5 Tips for Better Direct Mail Pieces

Want to create awesome direct mail? You must always carefully consider the list, the message, and the call to action, but other factors make a highly effective mail piece, too. These include things like the trim size, shape, and texture of the piece. Let’s look at five considerations for creating standout mail pieces.

1. Trim size. For the lowest possible postage cost, go with a standard 4″ x 6″ postcard. However, a nonstandard-sized card will stand out, and while it will cost more in postage, it is guaranteed to get noticed. It might even be the first piece they pick up. What’s that worth?

2. Weight of the stock. Consumers tend to associate the weight of the stock used in the mailing with the brand’s quality and, by extension, the marketed product. Heavier stocks command respect and attention.

3. Texture and “feel” of the paper. In a sea of smooth envelopes, mailers with textured finishes get noticed. Many options exist, from high gloss and spot varnish to specialty processes.

4. Personalized messaging. Even using someone’s name on the front of a card will engage the recipient more than a static card. This extra level of engagement might only last for a split second, but sometimes, that is all you need.

5. Colored stock. Most mailers are printed on traditional white paper. When you print on a colored stock, it grabs attention. Use knock-out type, graphics, and images on dynamic backgrounds to get your mailer to jump out of the box. If your mailbox contains a sea of white envelopes and one bright red one with a white knock-out type, which would you pick up first?

There are many ways to get your direct mailer to stand out from all of the others. Why not try something you have not tried before? You might love the results!

Serif vs. Sans Serif Fonts: What’s the Difference?

Are you designing a new brochure? Postcard? Setting up an email template? The choice between serif and sans-serif fonts plays a pivotal role in shaping text’s visual identity and readability. Let’s examine the difference between these two font types and when to use each for maximum impact.

Serif Fonts: Tradition and Elegance

Serif fonts are characterized by small, decorative strokes or “serifs” extending from each letterform’s ends. These typefaces exude a sense of tradition, formality, and elegance. Serif fonts are often associated with classic literature, print media, and formal documents.

When should you use serif fonts?

Printed Text: Serif fonts like Times New Roman or Garamond are ideal for printed materials like books, newspapers, and magazines. The serifs guide the reader’s eye along the text, making lengthy passages more readable.

Formal Documents: For documents requiring a formal tone, like resumes, academic papers, or business reports, serif fonts convey professionalism and credibility.

Body Text: In body text, especially in long-form content, serif fonts offer better legibility due to the serifs helping readers follow the text line by line.

Sans Serif Fonts: Modern Simplicity

As the name suggests, Sans-serif fonts lack the decorative serifs found in their counterparts. Clean lines and a contemporary, minimalist appearance characterize these fonts. These fonts are often chosen for their modern and straightforward aesthetic.

When should you use sans-serif fonts?

Digital Content: Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are well-suited for digital content, including websites, mobile apps, and email. Their simplicity translates well to screens of all sizes.

Headings and Titles: Sans-serif fonts make excellent choices for headings, titles, and callout text, offering a striking appearance that grabs attention.

Informal and Friendly Tone: When aiming for a relaxed or friendly tone in design or branding, sans-serif fonts convey approachability and modernity.

Signage and Wayfinding: Sans-serif fonts are favored for signage and wayfinding systems due to their clear and legible design, even from a distance.

Logo Design: Many contemporary logos and brand identities opt for sans-serif fonts to project a sleek, forward-looking image.

Combining Serif and Sans Serif

Sometimes, the most effective typographic solution combines serif and sans-serif fonts within a design. This approach can create visual contrast and hierarchy. When using this combination:

Choose fonts with complementary styles to maintain visual harmony.

Use serif fonts for body text to enhance readability.

Reserve sans-serif fonts for headings or call-to-action elements for emphasis.

Choosing between serif and sans-serif fonts is a matter of design intent and context. When used strategically and harmoniously, each style can enhance visual communication and contribute to the overall impact of your design or message.

Heavier Weight Paper Is a Better Communicator

Are you creating a brochure? Postcard? Sales letter? When you use heavier-weight paper, it gets more attention. That attention translates into a more positive perception of your brand and, according to a study from SAPPI North America, increases the likelihood that your information will be shared with friends.

