Top Tips to Design an Effective Direct Mailpiece from Amplified Mail’s Creative Director

Designing a direct mailpiece presents a different challenge than creating an email design or a social media post: it’s a single printed piece that has to tell enough of a story to drive a consumer online or in-store without a clickable direct link. So it’s vital that a piece captivates quickly with a professional look and standout messaging.

We spoke with Rene Bonin, Creative Director at Amplified Mail, about the basic principles of designing a mailpiece. He shared six standout tips for creating a piece that delivers results.

1. Understand Your Audience

Direct mail is a unique form of advertising that comes with a captive audience—from the mailbox to the front door. Before you start designing your piece, Bonin suggests taking time to understand who you are targeting and what emotion you want to evoke from them.

“Consider what an entire audience may gravitate toward, not just what you like.”

For example, a luxury car brand may send a sleek postcard with limited copy to convey an aspirational feeling to potential customers. A local veterinarian might use cute pictures of puppies and kittens to encourage pet owners to bring theirs in for a checkup.

2. Less Is More

According to Bonin, you have only a few seconds to grab a person’s attention, so avoid clutter. If you try to say too much or include too many different images, it becomes difficult for consumers to know what to respond to. Instead, have a primary message and let the entire piece drive that home.

“Don’t feel compelled to fill every corner to get your money’s worth. You can be heard a lot louder by whispering than by shouting.”

As you’re designing, Bonin suggests that you think aesthetically. Experiment with drop shadow to set primary text apart from the rest. Make background images lighter or more transparent so that your copy isn’t lost in dark colors or harsh lines. Keep messages short and to the point.

Drop Shadow Pro Tip: Add a darker, more transparent shape (like a shadow) behind text or an object to make it look like it is raised from the background.

3. Make It Flow

In addition to keeping messages concise and decluttered, make sure that things flow visually. Using standard grid lines to keep items aligned and well-spaced goes a long way toward creating a highly readable piece.

A consistent visual flow stops people’s eyes from bouncing around. Use a clean hierarchy of weights (such as light, regular and bold) and font sizes—rather than using many fonts in different weights and styles—to guide a reader through your message. Rather than cluttering space with photos and graphics that have varying treatments, choose one or two that convey emotion best and are cleanly lined up.

4. Have a Strong (But Simple) Message

Once you know the reason you’re sending a direct mailpiece and the emotion you want it to evoke, you can start thinking about messaging. Keep it short and punchy, Bonin suggests.

“Nothing works better than when an image and a strong headline come together and become one.”

Rather than telling your entire brand story in the space of a postcard, find a few captivating lines that focus on the campaign at hand and encourage some kind of action, like coming into the store or making an order.

Bonin also cautions against overused, punny lines (think “Patty-O-Furniture” sales around St. Patrick’s Day) or spending too much time highlighting accolades. If it doesn’t show a consumer how your product or service can improve their life, keep it off the mailpiece.

5. Stay Relevant

Keep the imagery and messages on your mailpiece relevant to the campaign. You want people to see your piece and know, almost immediately, what your business does—so putting a family pet on a piece for an electronics retailer would be counterintuitive. Similarly, stay away from graphic elements like icons and emojis that don’t serve your message.

“Using irrelevant images puts too much attention on the wrong thing.”

Design your campaigns around relevant events or times of year to appeal to your audience’s current needs. Use a strong call to action to create a sense of urgency and drive response rates.

Get your mystery offer Pro Tip: Write a CTA that makes people want to do something. Tell them what they get out of it, what it might cost them and if it’s only available for a limited time.

6. Know Your Limitations

If you feel like you’re biting off more than you can chew, you probably are, according to Bonin. Before you start developing your campaign and creating a design, do the research into what type of mail format works for what you’re doing. A multi-panel mailpiece, for instance, requires more effort than a standard postcard. Then, acknowledge if you truly feel comfortable creating the piece yourself.

“If layout and design aren’t your strengths, leave it to a professional—the results will speak for themselves.”

Direct mail, like any marketing, is an investment, so you want to make sure it pays off. Whether doing it yourself, in-house or with a freelance designer, gather samples and develop a clear direction for the piece. If your materials are well prepared, designing a simple and effective postcard shouldn’t take more than a few hours, Bonin says.

