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The Fundamentals of Effective Direct Mail

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Ah, the heady early days of the Internet, when you could send anyone any sort of email and reasonably expect them to be excited. Email was new and exciting, and people breathlessly waited for their old phone modems to connect so they could see who’d sent them a message!

And then the first Spam began rolling in: Overtures of business partnerships with Nigerian princes, investment tips from helpful strangers, dire warnings that computers were infested with viruses. People were deluged with email that had nothing to do with them, and thus began a crackdown on email that began with personal junk filters and culminated, for now, with lots of new government rules and laws all over the world limiting what you can send via email.

For a business seeking to market itself, these new rules have made email more or less useless. What’s not useless? Direct Mail, which remains a reliable and effective marketing tool – if you know how to create an effective piece of direct mail marketing.

Use What You Know

The worst examples of Direct Mail marketing are the pieces that are not only poorly designed, but poorly targeted. Put plainly, if you don’t know anything about the customers you want using your business, you’ve lost before you even start. Your first step to effective direct mail is to consider what you already know and tailor it to the customers you want.


Personalisation is great – if you do it right. Simply putting the recipient’s name somewhere on a form won’t do much; people are smart enough to see through that. They also likely won’t be fooled by simple tricks like fonts that look like handwriting. If you’re going to personalise, design your piece so it feels natural.

Don’t be Shy About CTA

Your ‘call to action’ or CTA is the whole point, and everyone knows it. You’re not fooling anyone by shuffling your feet and looking down at the floor while asking them to buy your products or services. Make your CTA bold and to the point – because your customers already know why they’ve gotten your mailing. They don’t want to be tasked with working hard to figure out how to do it.

Design Basics

There are some simple things you can do that will boost your direct mail’s effectiveness:

  • Colour: Some basic rules of thumb can be followed. For example, darker blues and greens tend to read as trustworthy colours for people, greys and blacks tend to read as modern and technologically-aligned, while reds and yellows read as alarming and fearful.
  • Grab Attention: You need your piece ‘pop’ out of a pile of mail, so think about the pieces that grab your attention at home or in the office and why it works.
  • Don’t over-crowd: One of the worst rookie mistakes is cramming too much information on every piece. Let your design ‘breathe’ and winnow it down to essential data.

Direct Mail remains one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal – but like any tool a lot of its effectiveness depends on using it properly. Use these basics to makes your next mailing a hit.

18 Mar, 15

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