Direct Mail Spotlight: 3 Ways to Choose Images That Sell
It has been said you should never underestimate the value of a good first impression. That's not only true with in-person introductions—it's also true in direct mail.
There are typically three main components of a direct mail piece: the message, the creative, and the offer. In most direct marketing campaigns, your first impression is made by the images and you choose the rest of the creative to support your message. Before your target audience reads a word of text in your mail piece or postcard, their eyes will focus on the images they contain. Too often, these images are the same overused stock photos that appear in hundreds of other direct marketing pieces-images. Because of their ubiquity, these images fail to grab attention or break through the clutter.
Choosing effective images for your direct mail campaign is linked very closely to response and the success of the campaign as a whole. Here are three tips to keep in mind that will support those goals:
1. Your images should support an effective call to action.
The goal of every direct mail piece is to evoke an emotional response in the recipients that motivates them to take action.
With emotion stimulating the mind 3,000 times faster than rational thought, recently published findings in neuroscience indicate it's emotion, not reason, that primarily drives customers' purchasing decisions. The images you choose are the first opportunity to create that emotional response. If the images don't accomplish this, there are a number of readily available graphic design tools that can enhance effectiveness and change the impact of the image altogether.
With a little help from some graphic design techniques, you can turn dull stock photography into something that commands attention and evokes a response. (You can view some before and after examples here.)
An image can enhance a strong marketing message, even if at first it doesn't seem related to the actual product or service. For example, we created a piece for a hair salon that opened with a woman throwing leaves in the air that spelled out the recipient's name on the cover with the headline "Fall is just around the corner." The message inside followed with: "So are we!" Some might think, "what does the woman have to do with the salon?" But, once they open the piece, the image connect with the message in a compelling way. The idea is to consider creative ways to use images to motivate the recipient to respond to your call to action.
2. Tailor images to drive conversion.
Choosing the right images for each direct marketing campaign can not only support your call to action, it can help drive conversion. One proven way to accomplish this is by adding personalization. We have tested the same personalized image with various messages across various vertical markets and found that a personalized image will generate a 12 percent to 15 percent conversion rate, rather than the typical 1 percent to 2 percent for mass-produced direct mail.
Consider the following example in the media player above and to the right. In this image for a direct mail postcard, the recipient's name appears on the baseball glove and the back of the jersey to grab their attention. The image also shows the recipient why they should respond to the offer by visiting the personalized microsite—to win the pictured jersey with their name on it—rather than just telling them this information within the text. In these ways, the personalized image is a powerful way to engage your target audience and help drive conversion.
Another way to tailor your image to drive conversion is by leveraging your social media efforts. Adding a Facebook and/or Twitter icon along with your image can remind your target audience that they can engage with your company on these channels.
3. Test the effectiveness of your images.
You may not have a marketing budget that allows you to develop a focus group to pre-test the effectiveness of your direct marketing campaign and the images you have chosen for it, but that doesn't mean you can't get some measure of the impact of your images. Using personalized URLs (PURLs) and microsites, you can track how many recipients respond to your campaign. To make your test even more effective, you can split a select group in half, sending different images with your message to each and tracking which image is used with which set of recipients. This approach will make it easier to identify the image that produces the best response. Incorporating social media links through shortened URLs or QR codes can also generate useful response metrics.
The images you choose for each campaign have as much impact as the carefully written copy you attach to them. With careful selection and editing, they can provide the favorable first impression that keeps your recipient reading and engaged enough to fully consider your marketing message and offer.
Frank Defino Jr. is vice president and managing director of Tukaiz, a marketing services production company based in Franklin Park, Ill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.