The study, conducted by the Eagleman Lab, was run by Dr. David Eagleman, a well-known neuroscientist, and director of the Baylor College of Medicine’s Laboratory for Perception and Action (as well as best-selling author and creator of PBS’ series, “The Brain”). In the study, participants read a brochure for fictitious companies on three different media: high-quality coated paper, lower-grade uncoated paper, and online. The design was similar for all three media, and the brochure for each company was randomly assigned a medium.

The results? When respondents read a marketing message on high-quality paper, they:

  • Understood the content better.
  • Were more likely to remember the content.
  • Had better impressions of the brands they read about.
  • Were more likely to recommend those brands to friends.

The study found that those results held over time, as well. Even one week later, participants still preferred the companies they read about on high-quality paper, with name recall for those brands highest by a factor of 3:1.

“Online reading is often purposeful and utilitarian, a kind of information foraging for a clear goal,” said Dr. Eagleman in a statement to Two Sides NA, which analyzes environmental and social issues related to paper and digital communication. “But paper [heavier weight paper, in particular] directs attention and working memory much differently, with a resulting increase in understanding and retention.”

Heavier-weight papers will cost more, of course, but for the right projects, the message will be better anchored in recipients’ brains and more likely to be shared with others. This will make your marketing dollars go even further.

Is heavier-weight paper right for your next project? Let’s talk!

5 Ways to Motivate Your Target Audience

Are fewer people responding to your direct mail pieces? Maybe it’s because they’ve seen the same or similar design multiple times. It could be time to try something new. Here are five simple ideas to improve your marketing and get more people interested in your offers again.

1. Mix up envelope styles.

Use the same envelope every time, and it will lose effectiveness. Change sizes. Change the color. Add a personalized message (“Special Offer Just for Bob Jones!”) or test a handwriting font.

2. Making responding easier.

In today’s digital world, reply cards are often overlooked, but they are still a highly effective way for people to respond to offers. If you aren’t using a reply form, consider adding one. Prefill it with your customer’s contact information. The fewer steps people must take, the more likely they are to respond.

3. Freshen up the content.

Are you still using last year’s wording in your marketing letters? Write a new one. Or try a new opening paragraph or a change in the level of detail. Not a great writer? Experiment with a free AI writing assistant like ChatGPT.

4. Create new offers.

Are your customers seeing the same offer over and over? Change it up! Offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee. Try a new level of discount or a BOGO offer. 

5. Add a time limit.

Time limits are potent motivators. Use a personalized message on the outside of the envelope (“Charley, offer expires in 10 days!”) or create a piece of art that looks like you’ve rubber-stamped the time limit across the top of the letter. “Joan, your offer is set to expire. Respond now!”

If you make changes, test them to see which ones are most effective. Create control groups to compare current designs or offers with the previous ones. You begin learning what motivates your audience by testing design, content, and offer changes. Then roll those things back into your next campaign and watch your results soar!

Need ideas? Give us a call!

Finding Hidden Data to Understand Your Audience Better

When we consider personalized print marketing, we consider the name, address, gender, household income, and other simple variables. But is that enough to create highly targeted, relevant campaigns? There are times when you want a richer data set. Before purchasing third-party data, however, take a deeper look in-house. You may have more data than you think.

Let’s look at some of the often underutilized data types.

Transactional data: This data typically includes purchase orders, sales receipts, invoices, payment records, and other financial transactions. Analyzing transactional data can help identify trends, popular products or services, customer buying behavior, and potential upselling opportunities.

Submissions through web contact forms: Web contact forms collect valuable information from customers and website visitors. This data includes inquiries, feedback, support requests, and other messages that provide insights into customer needs, pain points, and preferences.

Business reply cards: Business reply cards (BRCs) are often used in direct mail marketing campaigns, allowing customers to respond to offers, request information, and provide feedback. Analyzing the responses from BRCs can provide insights into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and the interests of specific customer segments.

Text messaging: Companies that engage in text marketing might need to realize the wealth of data they have. This data includes phone numbers, response rates, and communication preferences. Analyzing text marketing data can help companies optimize their messaging, timing, and targeting for better engagement and conversions.

Responses to email campaigns: Email campaigns contain a wealth of information, such as opens and click-through rates. Analyzing these metrics can help you understand customer engagement levels and interests. Once incorporated back into your marketing database, this information can be used to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing and overall marketing.

Trade shows/events: When companies participate in trade shows or events, they gather a wealth of helpful data. This includes leads generated, customer interactions, survey responses, and attendee feedback. This can help you assess the success of their participation, identify potential clients, and tailor future event strategies.

