20 Ideas to Refine, Remodel or Revive Your Control
When your list selection is spot-on, your offer is proven and your content is king, testing different design elements can be a simple but lucrative way to give your control a major lift.
The key to getting this kind of boost from a design re-do, explains Grant Johnson, president and chief marketing officer of Brookfield, Wisc.-based consultancy Johnson Direct, is to make meaningful changesbeyond just changing the color of the outer envelope or the font of the teaserand to do it with the consumer in mind. What will he react to? What will stop him in his tracks? What will motivate him to respond?
The tweaks, tips and transformations that follow barely scrape the surface of the design options available for your testing pleasure. Try a few on for size and see if they don't give your response rates a jolt.
Add a little something extra to the effort, such as a decal, sticker or anything that adds extra weight to the package. "That can create a huge difference in response because it changes the tactile nature of what's arrived," suggests Carol Worthington-Levy, copywriter and partner, creative services, at San Rafael, Calif.-based agency LENSER. And it doesn't have to be something with an actual value, asserts Johnson, who recalls sending a pebble in a nonprofit mailing to "phenomenal response."
Turn your envelope package into a self-mailer or vice versa. Scholastic, for one, has found success with this tactic, alternately mailing a Dr. Seuss-themed 6" x 9" envelope effort and a 6" x 8-3/4" self-mailer for its Beginner Books program.
Mail a blind envelope, suggests Dean Rieck, proprietor of Columbus, Ohio-based Direct Creative. "You can reveal too much on the outer envelope," asserts Rieck. "Entirely plain envelopes, with nothing but the [mailing] address and the return address, sometimes without even the company logo, tend to work really well, especially for business mailings."
Put a message on the back of your outer. "Most people have a tendency to just use the front and ignore the back," says Johnson. "But you have an equal chance of it landing in your hand or on your desk with the back flap showing."
Use outer envelopes with different textures, such as a linen, vellum, poly or even fabric stock. "A lot of people
underestimate how important the sense of touch is in direct mail," asserts Worthington-Levy. "Try changing to something that's more tactile, something with a tooth to it. Instead of all this smooth stuff, their fingertips will tell them that there's something else going on."
Use handwritten notes in the letter margin, on the reply device or on the outer to add a personal touch, suggests Rieck. "My preference is to keep it simple. Handwriting is like underlining or bolding textuse it just for emphasis and focus," he advises, adding that you should make sure it looks like the same person wrote it throughout by using the same ink color, handwriting, size and line weights.
Try multiple and different live stamps rather than an indicia, meter or Standard stamp, recommends Worthington-Levy. Even though the First Class postage does cost more, using, say, a 20-cent stamp and a 17-cent stamp in lieu of what prospects are used to seeing can be very effective, especially for smaller mailings that might include some handwork anyway, Worthington-Levy explains. She recently had "incredible response" using this tactic for a self-promotional mailing for her own agency.
Take your control and blow it upgo as big as you can. "Say you have a #10, what will a 6" x 9" or 9" x 12" do? Better yet, what will a 10" x 13" do?" muses Johnson. "Personally, I like a #11 because it's just a little bigger than a #10, and we've had quite a bit of success with that format." Worthington-Levy also has had success with bigger formats; when doing lead generation for car company Isuzu, "the bigger we got, the better the package did," she recalls.
Shrink the package down. "Why not try a #7-3/4 or an invitation style," suggests Johnson. This tactic is working in the mail right now; a number of nonprofits, including Paralyzed Veterans of America, Special Olympics and American Cancer Society, currently are in the mail with undersized 4-1/2" x 5-3/4" envelope efforts.
Practice mailing origami. Unusual folds and formats help a standard postcard stand out in the mailbox and garner lots of prospect attention, suggests Worthington-Levy. One very effective format she has used is the half-roll fold, where one-half of the self-mailer is a single layer and the other half is roll folded and rubber-glued down. "That worked so well, and when we made it bigger, it worked even better," she recalls.
Ugly up the package. "Direct mail packages tend to work very well when you have a lot of shapes and colors and the components look different," asserts Rieck. "It looks more real, like someone actually sent you something." This is a sentiment echoed by Johnson: "If you want to lift response, make the piece less pretty."
Add an involvement device, such as a sticker, scratch-off or even something simpler. In a redesign of a Boy Scouts of America control, copywriter Tom Meyer added a card that prospects were asked to sign and returnan inexpensive way to get readers to interact with the package.
Die-cut unusual address window shapes, suggests Worthington-Levy, who used this tacticchanging a rectangular address window to an ovalto beat a long-standing control for National Association for Female Executives.
Strategically place secondary windows to draw attention to one or two crucial elements in the package. Financial services mailers, such as Capital One and Citibank, have perfected the art of this peek-a-boo tactic to tease of special APRs, savings, bonus miles, premiums and check amounts, among other things.
Add elements to boost response rather than eliminating them to save money, advises Johnson. "I like to add testimonial-laden buckslips, lift notes, brochures, premiums, freemiumsanything that adds to the package and the message," he asserts.
Undesign your letter. "Make it look as personal and real as possible," suggests Rieck, with a personalized salutation, single spacing, paragraph indents, one-inch margins, blue ink for the signature, and a 10- to 12-point typewriter font. In this vein, Johnson also advises printing your letter single-sided, rather than double. "This looks more like a traditional letter and has more of an upscale feel. It conveys that more time and importance are associated with the piece," explains Johnson.
Turn your multi-panel brochure into a broadsheet. "It forces people to open it, and it gives you a big selling surface. It's easier to design and it's easier to read," advises Rieck. Publisher Nightingale-Conant is one mailer that loves the broadsheet, using it as the brochure template for a number of its titles.
Draw attention to your reply device by making it a shape, color or weight that stands out and keeps it from getting lost in the package, suggests Rieck. You also can try adding a handwritten call to action to the reply device to give it a sense of immediacy, adds Johnson.
Add a short letter to the address side of a postcard, suggests Rieck. "This has worked really well," he asserts. "Summarize the offer and have it signed. It's sort of a little direct mail package right on the postcard."
Spruce up your BRE with a colored stock or a message, such as a check list or a final call to action on the back, or a stamp that reads "priority," "urgent" or "rush delivery" on the front, advises Johnson. "Well over 95 percent of BREs are white and plain, and they don't have to be," he asserts. "Use design elements and copy to get that piece back into the mailbox."