My Top 10 Design Elements to Lift Response

Is your response rate getting a little stale? You can hit refresh with some simple design elements that work hard to communicate your message and get you better results. Sound good? Then let me share my personal list of 10 go-to elements, from proven classics to the try-something-new. 

How many could you use to lift response? Which element is my favorite? Read on and see.

1. The Box

Yes, thinking “inside” the box can get results! Proof: The continuing success of a direct mail classic, the Johnson box. Just put your offer or your main product benefit (or both) inside a box at the top of a sales letter and you’re off to a winning start. Or use an iteration of the box – the sidebar – to highlight other big benefits, as well as testimonials. Did you know: The Johnson box is now popular with email marketers, too. It goes by this name: the email preheader.

Johnson Box

2. Certificate Border

Put it around an order form or a product guarantee – create an “official” appearance, instantly.

Certificate Border

3. Circles & Icons

Want to give your money-back guarantee or limited-time offer a more commanding presence? Contain the important words in a circle. Or design a special icon, to really stand out.

guarantee icon

4. White Space

Too much text in a small area scares away most readers. Copy scattered here and there is confusing. White space calms things down and encourages closer reading.

5. Handwriting

When you want your message to be a little more personal, or you want a key benefit to pop even more, a handwriting script will do the job.

6. The Check Mark

To draw attention, inject positive vibes with a check mark. Next to a statement, it communicates an emphatic Yes! It’s especially effective in a short list of points — instead of bullets, use check marks.

7. Color

I could write a book about it! One huge color benefit: giving your message that extra push. Example: In designing a 3-color job for a financial client, I often pair black type with a color that brands the product by conveying trust or wisdom, like blue. Then, to move the call-to-action or the offer to center stage, I select a bright color (like red) that will stand out against the blue and black.

8. Graphs & Charts

Ever use a bar graph to pit your product against the competition? Or display all the good that donor contributions will do in a pie chart? These visual cues can speak volumes, with an air of authority. Plus, consider this: a simple infographic, to show how your product works and the flow of benefits to buyers.

Comparison charts

9. Bold Text

Sprinkle it judiciously in your promotions, and readers won’t miss what you most want to communicate when they scan the page.

10. The Arrow

Point to something and, snap, you pique interest. Maybe that’s why the arrow is my favorite design element – whether it’s used to direct readers’ eyes to a major benefit or deadline, or to provide a powerful call-to-action.


These are just a few easy ways you can employ certain design elements to refresh your response rate. If you need any assistance, just give me a call.

To Bold or NOT to Bold? The answer is not pretty!

As I was working on a direct mail package recently, a curious thing happened. The client kept asking me to make some of the important content “less bold.” In effect, to de-emphasize the marketing message. So why do it? Because, she explained, the bolded copy didn’t look pretty. Huh???

As direct marketers, we don’t go for ugly, but we may not always aim to be the prettiest, either. Our aim is to get response. And bold is a powerful visual tool to help make that happen.

Bold makes copy pop — thus making it more scannable.

The right phrases or subheads in bold direct the eyes of busy readers to quickly see what you most want them to see, at first glance. Result: Your promotion could get a more careful second look, instead of simply getting trashed right off the bat!

Take, for example, this two-color blurb from a flyer. Using bold (in green and in body color) makes the product’s competitive edge so much easier for the reader to spot.

Why XYZ Financial?
Most important are profits. XYZ Financial is one of the rare services that tells you not just when to buy a particular stock but also when to sell. Because profits are only theoretical until you sell.

Another example: Part of a fundraising letter, where bold is used to point out the benefits of donating.

I want to remind you that more than 60% of the kids in Honduras never reach the sixth grade. By donating now, you can provide what they can’t afford:  basic things like pencils and notebooks. Things that your kids may take for granted. With a $100 tax-deductible contribution, you can directly impact the life of a child in Honduras … you can directly impact the future.

But can you ever have too much bold?

