In direct mail, words do the selling. Graphics serve to attract attention and illustrate. That’s all, according to noted marketing consultant Ron Ferguson. Designs that make copy hard to read and promised benefits impossible to find, he says, can and probably will kill response. For more effective graphics, he urges:
Make your letter look like a letter
A letter should look like a personal piece of communication—not a piece of advertising. When you use foundry type faces in a letter instead of typewriter type (Courier 12, for instance) you kill its personal appeal. So, try to make your letter look as if it came from a sister or brother, not from an insurance company.
Work hard on your envelope
No question, Ferguson says, your envelope is the most important component in your direct mail package. Advertising research shows that you have less than a second to attract someone’s attention. Your envelope is your billboard. It is the envelope’s job to grab your reader’s attention and get itself opened.
Make copy easy to read
Black text on white paper is best. Dull? Maybe to a bored designer. But not to a reader. Research shows that people will read letters and brochures more often if they are easy to read, and black on white is the easiest.
Avoid reversing text type
Knocking body copy out of a colored background, especially a textured colored background, will make your text virtually impossible to read. Don’t do it, Ferguson urges.
Make your letter look personal, especially if it’s not
Make the signature look real. Add handwritten margin notes. Simulate a yellow highlighter to call out important copy. Do it even on form letters. It almost certainly will boost response.
Don’t fuss about making everything match
Uniformity of design does not work in direct mail. Ferguson says, “Every designer I know has a tendency to make each piece of the direct-mail package match every other piece.” This is a no-no. Corporate identity should take a back seat to component function in a direct-mail package.
Provide understandable, thorough instructions
People tend to do what you tell them to do. So, you should always give complete instructions, especially on the reply device. “Fold and tear here,” “Over, please,” and all other bits of instruction may look moronic. But they help achieve maximum response, Ferguson stresses
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