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.

The Future of Direct Mail Is Here and It’s Dynamic

If you think you know direct mail, think again. Thanks to digital data, the marketing channel is helping companies achieve their goals more effectively. Our white paper tells the new story of direct mail as dynamic, fully integrated and hyper-targeted.

Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters

In the frenetic pace of our digital world, physical mail has secured its position as a credible communications channel with staying power and popularity. In fact, a Royal Mail study of mail users in the United Kingdom found 87% of customers rate mail as believable, compared to 48% for email, and 65% of customers are likely to give it their full attention.1

Small and medium-sized businesses know this. Sending invoices and other client communications by physical mail is a daily occurrence for them, but many are generating unnecessary costs. Without knowing the exact postage for a mailpiece, senders find themselves estimating costs, resulting in postal surcharges and delays or even returned mail.

Metered mail can help prevent all these issues. Read on to learn the value of this service when it comes to postage and the benefits of using digital meters.

The Perks of Metered Mail

Metered mail allows small and medium businesses to use a meter to print postage on mailpieces as proof of payment. By leveraging this service, businesses could easily simplify their mail process. They could also improve accuracy and save money.

A meter’s built-in scale is designed to accurately weigh everything from postcards to packages, removing the guesswork and ensuring senders pay exactly the right postage every time. Meters also offer discounts unavailable in a Post Office™ retail location or when using stamps. As of January 2019, using a postage meter saves $0.05 per piece for envelopes up to 3.5 ounces, lowering the cost of your postage to $0.50 for First-Class Mail® letters weighing 1 ounce or less.

Save Time and Boost Your Brand

Replacing manual mail operations with a meter saves time, the most valuable asset. In a Pitney Bowes study, 37% of small businesses said that finding time to go to a Post Office retail location was their biggest hassle in regard to sending mail.2 Meters eliminate this, giving businesses back valuable time that can be spent on growing their business.

Meters also boost the professional look of business mail, as a company logo or personalized message can be printed on the envelope, boosting brand visibility.

The Next Generation of Meters

Today’s meters integrate advanced digital technology with design innovation. Some models even use Android® operating systems, so it’s as easy as using a smartphone, with convenient functionality and a simple interface. It helps businesses select the ideal sending option for every letter, flat and parcel they send, while delivering savings and helping track costs.

Older analog connected meters still have a place in many mailrooms across the world today, and for some organizations, they are a viable and effective option. However, it’s worth taking some time to consider the benefits of digital meters.

  1. 1

    Digital is faster and more flexible.

    A dial-up Internet connection can vary from 1.2 to around 56 kilobytes per second. A digital connection is 100 megabytes per second, which could make it up to a thousand times faster than the connection of an analog meter. By connecting to Wi-Fi or Local Area Networks, digital meters don’t vie for Internet access with your other communications technology. Also, if you connect via wireless and switch offices, your meter can move with you.

  2. 2

    Rate changes and software updates are simple and precise.

    These inevitably require preparation and attention. Without a meter, businesses must remember to accurately factor in the cost of the new rates into their postage. With an analog meter, time is spent establishing a connection first before information can be transferred, then there is the additional need to wait for the downloading and installation of new rates for a rate change, for example. A digital system is always connected, so rates can be updated anytime.

  3. 3

    Digital meters provide enhanced accounting.

    They allow you to track how much your business spends on postage down to the product level. You can also measure what time of the year your spending goes up or down.

  4. 4

    Digital connections are reliable and future-proof.

    If an analog line disconnects while trying to credit your meter before a mailing, it can cost you time and productivity. The copper analog network can also be costly to maintain and vulnerable to service outages. In the future, service providers are likely to become less willing to provide and support analog connections. Digital meters help alleviate this concern.

  5. 5

    Digital meters can generate additional savings.

    An analog-connected meter requires a dedicated phone line, which for most businesses is an incremental cost they often overlook. Many organizations are already paying for broadband, so there is no additional cost for a digital meter connection, and no need for the analog line.

Key Takeaway

Today’s connected customer draws information from a diversity of platforms but the value of physical mail remains. Postage meters help ensure that businesses continue to benefit from this vital customer engagement channel, while optimizing their budgets.

Connect with USPS®

Looking to learn more about metered mail? Speak to a USPS representative.
Get in touch

4 Ways to Grow Your Business with Metered Mail

Mail is a cornerstone for many successful businesses. Sending monthly statements and occasional postcard campaigns helps companies grow and thrive.