Yes, just like you can have too much chocolate if you’re served 5 or 6 chocolate treats all at once! If you bold everything, nothing seems important – or inviting to read. Are there alternatives to bold? Sure. You can, for example, use ALL CAPS or italic, depending on how emphatic you want your message to be. Here is a hierarchy of choices:

  1. Bold with a complementary strong color
  2. ALL CAPS with a complementary strong color
  3. Bold in body color
  4. ALL CAPS in body color
  5. Underlining, but only in print materials.  (Not recommended for online promotions because it could be mistaken for a link.)
  6. Italic

What about paper considerations?

Good you asked! If you’re printing on uncoated stock, beware: inexpensive uncoated paper will absorb the color, therefore making colors darker. This can be tricky to fix, since all colors look bright when you view the job on a monitor. For example, this can happen:



The blue looks almost black when printed. Yikes, of course you don’t want that! The question then is, how do you know how dark a color will print? That’s why you need a designer — we can check it out, using our Pantone tools.

If you want to make some BOLD moves with expert guidance, let’s chat!

Huh … Tootsie Rolls?

When I recently purchased paints online for a craft project, I expected to get just paints. But, when I opened the package, out fell a printed “Thanks for your order” card and — surprise — some Tootsie Rolls. Sweet … except that I don’t love Tootsie Rolls, getting loose candy during a pandemic concerns me, and the thank-you was, well, generic. So, I just tossed everything in the garbage.

That’s a shame, because I know the vendor was trying to create brand loyalty. And thank-you’s are an important, proven way to win more loyalty, whether you’re a business or a nonprofit. But you need to take the time to do it right.

So, how can you craft a thank-you that will appeal to even people who don’t love Tootsie Rolls? Here are some suggestions:

PERSONALIZE. To start a relationship, a personal message is best. But, if you absolutely don’t have time for it, add a short, handwritten message to your printed card. Something like –

Meryl, I’d love to see what you create with our paints — post on our Facebook page!
Preston Smith, Business Owner. 917-123-1234

Dear Meryl, your donation made our day.
With gratitude,
Brianna Smith, Executive Director. 917-234-4567

INCENTIVIZE. Give people a reason to come back.

Include a coupon or online coupon code with your thank-you note that’s good towards the customer’s next purchase. Or send a free sample – in the case of the paint vendor, it could be a special color paint or brush – as an added bonus.

Be sure to send a sincere note right away. Be specific: Include a contact number and ask the donor to follow you on social media. And … send a regular newsletter with updates on projects donors are making possible.

Yes, times are tough. So, remember, you want to be the organization that comes to mind first — and thank-you’s that personalize and incentivize can definitely help.

What you can learn from my ruined pants

Laundry Symbols
How many of these clothing care labels do you understand? I can guess the bottom right — hand wash, but others are Greek to me. Every time I do my laundry I debate whether it’s worth flipping through the 4pt type on the clothing tags, to correctly wash an item. Nah, no time, too much work. So I usually test my luck and hope I guess right. Well … that’s how I ruined my favorite pants!

This brings me to a critical question for all of us: Are we losing many prospects because we make them work too hard to get our message?

Whether it’s a logo, direct mail, an email, or a website, the primary goal of good design is the same: clarity, for quick communication. That’s why, when I start a project, I always aim for a strong statement of my client’s message with the least amount of content and design elements. My mantra for today’s “instant information” world: Less is More.

So now, let’s look at those laundry symbols again. They’re simple. They’re clean (pun intended). But some fail at instant interpretation … leading me to my next question: How can we make sure our creatives are easily – and quickly – understood?

My answer: Clarity Testing. Basically, it’s asking people who are unfamiliar with the project to do a test run of your creative. This way, you can step out of your bubble and get an unbiased preview of how those in your target audience might respond to your team’s hard work. Benefit to you: You can tweak where needed now and possibly raise your ROI later.

Consider doing a Clarity Test on:

LOGOS: When you present your design and tagline, take note: Can people understand in seconds (yes, seconds) what your company’s mission is? If not, pow-wow with your designer – pronto!

DIRECT MAIL / EMAILS: To up your response rate, give all your components a reality check: See how people respond to various elements. For example:  calls-to-action. Do a few versions of the reply form, and test which gets the most attention.

Consider doing a Usability Test on:

WEBSITES: Usability Testing is a twin of Clarity Testing. The web development team observes people participating in a test drive of your website to answer questions like: Where might users get lost or confused? What information is actually being read? What engages enough for users to click through?