Key Takeaway

When you’re ready to create your mailpiece, let these principles guide the way. With concise messaging and relevant images, you’ll make a piece that flows and attracts attention. Even better, your piece could convert prospects into customers.

The 9 Essential Steps for Executing an Effective Direct Mail Campaign

Direct mail is a proven way to reach and engage with customers. Each campaign has many vital moving parts—from mailing lists to mailpiece design to postage—that can seem intimidating to uninitiated businesses.

Before you run a direct mail campaign, take a step back and look at the process step by step. Use this checklist to guide you painlessly through building and executing a campaign that works.

  1. 1

    Establish Goals and Objectives

    Decide what you want to accomplish with this campaign. Do you want to acquire new customers? Increase customer loyalty? It’s also important to think about how a successful direct mail campaign will bring you closer to your long-term business goals, like opening a brick-and-mortar store or expanding into new cities and neighborhoods. Use these goals to guide the following decisions.

  2. 2

    Set a Budget

    Consider what portion of your marketing budget you want to allot to this direct mail campaign to achieve your goals. Direct mail can be an option whether you have a small budget or a large one. Setting a budget will help you decide the size of your mailing list as well as the form and design of your mailpiece.

  3. 3

    Understand the Audience

    Nail down the exact audience you’re trying to reach with your campaign. If you’re mailing to existing customers, you may already know what causes them to take action. If your goal is to reach new potential customers, it may be helpful to run a survey or gather data (including age, gender, income, hobbies, etc.) on your target audience before you prepare a mailpiece.

  4. 4

    Create a Mailing List

    Mailing lists can connect you to customers you want to reach. Use a house list, which is created with the addresses of existing customers, to engage current customers. You can also buy or rent, through a broker, a list that aggregates names based on demographic and psychographic targets.

  5. 5

    Craft Your Message

    Create a message or an offer that will catch customers’ attention and direct them to take an action, like sharing with friends or making a purchase. The messaging should include bold headlines that clearly communicate the point of the mailpiece. If more copy is needed, keep your sentences simple and easy to understand.

  6. 6

    Design Your Piece

    This step incorporates a few different points:

    • Which format will work best for your message and budget? Postcards and self-mailers are simple and affordable, while catalogs result in higher engagement.
    • What will your piece look like? Use online DIY design tools or a professional designer, and state your offer to the recipient clearly.
    • How will you send your mail? First-Class Mail® service is faster and trackable but costs more, while Standard Mail® service offers basic mail delivery and costs less.
  7. 7

    Print Your Mail Piece

    Do your research and select a reputable printer. Use this white paper to help you narrow down considerations and ask for bids from vendors.

    Before your piece is printed, make sure to proofread it to avoid expensive and embarrassing mistakes.

  8. 8

    Make Your Piece Postal-ready

    Are you sending more than 500 mailpieces? If so, consider bulk mail, which could lower costs but requires presorting of addresses and a business mailing permit. If you’re mailing fewer pieces, you’ll pay single-piece prices but have less upfront labor.

  9. 9

    Track and Fine-tune

    Use tracking tools—such as unique URLs and QR Codes®, referrals and social media interactions in a given time period—to help measure ROI.1 If you estimate your ROI through tests before your campaign begins, you can measure it again during and after the campaign to see if it’s effective.

Key Takeaways

A successful direct mail campaign is within reach for businesses of any size or caliber. This checklist is a basic guide for each step in the process. Use it in conjunction with our free direct mail white paper to master your next direct mail campaign.

8 Ways to Make Your Catalogs Stand Out

Even though online buying is becoming an everyday practice, shoppers and retailers alike are showing that paper is still the way to go in terms of marketing. Because, while they are bombarded with online ads that they rarely trust or click on, consumers consistently show a strong attachment to physical mail that they can interact with on their own time.

Print marketing might mean more time and money than digital, but catalogs that positively engage your customers are worth the investment. Follow these eight best practices when creating your next catalog campaign.

  1. 1

    Inspire Your Customers

    First and foremost, your catalogs should inspire your consumer. Gone are the days that a catalog is a simple product list. Now–through thoughtful design, photography, and copy–you can tell the story of your brand and connect with customers that have the same aesthetic tastes.