As the volume of mail grows, many businesses find it hard to get to a Post Office™ location to calculate the exact postage for each piece. Instead, they estimate postage to save time, which ends up costing them.

One solution to save time and money? A postage meter. This tool makes sending mail quicker, less expensive and more customized. Here, we’ll highlight four benefits of having your own postage meter.

For a more in-depth analysis of metered mail’s benefits, see our article, “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”.

Save on postage

Instead of estimating postage by using traditional stamps, you can weigh each piece you send—whether it’s a letter or a package—and pay the exact postage required.

Plus, as of January 2019, USPS® offers businesses that use postage meters a $.05 discount on every First-Class Mail® letter they send. The savings adds up: a small business sending 1,000 mailpieces a month could save about $600 a year by using a meter.1

Avoid surcharges and delays

When you estimate the cost to send an item—especially one that is large, weighs more or is unusually sized—you may underpay for postage by using stamps. This leads to surcharges that could delay delivery or make an item undeliverable entirely.

With metered mail, you’re always paying exact postage, which helps to ensure that your mail gets to its recipients without costing you time and money.

Drop off mail and skip the line

Finding the time to get to the Post Office location can be tough, according to 37% of small businesses who participated in a Pitney Bowes study.2 With a meter, you don’t need to go out of your way or wait in line.

Once the metered postage for your mail or packages is printed on your pieces, it’s ready to mail. Drop mail in the nearest blue collection box or at a convenient drop-off point and get to the next thing on your to-do list.

Boost your brand

Meters can print more than postage on your mailpieces. You can add a personalized message or your company’s branding to envelopes, too, which boosts your visibility.

Envelopes with messages specific to the recipient—as simple as “Kate, your offer is inside!”—are shown to be effective: 84% of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to open a piece of mail if it is personalized to them.3

In Summary

Metered mail offers true value for small and medium businesses. By using a postage meter, you can save on the cost of postage, cut down the time it takes to send out mail and focus on growth.

Interested in how metered mail works and how it can benefit your business? Read our article: “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”

Make Your Direct Mail Smarter This Holiday Season

The months leading up to the holidays can be a particularly demanding time for senior-level marketers.

For some retailers, the holidays can account for as much as 30% of annual sales.1

And with customer expectations at an all-time high, marketers are increasingly accountable for their spending and under pressure to show clear-cut business results.2

Fortunately, by implementing various technologies, marketers can better reach customers, and track campaign success to understand what is and isn’t working. Read on to learn how you can use technology to make your direct mail campaigns intelligent for the holiday season.

How to make your holiday mail more sophisticated.

By marrying print and digital, you can ensure that your direct mail campaigns yield powerful insights.3 Consider implementing the following technologies in your next direct mail campaign:

Add a QR code to your mailpiece.

Quick Response (QR) codes, which look like barcodes, can be scanned with a smartphone, prompting a related app or website to open. Think of QR codes as a way to provide your customers and prospects with additional value. In one example, a grocery store retailer used direct mail to send food-themed magnets with QR codes, which, when scanned, allowed customers to instantly buy grocery store items from the comfort of their home.4

Include an NFC chip in your direct mail design.

Embedding Near Field Communication (NFC) microchips in your mailpiece will allow you to instantaneously transmit information through short-range radio waves to NFC-enabled smartphone devices. Unlike QR codes, NFC does not require users to download an app or open a separate web browser, enabling a seamless experience. In one example, a musician engaged her fans by embedding an NFC tag on a mail piece that gave them access to extended album content, including song lyrics, photos and videos.5

Consider incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) in your design.

With AR, you can transform a piece of mail into an interactive experience by layering digital graphics over a physical mail piece. In one example, a surf camp sent a mailpiece featuring an image of waves as the AR trigger that prompted recipients to download the AR app. This in turn, activated the AR experience, which concluded with a promotional offer.6

With each of these technologies — QR, NFC and AR — you’ll be able to gather a rich pool of data and learn about your most-interested customers, allowing you to refine and better target your future direct mail campaigns.7

Add a PURL to your direct mail design.

A PURL is a personalized URL that features the recipient’s name in the link and leads them to a personalized landing page. By including a PURL in your direct mail copy, the recipient can access and complete a response form prepopulated with information from the direct mail. This is a surefire way to capture leads.8

Go one-step further by adding a remarketing code to your PURL.

After a recipient views your mailpiece and visits the personalized landing page, you can then tag them with a cookie so that they can receive an ad later while browsing the internet, redirecting them back to your website to help drive conversions.9

Send your direct mail to a targeted group.