Losing promotion dollars (or your favorite pants) isn’t funny. Want some free guidance in sorting out what can work for you from someone with proven know-how?  I’m offering a complimentary 30-minute review of your future creative, no strings attached. Contact me here. Happy laundering!

The laundry icons clockwise, starting at the top left: tumble dry low/cool; only non-chlorine bleach; drip dry; hand wash; iron medium temperature. To learn more symbols visit this webpage

Websites: Direct Mail’s First Cousin

Websites and Direct Mail are Related

When you were growing up, did you love spending time with an older relative? For me, it was Norma, my mother’s first cousin, who took me to the museums and theater. Her perspective and interest had an influence on me.

In life, the younger generation is shown the way by the older generation, but they make things their own. This also applies to marketing. So now, let’s look at two other first cousins, Direct Mail and Websites. The younger cousin, Websites, has followed in the footsteps of Direct Mail, but it’s reworking Direct Mail tactics for the digital age.

First, let’s see how they are related. Direct Mail is a marketing channel where you communicate one-on-one with your target audience to generate measurable results. This is done by mailing a piece with a message/offer directed towards the recipient. Then you track the response by using offer codes, phone numbers, and so on. Websites do the same thing. You are directing your message to the site’s visitor, and you can track people’s visits with Google Analytics or other software.

Here are just a few examples of how Websites have taken Direct Mail tactics and made them work for digital:

TIMING: Direct Marketers know that if you mail when coinciding with things like events, holidays, and seasons, the better your response rate. For websites, you also need to time it right – such as when to have a pop-up box appear.

BENEFITS: For both cousins, this is crucial. People want to know what’s in it for them. In Direct Mail, long benefit copy often works, but when it comes to Websites, shorter copy with SEO keywords is the way to go.

OFFER/CALL-TO-ACTION: The best way to acquire new customers is to offer something in return for their response. For both cousins, it can be a special savings offer, or a free gift. An informational, downloadable pdf is a good option for Websites.

EASE OF RESPONSE: Whether it’s Direct Mail or Websites, once someone may have interest in your product, you need to keep the momentum going and make it as easy as possible to respond. In Direct Mail, make sure the url you choose for replying online is easy to type into a web browser. And it’s best to use Business Reply Mail, because you don’t want someone to be looking for a stamp. On a website, make sure you provide many opportunities for the visitor to click through so they can reach out to you.

Yes, Direct Mail and Websites have special family ties. So if you are developing a website or landing page, look to Direct Mail for insight. Or create a stronger marketing campaign by combining the two! These cousins work very well together.

“Oh no! …”

I was in a pharmacy today looking to replenish my supply of hand lotion. For an item so simple, there are so many choices. But what caught my eye the most was the one bottle of lotion on an otherwise empty shelf. There were other lotions to choose from, but those shelves were full. Suddenly my sense of urgency grew when a woman came and stood next to me — and patiently waited for me to choose. Now I had to make my decision —

“Oh no! If I don”t grab this bottle NOW I may lose out!”

Can you relate?

This is a everyday example of how visual cues and our emotions work to compel us to take action. We use the same techniques to elicit the same reactions in direct response creative.

Here’s how we do it. To elicit the “Oh No!” emotion with copy, we add phrases to our call to action like:

-Order now while there is still time!
-Don’t miss out!
-Time is running out!
-Offer expires XX/XX

But that’s only half of it. To be most impactful, you need to pair these phrases with specific design elements. Think of the bottle of lotion again sitting by itself on the shelf surrounded by empty space. There’s bold text on the package that was shouting out its benefits. If this same bottle of lotion was placed on a full shelf with the competitors’ brands, I would not have noticed it as quickly and strongly.

Now let’s apply this to direct response creative — how do you draw someone’s eye to the take an action with a sense of urgency? Just like the lotion, surround it with white (empty) space, then add bold and color to the text to make it shout out.

Still, there is one more element we need to add to make the strongest impact: the arrow. I equate this arrow to the woman standing next to me, directing my eyes to the solo bottle of lotion. It is the “big push” to get someone to see the call to action.



