To be effective, direct mail requires the careful combination of three key ingredients: the right audience, the right message, and strong, complementary creative. Unfortunately, many marketers get taken in by the glitz and glamour of creative design—the colors, folds, and converted envelopes—and forget just how crucial data and messaging are to coming out on top.

Lead with data

Data is what lines you up and gets you pointed at the target. To overemphasize its importance is impossible. Diligence and methodical preparation will not only lay the foundation for your campaign but also ensure that you save on postage and improve deliverability when your processing procedures include best practices such as cross-referencing NCOA (National Change of Address), de-duping, and the appending of extended ZIP codes.

Getting in touch with the right person at the right time is the most important factor in direct mail or any direct marketing effort, and the process begins by reviewing your list and identifying who your best customers are and what they have in common with each other. Once you’ve established a list of reasonable criteria—those traits common to all of your best customers—it shouldn’t be difficult to source potential customers who will hopefully rise up and be worthy of the “prospect” designation.

Follow with messaging

Once you’ve identified your audience, figuring out what to say is fairly easy—it’s how you say it that can be challenging. We are a nation of scanners, not readers; simplicity is therefore the key, and tried-and-true devices like subheads and call-outs can do wonders for guiding a “reader” through a letter. Including a postscript provides tremendous benefit, as recipient’s typically first look at the signature, to see who the letter’s from—so having a PS that actively recaps your message/offer can quickly engage interested parties and prompt a closer review and better opportunity.

While industry jargon is great for impressing readers with your expertise and placing you in the trenches alongside your audience, anything too technical will prove to be a wasted flurry that will ultimately distract from your call to action. The quicker you can tell your readers exactly what they need to know in order to conclude that your product or service is clearly the best choice, the better.

Design is the final step

Creative design can have an impact on how a mailing performs, but the role of creative cannot even begin to compare with the necessity of sourcing the right data and perfecting your messaging. Choosing the best vehicle to deliver your message isn’t to be taken lightly. Format is extremely significant in how well a mailing performs, with the most affordable “package” not always the best for the task at hand. For instance, letter packages are proven to out-pull postcards and self-mailers under most conditions—but not always.