13 rules for more effective direct mail

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We’re living in the digital era but strangely, posted mail can still be very effective. The obvious benefit of mail is the sense of touch. People actually have your mail in their hands. And it can have a positive impact if you follow proven techniques.

  1. First of all, think of the envelope. The main job of the envelope is to ensure that people are in the right frame of mind when they open your mail. Teaser copy on the envelope may be appropriate but make sure it is relevant, does not mislead people and is believable.

  2. If people are going to read your piece of mail, they’re going to have to touch it – and touch is a powerful sense. Make sure the paper fits with your brand and reflects your values. If Mercedes Benz sent you a letter on poor quality paper, you would immediately disconnect with the message.

  3. For the printing of your text, make sure you choose a serif font (with small strokes on the end of letters). Sans serif fonts can look smart, but countless tests have proved that serif fonts work better for mail.

  4. You want people to read your mail. So make it an easy read with plain English and an emphasis on simple words.

  5. Be sure to start with a short sentence and a short paragraph. If you don’t you’ll be sending a message to your recipient that reading this letter is hard work.

  6. Invest as much time as you need to get the headline right. It needs to have stopping power that makes your reader take note. If the headline doesn’t work, it’s very unlikely people will read further.

  7. Don’t use a full stop at the end of the headline. You don’t want people to stop at that point. You want them to read on.

  8. End each page of your letter mid-sentence. It makes it harder for people to stop reading.

  9. It’s best if each piece of the mailing can stand on its own. We never know what happens when people open mail. If a piece gets lost, you want the other pieces to be able to carry your message. And make sure your contact details appear at least once on each piece.

  10. For selling through the mail, or asking for donations, it’s essential to have a reply paid envelope for people who want to reply by mail.

  11. Make sure your reply coupon strongly supports your sales message. And above all, make sure it is simple to fill in without too many choices. In your preparation, it can be a good idea to get a teenager to fill in the form. If he or she has trouble doing it properly, then you’ve found something you need to change.

  12. Have the most senior person in the organisation sign the letter. People like receiving mail from ‘important’ people. Make sure the signature is legible – you will lose credibility if it is not. And instead of black, print the signature in blue – it’s more personal.

  13. With mail, you always use a PS immediately beneath the signature. The PS is often the first thing that people read and it must clearly present your key message or selling benefit.