Arrows can be big, fingers pointing, colorful or not, or even small but — they all have impact. Why are they so effective?  It’s because people’s eyes will always follow where the arrow is going.

Arrows can be big or small, colorful or not, even pointing fingers — but they all have impact. Why are they so effective? It’s because people’s eyes will always follow where the arrow is going.

If you are not already adding an arrow to your call to actions, try it. I am confident to say it would benefit your creative.

Direct Mail Is Still an Important Marketing Component

Meryl was interviewed by Ed Rabinowitz for Dentist’s MONEY DIGEST, about why Direct Mail is effective. Below is a copy of the article.

Initial costs aside, studies found that direct mail produces a higher response rate than online advertising. It’s perceived as more trusted and personal than email, and has the potential to generate a long-term relationship. The key is effectively integrating it into an overall marketing campaign.

By Ed Rabinowitz, Dentist’s MONEY DIGEST
Original article

Direct mail should be part of an overall marketing to consumer approach. The combination, strengthens every component.

It was Mark Twain who once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

That was a long time ago. But today those words could easily apply to direct mail which, according to the Data & Marketing Association, is far from dead.

The DMA Statistical Fact Book notes that 9.8 billion catalogs were mailed in 2016, and more than 100 million U.S. adults made a catalog purchase during that same year. But perhaps even more impressive is direct mail’s response rate — 4.4% compared to email’s average response rate of 0.12%.

Meryl Randman, Creative Director at Meryl Randman LLC, explains why.

“When someone gets an email … you have to have a really strong subject line or some sort of connection to open the email,” Randman says. “It’s not going to have the shelf life as opposed to direct mail.”

Randman defines direct mail marketing as a form of advertising that allows organizations to communicate directly with prospects, as opposed to ads that have a more broad-based focus.

“You’re sending a piece of mail to someone specifically,” she explains. “You have someone in mind, they’re your target, and you gear all the language towards them. By doing this, it strengthens the chance they’ll take action.”

And action is what you want.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that email, social media and online advertising should be overlooked. Rather, Randman believes that direct mail should be part of an overall marketing to consumer approach. The combination, she adds, strengthens every component.

For example, if you have a potential patient’s email as well as home mailing address, you could send them an email indicating, “We have something special coming for you in the mail.” It piques their interest, and provides an extra push for them to open the direct mail envelope when it arrives.

Then, follow up the direct mail with an email reminder. Something along the lines of, “Hope you received our recent package.”

“The whole thing with advertising on any level is, of course, you want them to act right away, but people don’t,” Randman says. “So you send reminders, and work all the components together that way.”

Randman says a great first step toward getting response to direct mail is by offering an incentive. She recalls that her current dentist, whose business continues to thrive, placed an ad in the New York City subway featuring a special low introductory offer for patients to come to their office. A direct mail piece that incentivizes, focuses on benefits, and offers up customer testimonials is an excellent strategy to win over new customers.

“People want to feel comfortable,” Randman says. “We’re all social creatures. So we want to feel like other people had good experiences.”

One direct mail approach Randman recommends for dentists that she says is cost effective is a direct mail campaign to current patients. The incentive or offer might not be for the current patient, but the promotion might say, “Do you know anyone who’s interested in a dentist? If so, we’re offering a special cleaning.” In other words, the type of marketing material current patients might be inclined to pass along.

“Word of mouth,” Randman says.

And if a new patient makes that initial visit, follow up with them to make certain they had a good experience, and might refer your practice to others they know.

“It’s all part of retention,” Randman says. “Maybe you can send a quarterly newsletter, and do it by email which is more cost effective. It could offer friendly problem-solving information such as why they should floss. You could even have a pass-along coupon in the newsletter.”

Randman says that direct mail has the potential to generate a long-term relationship because it’s perceived as more trusted and personal than email. However, it does come with a higher initial cost. As such, it’s important to set specific goals.

“You want a strategy,” she says. “That’s how all effective marketing is handled.”

But you also want to measure, evaluate, and be prepared to make adjustments where necessary.

“Measuring is what makes direct mail so important and so successful,” Randman says. “You should be measuring everything, even the timing of when you have your mailing. Is there a set time of the year when people tend to visit the dentist more?”

