What to Consider When Designing Your Direct Mail


Designing Your Direct Mail

For information on designing postcards to be used in a direct mail campaign, visit our sister site, www.postcardstuff.com
Fonts – You may have a hundred fonts to choose from. That is not a challenge to use as many as you can. Stick to one, at most two fonts. Certain fonts play well with others. Search the Internet for font families. Remember, you can achieve a clean look with judicious use of bold, italics and different sizes while using the same font.

Readability – Part of your font choice should be respect for the person who will receive your business card. An older audience may appreciate a simple font in a larger size rather than that great Gothic font you found on the Internet. Then again, if your business card is for your band, “The Modern Goths”, go for it.

Graphics – Simply stated, there is no hard and fast rule concerning graphics with direct mail – it truly depends upon the campaign. A direct mail program designed to solicit funds for a non-profit may have one or two graphics. A campaign to sell tickets to a theatrical production may be almost all graphics. And a direct mail program from an accounting firm to prospective clients may not have any graphics at all.

If you are going to have any graphics, even a company logo, there are some things you should always remember. When a color continues to the very edge of paper that is called a “bleed” and it looks more professional than a white border. But a printing press cannot apply ink to the edge of a paper, so how do we do it? By printing oversize and trimming back. The most common bleed size is .125”. In order to print a finished business card that is 2.0” x 3.5” with color running to the edges (“full bleed”) the card must be originally designed at 2.25” x 3.75”. After printing that 1/8 “ will be trimmed off to the correct size.

Design Hint: #1: Keep all important text and graphics (such as logos) within 1/8” of the final trim lines.

This is important. If you include your photo – or for that matter a logo or any graphic – it must be in high resolution, 300 DPI (“dots per inch”). And you will probably not be able to take an image from the Internet. Images on the web appear the same regardless of whether they are 72 dpi or 300 dpi. The only difference will be in the time it takes to load the image. So a professional web designer will reduce all images to 72 dpi to save loading time, and simultaneously make those images unacceptable for printing. Please don’t blame us – we had nothing to do with it.

Design Hint: #2: Anything that helps increase your return on a direct mail campaign is called a “lift.” Some things that help lift your mailing are the use of testimonials and a call to action. Another simple but effective tool is to duplicate a bit of your body text within a box somewhere on your mail piece.

Earlier on this web site we briefly mentioned the three main components of a direct mail campaign: list, design and offer. Mailing lists are covered in more detail at www.mailingliststuff.com and here we’ve touched on some design characteristics. Yet equally important is your offer.

Obviously we can’t suggest what you should offer to prospective customers, but do keep this in mind: professionals in direct marketing generally agree that the offer is responsible for 30-40% of the return. You want people to take an action, perhaps even change the way they are doing something or purchasing something – you must give them an incentive.


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