Customer and Prospect Surveys: Conducting surveys can be a powerful way to gather feedback and insights from customers and prospects. Surveys provide direct information on customer satisfaction, preferences, pain points, and suggestions for improvement.

In conclusion, these data types might sometimes be overlooked but hold valuable insights. Do you have marketing gold right under your feet? Get out your digging tools and find out!

The Power of Gratitude: Saying “Thank You” to Your Donors

As a nonprofit, you know that donors are the lifeblood of your mission. That’s why saying “thank you” is not just courteous. It is vital. It strengthens relationships, encourages future giving, and helps you and your mission thrive. Let’s look at five ways to say “thank you” to your donors, not just during special events but at all times of the year.  

1. Give donors the credit. Give donors credit for the excellent work you are doing. Instead of saying, “Your gift will help our organizationfeed hungry children,” for example, say, “Your gift will feed hungry children.” This subtle shift may be the most powerful thing you can do in your “thank you” letters.  

2. Tell stories. When you share the impact of donors’ gifts through the eyes of changed lives, this speaks more loudly than a mere “thank you” alone. Tell mission-impact stories using an informal, friendly tone and incorporate powerful storytelling images. Keep it short. Hit the highlights so even busy donors see their impact loud and clear.  

3. Show them that they have made a wise investment. Share specifically how the gifts will be used: “Your gift will go directly to…” When possible, include a personal message from someone who directly benefited from the gift.  

4. Be accurate in the details. Ensure the donor’s name is correct—and there are no spelling or grammatical errors. When possible, have someone higher up in the organization, such as the executive director or director of development, sign the letter. (Remember that you are just saying, “Thank you.” Don’t use this as an opportunity to ask for another gift.)  

5. Open the door to a more extensive engagement process. Although you are thanking donors, you are nurturing them, too. So keep it up! Send them ongoing impact reports and personal letters written by those benefitting from your work. Invite them to donor celebrations like cookouts or tours.  

Sending a great thank you letter is the first and most crucial step of the donor engagement process. It increases donor retention and creates a sustainable base of highly engaged supporters who renew their gifts year after year and feel so connected to your mission that they are likely to share it with others.

Want to Boost Your Fundraising Success? Send Donor Surveys

More than any other factor, a donor’s relationship with the organization determines their likelihood of donating. Print and emailed surveys can go a long way toward achieving this goal. What are the keys to sending effective donor surveys?

1. Clarify your goals and objectives. What specific information do you want to gather? Are you looking to understand donor motivations, preferred communication channels, or demographic information? Clearly defining your objectives will guide the design of the survey.

2. Keep it concise. Respect your donors’ time and ensure the survey is brief and focused. Long, complex surveys may discourage participation. Stick to the most essential questions that align with your objectives.

3. Mix question types. Use a mix of question types to gather different kinds of information. Include multiple-choice questions, rating scales, and open-ended questions. This variety helps to provide a well-rounded understanding of donor opinions and preferences.

4. Segment and personalize. Include the donor’s name, reference previous interactions, and acknowledge their contributions. If your donor base is diverse, segment the survey based on different donor personas or giving levels. This helps each donor to feel valued and allows you to gather more targeted insights.

5. Offer non-monetary incentives. Encourage survey participation by offering non-monetary incentives that align with your mission and appeal to donors’ interests. For example, provide exclusive content, previews of new projects, or links to activity behind the scenes.

6. Test before sending. Before launching the survey widely, conduct a pilot test with a small group of donors or staff members. This allows you to identify any issues or areas for improvement before rolling it out to a larger audience.

7. Respect privacy. Assure donors that their responses will be kept confidential. Communicate how the data will be used and reassure donors that their feedback will be used only to improve the organization’s impact.

8. Follow up and say “thank you.” After the survey, express gratitude for their participation. Share key findings or insights from the survey, demonstrating that their input has been valuable. This helps foster a sense of involvement and strengthens the donor-organization relationship.

Ready to send a survey to learn more about your donors? Let’s get started!

5 Takeaways from the 2023 ‘Ad Impressions Study’­

Every year, the Advertising Specialties Institute’s “Ad Impressions Study” provides a fascinating look into the power and effectiveness of branded promotional products. The study is always a must-read, from how many impressions a product receives to which ones are kept the longest. What are some of the highlights from the 2023 study?

