Making Direct Mail More Creative

Professional-looking Mailshots can Increase Reponse Rates

Direct mail is a great way to keep in touch with existing customers and attract new ones.

When used correctly it can be hugely powerful. However, not doing it effectively can lead to a costly, time-consuming mistake. General advice on how to use and produce direct mail campaigns is given in Direct Mail, with this article focusing on how to make it appear more professional.

The Contents of your Direct Mailing

A direct mail pack can be either single or multi-piece. A single piece item could be a postcard, a letter folded over to form an envelope, or even a full catalogue. It will contain the name and address of the recipient as well as the posting mechanism, such as the stamp or a space for franking, together with your advertising messages. It can often look like typical ‘junk mail’ so needs to be instantly appealing to attract attention.

The alternative is a multi-piece. These can have any number of items but as a minimum there needs to be an envelope (or package) and a letter. Beyond that, most things are possible – multiple leaflets, interactive devices or gadgets, application forms with envelopes. In fact, almost anything.

As with all aspects of marketing, work out what is most appropriate for your audience and use Testing disciplines to establish what works most effectively.


At the very least, the direct mailing will have the recipients name and address, but how much further could you take it? With digital printing you can produce personalised leaflets for every single recipient – imagine the effect of the recipient seeing their name on the front cover of the leaflet. Obviously it costs more to do this, but the results may be worth it.

Eye Scanning

Where do you look first as you pick up a direct mail pack from the floor after it’s dropped through your letter box? You don’t know which way up it will land so consider something on both sides of the envelope. Also, you don’t know if they will read the letter or a leaflet first, so bear that in mind when you’re designing it.

The piece will need to look attractive and appealing regardless of which part is seen first.

When a reader looks at the letter, they’ll generally see the top left hand corner first, then scan the right hand border, then headlines, then the start of the paragraphs. If what they see is of interest, they may read the letter itself. A similar pattern will be repeated with each element so the purpose at each stage is simply to get them to read a bit more. Once they stop reading, you’ve lost them.

Creative Techniques

Make sure each of the eye-scanning points mentioned above are visually appealing and interesting. Have short sentences, short paragraphs and subheadings to break up the text. Don’t include too much colour or bold and italics in the text as it can confuse and distract, rather than catching the reader’s attention.

Use display boxes at the side to contain the information you want to draw people’s attention to, rather than lots of bold, italics and random colours. Avoid capitals as they can be difficult to read and often make people think you’re shouting at them. Images are good though. Include as many as you can but try to have people enjoying or using your product or service rather than static shots of the object you’re selling.

Direct mail is best used as part of a range of media, but designed with a specific purpose in mind. You can read more about other potential media to use in Choosing the Right Media.