    In an age where people are curating their lives through social media, brand images can now be aspirational rather than just advertisements. Make a goal of creating an emotional connection through your catalogs in addition to being informational.

  2. 2

    Personalize It

    When designing your catalog, it is important to design with your audience in mind. Visuals can go a long way and, from start to finish, should reflect the aesthetic of your customer. Even if the product comes from the same category–say fashion–a catalog for young professionals will look much different than a catalog for mothers.

    Consider personalizing catalogs to show items based on previous purchases or to show items that are available in nearby stores. This level of personalization will set you apart. Consider working with vendors that offer variable data printing.

  3. 3

    Present a Strong Brand Identity

    Catalogs are always competing for space in a consumer’s mind. However, many of them look so similar, it’s difficult to differentiate between the companies. In order to create brand loyalty, you need to stand out among the crowd, and you can do that by creating and showing a strong identity.

    A catalog should be an extension of your brand and should support whatever messages you stand for. A successful catalog will both display products and present a clear individuality. Don’t let your catalog get bogged down with product details. Use the unique voice of the brand to carry your products forward.

  4. 4

    Focus on Quality

    Hand in hand with a strong brand presence is quality. This means quality in design, size, and type of paper – everything that goes into a catalog should be purposeful, and it should represent your business in the best way possible. These small details can enhance the overall appearance of your catalog and ultimately say a lot about your brand.

  5. 5

    Make It Easy to Navigate

    Catalogs should have a user-friendly layout and be designed in a way that naturally leads from page to page. Readability and scannability are both essential in clear design.

    There should be a clear hierarchy to each page, with one or two items standing out and other elements lending support. Remember: using different fonts can be confusing, white space is your friend, and important information should always be clear and up front.

  6. 6

    Use Impactful Photos

    Catalogs that are image-heavy give a sense of brand personality and allow customers to scan through with minimal effort. In general, environmental photography–that show products in a surrounding where they would naturally be–is most effective, especially when the people in the photos are interacting with your products.

    However, don’t group too many products in one photo as it will be distracting to the viewer. It is best to show items individually or in very small, related groups. Make great photos the centerpiece in your catalog. They’ll do the work to keep your reader engaged.

  7. 7

    Make Ordering Easy

    Think beyond aesthetics, as well. If a reader can’t figure out how to place an order or what items they want to purchase, then you stand to lose out on sales. This is why it is essential to organize your catalog to make ordering as easy as possible. Often top-selling products are lost among similar items. Focus on these items and position them with products that would go well in addition to rather than instead of. Any opportunity to cross-sell companion products through copy or callouts can increase sales up to 15%.1

    As a customer browses the catalog, it should be clear how they can place an order. Include website URLs and a phone number that are easy to find within the design, and then push orders with promotions and time-sensitive offers.

  8. 8

    Test Frequency

    Successful catalogs will help lead your customers online to make purchases, but should only be sent with controlled frequency as to not overwhelm or annoy them. While 53% of consumers like the number of catalogs they receive and 25% want even more, a fine line exists between more catalogs and too many.2

    For consumers that desire catalogs, once a month should be the maximum frequency. However, quarterly or seasonal catalogs are optimal for most effective brand-customer interaction.

In Conclusion

Engaging catalog marketing has been a proven method of boosting online sales. By following these best practices, you can provide your customers with a memorable experience that makes them feel inspired, connects them to your brand, and drives them to shop.

5 Best Practices for E-Commerce and Retail Inventory Management

While strong sales are the backbone of a retail or ecommerce business, inventory management can mean the difference between success or failure. Mismanaging your inventory can lead to errors in stock levels, poor quality control and wasted storage space. These problems can quickly percolate and affect your shipping operations; they can slow picking and packing, even allow you to ship incorrect or damaged goods. Keep your business on track by implementing a few important practices.

  1. 1

    Categorize Your Inventory

    Bring order to your warehouse and add efficiency to your picking process by choosing a way to categorize your products. This will make it easier and faster for you to locate and pull items from your shelves. There are a few common systems companies use. One is called ABC, which groups products by their value, with A being the most valuable items and C being the least valuable. A numerical system takes a different approach by allotting numbers for product classes, individual products and their location in the storage facility.

