beginning of 2020, reality has often seemed very surreal, making all of us question what we really know to be true and trustworthy. “Considering how mixed up –– and messed up –– day-to-day life often seems; it’s no wonder graphic design is exploring imagery that bends the edges of reality.” Using strange, juxtaposing, and even somewhat jarring elements can catch a viewer’s attention yet also feel oddly familiar if they’re more adapted to strange happenings and visuals. Play around with imagery that tells the story in a more imaginative way, and see how your audience responds. It just might strike a chord!
Artwork is beautiful – but data is important. Your customer may like how your brand and imagery looks, but they’ll likely love imagery that conveys facts and figures they can trust and understand. Data can be overwhelming when it’s simply delivered using a ton of words and numbers, so using imagery to make the information more readable, understandable, and visually appealing is often the way to go. And, if done right, “prospects can be encouraged to become customers through data.”
Refresh Your Branding Design
Pops of Color
Even if your brand is more neutral and duller, you can always spice things up with a few pops of color at the right place and time. A good splash of color can help bring a message to life without losing brand identity – if done correctly. Here’s a good example from Airbnb. Their brand colors are primarily a bright magenta/red and white, but here, they use a ton of colors to energize a host award without taking away from their overall brand image.
No matter who your audience – young, middle-aged, or older, bright and bold type is exciting and eye-catching. It draws the reader in, if used in the right place(s), and catches anyone’s attention for at least a few seconds, even from far away. Plus, large type provides maximum readability, as long as the font isn’t too out-there.
Incorporate Cultural Happenings
Socially Conscious Design & Authentic Representation
Social consciousness. Diversity. Representation. Understanding. All of these – in today’s world and into the future, are extremely important and at the top of many customer’s minds. In our current society, “design and culture are integrally connected.” Showing a better future through imagery and design can often be the best way to facilitate change. This year and in 2020 especially, “social unrest and movements for anti-racism have captured national attention,” so you were remiss as a company if you didn’t at least acknowledge or even take a stance on these issues. Socially conscious design with authentic representation of several ethnicities, cultures, sexualities, and more has become a huge part of graphic design practices. “Within the theme of socially conscious design, key trends include authentic representation, sustainability, and celebrating diversity and imperfection.”
Sustainability & Natural Elements
Environmental concern. Sustainability. Eco friendly practices. These, too are at the forefront of today’s initiatives, especially after a tough year where many of us have been consistently indoors. We were truly forced to take a better look at our outside world, and our impact on it. Many companies, including Strata (through Operation Eco) are focused on preserving the earth and sustaining the health of our planet. Through natural imagery and sustainable design your company can further convey your care and efforts, and give your audience a sense of peace and tranquility. “As consumers think about waste and their environmental footprint more than ever before…expect to see more and more packaging designs that emphasize sustainability through natural iconography, neutral color palettes, and eco-conscious materials.”
Optimism & Support
Lastly, although we’ve had a rough last year or so, we can finally see brighter days ahead, and so can our customers! Show your support and emphasize this brightness with optimistic design and “good news” layouts. Make your audience feel a sense of trust for your company by showing that you care for them and empathize with their current struggles.
Looking to implement some of these unique design practices into your marketing campaigns, but still not sure where to start? Contact Strata.