Similar to the above approach, you can serve online ads to the targeted niche group that received your mailpiece to leave a lasting impression.10

In Summary

Direct mail is more intelligent than ever before. Each of the technologies described above can provide you with a rich pool of data, allowing you to better target your customers with more relevant messaging, ultimately resulting in a stronger return on investment.11 Consider how implementing smarter direct mail campaigns can help you reach your marketing and sales goals.

Merging Email and Direct Mail for Powerful Holiday Marketing

For many companies, the holidays are a crucial time to drive business. Marketers need a fine-tuned plan to capitalize on the busy shopping season and attract customers. Some include email in their holiday marketing mix, others choose to focus on direct mail. But choosing one channel over the other could do your business a disservice.

By combining email and direct mail, you can target and convert consumers even more effectively. For example, in one study, businesses increased their order value by more than $3 when using the two mediums combined; they also saw a 25% response rate.1 Learn about the benefits of email and direct mail, and best practices for creating a campaign that uses both channels in sync.

Two Potent Channels

Email and mail can make a real impact on holiday sales.

Email has serious reach.

eMarketer estimates that there will be 253.4 million email users in the US in 2018, accounting for nearly 90.6% of internet users and 77% of the population. By 2021, that number will grow to 266.3 million users.2

Direct mail has a high return on investment (ROI).

A 2016 report showed that, in the US, direct mail has a 27% median ROI.3

Email campaigns convert more with a house list.

The same report showed the following conversion rates:

House list rates:

  • 21% open rate
  • 10% click through rate
  • 5.5% conversion rate

Prospect list rates:

  • 16.4% open rate
  • 5.9% click through rate
  • 4.3% conversion rate4

Personalization makes a difference for both channels.

One study showed that brands that personalize the subject lines of their emails experience 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates than those that do not personalize their promotional emails.5

By personalizing a direct mail campaign with a customer’s name and location, one company achieved a 9.7% conversion rate.6

Using both channels in tandem can capture more consumer attention during the holidays.

According to a study by Canada Post, marketing campaigns that integrate direct mail and digital media hold 39% more of a customer’s time than digital campaigns alone.7

Consumers prefer email and direct mail during the holidays.

A 2017 survey showed that Internet users most preferred email and direct mail to receive their holiday deals.8

How to Create a Multichannel Campaign

Consider these best practices when implementing a holiday campaign featuring email and direct mail.


  1. 1. Decide on the optimal timing.

    When planning a direct mail and email campaign, mail is typically the first touchpoint. Once the mailpiece is sent, choose two to four different moments to send out emails. The first email should go out a week after the mailing to keep the original mailing top-of-mind. Send the other emails a few days apart to not overwhelm the recipient. According to HubSpot, Tuesday is the best day of the week to send an email, while 11 am ET sees the highest email click-through rates.9


  2. 2. Make sure your branding aligns.

    Creative elements in the mailpiece and subsequent emails should match. Leverage the copy and visuals you’re using for your holiday campaigns in both. For example, your holiday tagline can be used in header copy of the mailpiece and the subject line of your first email or its body copy. Be sure your mail and email also leads to the same final touchpoint – whether it’s your website or a holiday microsite.


  3. 3. Personalize the content.

    Help boost conversion rates by personalizing the copy in your mailpiece. For example, you could include the name of the recipient in header copy and customize content in the rest of the mailpiece to their specific customer segment. For the first email sent out, consider including the recipient’s name in the subject line. This small change can bump up email open rates and direct mail responses.


  4. 4. Use a comprehensive mailing list for your campaign.

    Creating a house or prospect list for your campaign will be more complicated, since you’ll need to match email addresses to physical addresses. For a house list, work with your internal teams to merge the address data you already have. For a prospect list, work with a list supplier that can tap into a multichannel database. You don’t want to buy a list that’s missing email or physical address information for the same prospect.


  5. 5. Consider using programmatic mail instead of a list.

    The latest trend in direct mail leverages programmatic technology to send personalized mailpieces triggered by digital interactions. You’ll need to be sure the programmatic database has customer information that includes email and physical addresses. Once a visitor interacts with a specific touchpoint on your site—whether your homepage, a category page or product page—the programmatic technology will send a mailpiece within 24-48 hours of the interaction.

Summary

Nailing down the right marketing mix during the holidays is crucial for year-round success. Sync up your email and direct mail efforts instead of choosing one channel over the other. With a well-timed, well-designed campaign, your business could see increased sales during the holidays.