  2. 2

    Establish Minimum Stock Threshold Limits

    The minimum stock threshold is the least amount of inventory you need on your shelves at all times. By determining your threshold limits, you can ensure you have safety stock ready to answer a sudden influx of sales. This allows you to meet demand and curb lengthy fulfillment times, which would only upset customers. Use this formula to calculate your limits:

    Minimum stock threshold = (Average daily product sales/# working days in the month) x average product delivery time1

    Please note: average product delivery time should be calculated in days.

  3. 3

    Implement Frequent Quality Control Checks

    Keeping an eye on your product quality can help prevent customer satisfaction issues and lower return rates. By keeping returns down, your company can maintain its margins. Do routine checks of your inventory to search for signs of damage. Look for discrepancies in prices and product descriptions; products sizes, colors and styles should be accurate. That way you catch any issues before they hit your customer’s front step.

  4. 4

    Implement Stock Check Cycles

    Cycle counting programs help you gauge the accuracy of your inventory levels by auditing a small sample of products on a routine basis. That way, you don’t need to spend time checking all your inventory all the time. Decide how often you’d like to do cycle counts. Some businesses take a periodic weekly or monthly approach, others do it at random throughout the year. Stay vigilant about your inventory counts to maintain stock visibility. Without accurate stock information, your customers could place orders that can’t be filled.

  5. 5

    Liquidate Slow-Moving Stock

    By doing routine checks of your inventory, you can stay abreast of product sell-through rates. Save your company dollars and storage space, by liquidating the products that aren’t moving off the shelves. Bring new products into the fold that share similar characteristics with your biggest sellers.

In Conclusion

With a few simple steps, any size business can elevate its inventory process. By categorizing your inventory, deciding minimum threshold limits, keeping an eye on quality control and more, your business could see a wide range of positive effects. With a well-run management process, you could add efficiencies to your shipping operations, shorten fulfillment times, lower return rates, improve your customer service, and, of course, boost your bottom line.

Marketing Strategies That Will Modernize Your Mail Campaigns

The next big thing in marketing may be sitting in your mailbox.

Year after year, companies seek out the freshest ideas to build brand awareness, launch products and convert new customers. To choose the right one, they need the facts. Get a big-picture view of the newest innovations in direct mail—from AR to QR and everything in between.

Marketing_Strategies_That_Will_Modernize_Your_Mail_Campaigns_IrresistibleMailChart_v4-01

5 Tips to Gear Up for the Retail Holiday Season

The holidays present countless opportunities for businesses to meet their bottom lines. They also present countless opportunities for pitfalls. Inefficient warehouse systems, confusing communications and incorrect packaging can prevent companies, both small and large, from making their year-end fiscal goals. Read on for tips to help you tackle the lucrative days ahead.

Quick Tip 1: Talk to Your Supplier

It’s critical for your business to have stock going in and out in a timely manner. Work with your shipping provider to confirm pick-up schedules, communicate changes in business hours and identify peak volume days. That way, your warehouse will know what to expect.

Quick Tip 2: Evaluate Your Warehouse Systems

Make sure your warehouse is logically organized. Place “bundle” items in the same area for easy picking and packing, and set aside room for dramatic influxes of shipments. Finally, inspect your technology so that it’s running smoothly.

Quick Tip 3: Simplify Your New Hire Onboarding Process

The more confusing the training process, the less productive your workers will be. Talk to permanent and returning staff to tweak your onboarding process for clarity and effectiveness.

Quick Tip 4: Use the Right Size Packaging

With dimensional weight pricing, both the weight and size of the packaging affects the ultimate shipping price. As more transportation companies use this pricing method, businesses should diversify the types of packaging they use. Consider Padded Paks, Poly mailers or other packaging in lieu of boxes. In most cases, the smaller the package, the lower the shipping cost.

Quick Tip 5: Communicate with Your Customers Clearly

Take your holiday communications to task. Look through last year’s customer complaints to fix the wording of return policies, shipping timelines and Christmas cut-off dates. Your language should be uniform across every channel.