  1. Consumers love branded swag. First and most importantly, consumers prefer branded promotional products over all other forms of advertising. Whether men or women, young or old, or whether they live in the Midwest, the South, or one of the coasts, consumers universally prefer branded promotional products over radio, newspaper, magazine, mobile, television, and Internet advertising.
  2. Made in the USA wins again. More than half of men (52%) and half of women (56%) say they would feel more favorably toward an advertiser who gave them swag made in the USA. Of the different age groups, the older the consumer, the more preference they gave to such products.
  3. Consumers want branded products that are environmentally friendly. Nearly half (46%) of consumers say they would feel more favorably toward an advertiser that gave them an environmentally friendly product. This rises to 49% of women. Of the different age groups? Those 55-65 and 65+ were most likely to say they would feel more favorably toward such advertisers — 49% for both groups. This is somewhat of a surprise since we associate the most significant environmental concern with younger buyers. Yet among those aged 25-34, only 39% gave this answer!
  4. Drinkware has the most staying power. Which branded promotional product are consumers likely to keep and use the longest? Drinkware! Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers would keep and use promotional drinkware for one year or longer. Promotional calendars and polo shirts came in second, with 62% saying they would keep and use them for one year or longer.
  5. Outerwear is the top show-off. Which promotional products get the most impressions? Outerwear/fleeces, with 7,856 impressions. This is followed by headwear at 3,380 impressions.

Want to learn more about the value of promotional products and which products to choose for your target audience? Give us a call, and let’s talk about it!

5 Ways Color Benefits Your Marketing

When it comes to using color, many people tend to think exclusively in terms of images. However, marketers increasingly recognize the value of color in text and other messaging areas. For instance, color can highlight phone numbers, payment information, discounts, and critical points in marketing materials that make them more impactful and actionable. Let’s look at five practical ways to add color to your text and messaging areas to improve your marketing.

1. Improved Recall

Studies have consistently shown that using color in messaging and images can significantly increase recall. One study found that people are 40% more likely to read and select materials that are presented in color. Another found that using color increases recall rates by up to 80%. Use color in your sales letters to highlight important details you don’t want readers to miss.

2. Greater comprehension

Using colored text and backgrounds can increase readers’ understanding and retention of information. Add colorful images, graphics, and charts to your next sales presentation.

3. Ease of Locating Key Information

Using color can help readers locate information more easily. This is particularly useful in lengthy documents like insurance policies and contracts.

4. Reduces Errors

Highlighting important information, such as instructions or account details, reduces errors and helps readers get things right the first time.

5. Reduces payment time

Because using color helps readers better understand their statements and invoices, this can lead to faster payments and better cash flow for you. Try highlighting the amount owed and the due date with color, and watch your invoices get paid faster!

Ultimately, color is a critical aspect of marketing materials that are beautiful and highly practical. But don’t just throw color around anywhere. It should be utilized strategically to maximize its effectiveness. If you’re unsure where to start, ask for suggestions on incorporating color into your direct mail efforts.

Customers: “Give Me a (Digital) Break! Use Print!”

Communicating with customers using formats they love makes them more likely to pay attention. When it comes to marketing materials, that means sending more print.

Over the years, there have been dozens of studies on the impact of print on human comprehension and learning. Information read in print is embedded more deeply in the brain, is more easily recalled, and is recalled more accurately. But buyers don’t love print simply because they remember things better. They love it because it makes them feel good.

For example:

  • Consumers find hard-copy versions of books, magazines, and newspapers more enjoyable than electronic alternatives.
  • Consumers see print as more relaxing to read than computer screens, e-readers, and (yes, even) smartphones.
  • Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of (and concerned about) the health effects of spending too much time on electronic devices. 

Health concerns about the over-use of digital media are growing, and that concern is increasing the “feel good” factor of traditional printed materials, whether books, magazines, or direct mail.

One study from Two Sides/Toluna found that, even several years ago, consumers were already starting to show signs of concern. The study found that consumers…

  • believed they spend too much time on electronic devices,
  • were concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health, and
  • believed in the importance of “switching off” and reading more in print.

These feelings have only been amplified since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the time children spend staring at their screens up 52%. As the number of news reports on the impact of over-digitalization on our culture rises, more and more consumers ask themselves, “Am I spending too much time on my screen, too?”

The takeaway? If you love your customers, then love what they love. Digital communications have their place in the multichannel mix, but when it comes to “feeling the love,” it’s still very much about print.