For example, parents might be inclined to bring their children in for a checkup before the start of the school year. Or link their oral checkup with a medical physical.

“It’s always smart to tie direct mail into something like that.”

A Powerful, New USPS® Direct Marketing Tool

INFORMED DELIVERY® by the USPS® is an exciting new marketing tool for direct marketers that:

  • Offers an email open rate of 70% (USPS data)*
  • Generates multiple impressions from a single mailpiece (digital + physical)*
  • Drives consumer response with interactive content related to mailpiece*
  • Can potentially increase your ROI*

To help my clients and colleagues gain insight into the benefits of INFORMED DELIVERY and learn how one can get started I spoke with Adam Avrick, President of Design Distributors one of the top direct mail suppliers in the country. Read below to see the answers Adam gave me to my many questions…

MERYL: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is INFORMED DELIVERY?
It’s a service one can sign up with from the U.S. Postal Service, where first thing in the morning, people receive an email that lets them digitally preview in black & white their mail (see image above) and manage packages scheduled to arrive soon. This information is also accessible on the USPS website and INFORMED DELIVERY Apps.

MERYL: Is this service available nationwide? And how many people have signed up?
As of February 5, 2019, there are  15,000,000 people signed up.

MERYL: Is the U.S. Postal Service actively promoting INFORMED DELIVERY to get even more consumers to sign up?
Yes, and it’s also growing organically.

MERYL: How would this help direct marketers?
It’s a new marketing tool. Businesses and nonprofits that are mailing can supply full color interactive content that will ride along with the digital preview. This enhances the customer call-to-action and reinforces a direct marketer’s message. It also allows the message to be changed and enhanced while the mail is en route. The possibilities are endless.

MERYL: Can you give me a specific example of how it would benefit direct marketers?
Let’s say a nonprofit organization that focuses on disaster recovery has a spring appeal with us (the printer) and it will be mailing in the next couple of days. Then an earthquake brings destruction to an area. Wouldn’t it be great to tie that occurrence to the spring appeal? Now they can with INFORMED DELIVERY. A message can be added here to let the recipient know. This is called a ride-along.

MERYL: The image below is an example taken from a USPS PDF of a ride-along. Could you please explain it more, so everyone is clear.
A ride-along can be a clickable button with a call to action, or anything that would enhance the direct mail piece you are sending. The image below also shows how you can swap out the grayscale image with a new color image.

MERYL: Can a marketer know who on their list is using INFORMED DELIVERY?
The USPS is very careful of any information that they share with a marketer. To start out though, they will allow you to upload your mailing list and they will run it against the current registrants. They will tell you how many people on your file are registered with Informed Delivery, however they won’t tell you who they are.

MERYL: Can a marketer gain any significant data?
Each marketer will receive a report that provides the general results of an individual campaign. It includes information on the number of physical mailpieces processed, the number of users/mail recipients that were sent an email, the email open rate, and the number of click-throughs.

MERYL: How does a marketer get started? Is there a cost?
 They can sign up on the USPS website. Currently there isn’t any cost to use the system. My company, Design Distributors, is happy to assist with the setup. Or, Meryl, I’m sure you can help them also.MERYL: I and others are amazed how this works. Can you please briefly tell us the technology behind it?

ADAM: To begin with, every piece of First Class Mail gets scanned when it arrives at the Post Office. INFORMED DELIVERY  just builds on that. Now, to be able to sync the color image or ride-along image you need to add mail.dat. Mail.dat is data generated by me (your printer) that I supply to the Post Office after I presort your mail. This data then needs to be added to your INFORMED DELIVERY job. Once that is done, images that go along with the mailpiece are synced up.

MERYL: For personal use, why should someone sign up for it?
It’s very helpful in a variety of ways. It’s a great way to know when specific bills, credit cards, and important pieces of mail are arriving. In addition, if there are mail offers that you look forward to seeing you will know when they are arriving. Helps you keep an eye out!

MERYL: Anything else you would like to add?
INFORMED DELIVERY is a win-win, for the both marketers and recipients. For some of the Gen X people who may have a hesitancy to go to the mailbox each day this product can certainly draw them there more frequently.

