Writing is an art; writing for direct mail is a science.
There are rules to follow if you want your piece to resonate with your audience and generate action. Focus on being memorable, informative and succinct-and adding a little humor or personality never hurts.
First things first—do you have a headline that grabs? A headline determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. Typically 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will continue reading. You need a headline that immediately grabs attention, informs and sells. Here are eight examples of proven headline tactics.
The second most critical element is the call-to-action/offer. In the strategy module, we talked about having a singular focus for your piece. That is also true with the offer. Clearly identify your focused offer or benefit and stick to supporting it with other elements. Like headlines, offers have rules too.
Don't simply say, "contact us for more information." Specifically ask them to visit your site and give the address or direct them to social media using your Twitter handle or Facebook Profile.
Make sure your offer is relevant to the audience. A mortgage refinancing offer will not be particularly helpful to the recent college grad while an offer for a new cell phone with social media and photo capabilities might not appeal to the 65+ crowd.
Exclusivity can be anything that feels special or unique, giving your audience something they can only get with your direct mailer. You can segment the offer to a loyal customer with, "Because you are one of our favorite customers," or a more acquisition-focused piece that says, "First-time customers get 25% off."
Customers won't feel secretly rewarded after they scour your piece and find that cleverly-hidden offer. They want it bold, upfront and clearly defined.
Time-sensitive offers are an excellent way to spur immediate action. Create urgency by limiting redemption periods or events to a set amount of time. This tactic also allows for more accurate tracking.
Some of the most popular offers:
- Buy one, get one free
- A prize awarded for a specified action
- Price discount
- Be the first!
- Complete a survey
- Free sample
- Consultation - free or reduced
Besides your headline and offer, you'll need supporting body copy. Keep it short and concise and restate the offer.
Short and Snappy
Limit body copy to three paragraphs or less consisting of three to five sentences. Avoid complex sentence structure. Breaking up body copy into bullets, subheaders and adding extra spacing helps keep the reader focused and organized as they navigate the piece. Repeat the offer or benefits in a slightly different way to reinforce the message.
If you want the reader to do something, you must first make them feel something. If you are selling a new car, paint a picture for your customers of how great they will look or perform in their new car. Write in a human, conversational tone to avoid sounding like a robot.
Tell them a story. Story formats are more successful because the audience can connect. Walk your audience through a complete picture of how your service or product will make them more efficient, healthier, happier, etc. Incorporating wit, humor, or intrigue are excellent tools to keep your audience engaged.
Here are two examples of headlines and supporting body copy.
Which one would you choose?
Don't forget the basics. If you want customers to come see your new store, include your phone number, address and directions. Contact information has evolved to include Facebook, Twitter and websites, so if you have digital channels, include them. This helps drive online behavior and creates a multi-channel experience with your brand. With digital information at customers' fingertips, most will go online to research before they ever make a purchase.
There are some beautiful fonts out there, but not all translate to a clear, quick read. The best fonts for direct mail are san serif (does not have the small projecting feature at the end of the stroke). I suggest Arial, Century Gothic, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Optima, Tahoma and Verdana. These are standard system fonts.
Variable data is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file. For example, a set of personalized letters, each with the same basic layout, can be printed with a different name, address and product picture on each letter.