MERYL: Thanks, Adam, for all this great information!

Clients and colleagues: If you have any additional questions, or would like assistance getting started, let us know. Below you can find several useful links.

Adam Advick
President, Design Distributors
Offering the most diverse lettershop and printing services in the New York Metropolitan area. They handle client programs from the time the artwork is received until it hits the mailbox.

Meryl Randman
Creative Director, Meryl Randman LLC
Contact Meryl



*According to

How Cubism Is Like Direct Mail

Do you enjoy viewing paintings by the masters such as Rubens, Michelangelo, and Vermeer? Most people, whether they are art aficionados or not, can connect with these painters, since their style of rendering the figure is very life-like.

What about Picasso, and the style of Cubism? I smile when I hear people who are not trained in the arts say, “I can do that.” And “This painting is not pretty.” But for those who fully understand the intent of a Cubist painter, that changes everything. They understand that Cubism is about multiple perspectives, meaning that it fuses the past and present, and different views of the subject at the same time.

Direct mail also uses a multiple perspective approach, and the most brilliant pieces are not necessarily the prettiest. Sometimes the creative appears so simple that, again, I smile when people say, “I can do that.

For a piece to be successful in direct mail you need to look at past, present and future simultaneously. From the past, you need to analyze the data of what worked and what didn’t. In the present, you plan the timing of the mailing, and how to get someone to open the envelope and respond. For the future, you need to think about how to retain that person for future purchases or fundraising efforts.

In the Cubist painting above, notice the face is rendered in different perspectives. The lips and eyes are drawn as if you are looking straight at the person, but the nose and ears are in side profile. Direct mail requires you to look at different angles also. Angles such as — Who is your audience? What is the goal of the mailing? If it’s for marketing a product or service, what are the benefits and offer, while for a nonprofit, it’s what would make someone feel as if they are making a difference?

When you take this Cubist approach, you too can become a master — a master of direct mail.

Direct Response in Action

What Happened When I Taught My Nephew 5 Simple Tactics

We all know that direct response isn’t child’s play. It’s hard work. Nevertheless, if you keep just a few things in mind, even a novice can make a difference — and the story of my teenage nephew, Ian, and what he was able to accomplish is a good example.

Ian is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. His final project in order to achieve this top rank is to create something for the community that includes a fundraising component. Ian’s idea was big: in memory of a deceased friend he would clean up and upgrade a student community area at the high school his friend loved and attended. This would entail purchasing and installing a new gazebo, as well as adding a picnic table and a bench or two. Total cost: $5,500.

That was a daunting amount for a teenager to raise. But I knew it was doable — as long as Ian followed some basic fundraising tactics on his crowdfunding site and in his letters. Here’s what I taught Ian:

5 Simple Direct Response Tactics That Work

1. Think: Who are you writing to and how do they want to be addressed? It’s important to start on the right foot. Ian was writing Mr. and Mrs. Smith (not real name). I asked if that is how they want to be addressed. Ian said no, by their first names. Then do that, I said. His teacher wants to be called Mrs. Jones (not real name). That’s how Ian addressed her.

2. Tell a sincere story: Show compassion, without ever going over the top. Ian told the story of his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout and his deceased friend simply and from the heart.

3. Give the facts: Where is the money going? Be as specific as you can because people want to know. Ian provided cost figures for each major item on his list.

4. Simplify: Make it as easy as possible for donors to respond. Ian added a form to the letter so people knew what to do next. He also provided a reply device: a postage-paid envelope with his return address on it.

5.  Remind people of tax benefits: Give donors an added incentive to be generous. Let them know that their donation could be tax-deductible. It’s easy to do, and Ian did it.

I’m happy to say that, in a month’s time, Ian exceeded his fundraising goal!

How to Stand Out with More Visual Promotions

Top 3 Reasons for Charts

Did this chart catch your eye?
Today, you may have just a few seconds — maybe less — to grab someone’s attention. Charts (pie, line, bar, and others) are proven attention-winners. Of course, they’re perfect for presentation of data. But, with a little creative flair, you can also employ them to make your most important sales messages pop, online and off.

What makes charts work?
No need to rack your brain — just look at the chart above. In addition to ATTENTION, they provide AUTHORITY and QUICK UNDERSTANDING. A chart speaks volumes, with just a few words. So today’s multi-taskers can quickly say, “Aha, I SEE your point!” Moreover, a chart lends an air of authority to what you’re presenting because it supports your point or actually proves it, when you include relevant data. Add a short caption to your chart and you can be certain it will be read.

Take a cue from infographics: Get MORE visual!
You’ve heard of Information overload? Maybe that’s why infographics are now so popular in content marketing. They break things down with visuals, including charts, and a pinch of razzle-dazzle. But you don’t have to go that far in your promotions — a simple, unstuffy chart will be just as effective, whenever you want to:

Make a strong price or savings statement
Provide competitive product comparisons
Visualize a problem/solution
Show a relationship
Highlight a trend

Try it! Charts might be just the thing to make your promotions stand out. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Raise Response with Email + Direct Mail

When email and direct mail join forces, their combined strengths can really put some POW in your response rates and give your business or nonprofit greater ROI. Here’s how:

Email first, followed by direct mail

Time Inc. sent prospects an email announcing a special subscription discount offer that was coming in the mail soon. The email showed a picture of the direct mail package so that recipients would take more notice of it when it arrived. The package was sent about a week later. Result: Greater response than if only email or only direct mail had been used.

Direct Mail first, followed by email

Email marketing is so popular these days that cluttered inboxes are becoming a problem. Plus, research shows that emails are opened at much lower rates than direct mail. How do you fight those obstacles? Some marketers are sending direct mail — such as a postcard — to alert prospects to a special offer, followed soon after by an email with all the details. Result: Improved email OPEN and CLICK-THROUGH rates, and improved response.

Powerful takeaway for you:

Today, to get people’s attention, it pays to give your message double exposure by synchronizing email and direct mail so they work in tandem. You gain more mindshare, too, when you brand your campaign with a consistent look and feel across channels!

8 Ways to Make a Great Thank You Deliver

Direct marketers know that FREE, FINAL CHANCE, and ACT NOW are some of the most effective words to get someone to respond to your solicitation. Today, I’d like you to consider the power of a simple THANK YOU.

People like to feel appreciated. And when you show your appreciation with a personal note, they feel a closer connection to your business or non-profit organization, which can prompt another purchase or donation.

The above statement is especially true in fundraising. Tests done by a major fundraiser reveal that quality thank-you letters outperform the typical when it comes to rate of renewal and average gift value**. Another fundraiser made almost $450,000 more in gifts with the inclusion of a thank-you note!***

Now, you’re probably thinking, what makes up a quality thank-you? Here are some DO’s and one big DON’T that will make things very clear – and quite possibly improve your donor retention rates.*

1. Send a REAL letter: No preprinted card or boilerplate copy. It must be personal.

2. Get to it right away: That means within days (not weeks or months) of the giving.

3. Use the name of the person who gave the donation. You’re starting a relationship, so no “Dear Donor” or “Dear Friend.”

4.Inform: Thank the donor for the gift and give details on how the funds will be used to make a difference.

5. Deepen the connection: Let the donor know when to expect an update—and keep your promise.

6. Be warm & positive: Invite the donor to contact you directly for more information. Or include the name and phone number of a staff person to contact at any time.

7. Make it short: A one-sided letter that speaks sincerely and succinctly will do the job.

8. Honor your donor: Get someone high in the organization to sign the letter.

Do not sell, do not send a survey, do not ask for another gift. Save that for another time.
So, start writing those great thank-you’s now. And if you’d like to have my team evaluate them, send them to me. We’ll be glad to take a look.

 ***Tom Ahern article: “No thanks? No, thanks!”; **Tom Belford article: “OK, Thank You!”;
*Penelope Burk article: “Thank You Letters: Powerful and Profitable”.

One Minute Critique

Take a look at this magazine subscription card above that I came across (I removed all references to the title and publication).

While keeping its simplicity, the above card can be improved dramatically to elicit a stronger response. I took the liberty to rework it below. Here’s what I did.

1. Knowing there are only seconds to grab someone’s attention, I didn’t want to hide the best component of the offer. It needs to be emphasized. A proven way to do that is with a burst.

2. “Free” is hidden under the “Yes” copy. I moved it to a more prominent position and made it much bigger. As all direct marketers know, “Free” is a very attention-getting word.

3. I emphasized the “Free” component even more by adding an image of an iPad. This gives prospects a better idea of what they will receive.

4. The title, “Special Subscription Offer,” is fine. If you can give a sense of timeliness to it, even better. Is there a holiday coming up that you can tie it to? Here I changed the title to “Special Holiday Offer.”

5. There are two offers on this simple card: one on the top and one on the bottom. Also, the strong selling point “SAVE 69%” is smaller than the rest of the copy. If someone is considering the offer, I want to make it as easy as possible for the person to select the best option. Therefore, I put both offers together and enlarged and bolded the “Save” copy.

6. Finally, I added an arrow next to “Best Deal.” Arrows have a way of attracting attention–let’s use them!

Fall email2

Now look at both cards. Can you see that the bottom card’s message is much stronger and easier to figure out quickly? These changes are just a starting point. Even more can be done.

Direct response creative (whether it’s email, direct mail, a landing page or banner ad) can be a very effective tool in bringing in new revenue, subscribers and members to your organization–when done properly.

Don’t Litter Between 11AM-12:30PM?

Look at the above sign. All other times it’s okay to litter?

We all know that can’t be and for those of us who live in New York City this is a very familiar sign — it’s the alternate side-of-the-street parking sign. But in this email the sign appears to be about littering, not parking. You may even wonder what the “P” stands for.

This is a perfect example of why these 3C’s — Context, Conciseness and Clarity — are so important in all creative. Let me explain how it applies to the above image:

CONTEXT — This sign is taken totally out of context. It’s not hanging on a pole on a New York City street and you’re not trying to find the best parking spot. When you are parking your car and quickly looking at this sign your eye only goes straight to the hours, because that’s the only thing you are concerned about.

CONCISENESS — This sign has two messages. “DON’T LITTER” is really not necessary.

CLARITY — The lesser message “DON’T LITTER” is really overpowering the real message. This is due to the strong design element of a broom popping out and directing your eye to the words “DON’T LITTER.” This confuses the real message of the sign.

These parking signs are bolted to steel poles, therefore they are only going to be seen where they are. But not all messages are like that. Always keep the 3C’s in mind with your direct response creative. Ask these questions:

1. How or when is a customer receiving your collateral? If it’s moved to another context will it have the same meaning? Also consider who and when your audience will see your mail piece. If people are reviewing their email quickly on their smartphone, is your message right to the point in the least number of characters?

2. Can you get your message down to its core? If your mail piece needs to have a second message, make sure it does not fight for attention.

3. Is it clear? I recommend getting a fresh set of eyes to review your message — ideally a person not at all connected to the project.

We’d love to help you improve response. Let us be the fresh set of eyes to review your current creative message.

Ugly and Unorganized Worked!

The artist and organizer in me is always looking for ways to make things attractive and neat. But if there is one thing I’ve learned early in my career in direct response: pretty and organized creative is not always what gets the highest response.

My early work experience at Time Inc., when sweepstakes were a driving force in obtaining subscriptions, made that clear to me. As I was reviewing one of their controls, I thought: This is one of the most unorganized mailings I’ve ever seen! Place this sticker somewhere to get the extra $10,000 bonus … place another sticker on some other form to get the free gift … here’s a list of your prizes, but if you want this specific prize then check a box, etc.

CONFUSING, BUT IT WORKED! Why? Because the customer was thinking: “If I can figure this out, I really might be a winner.” However, what worked for this particular sweepstakes package won’t necessarily work for the direct response pieces we mail today. Each kind of piece draws its own emotional response from the customer. To find out what elicits the right response in your customer, you must follow the direct mail mantra: Test, test, test.

An Easy Trick to check U.S. Letter Mail Aspect Ratio

Here is an easy trick to check U.S. letter mail aspect ratio. Just divide the width of your envelope or postcard by the height. If your results are great than 1.3 and less than 2.5 you are good.

Why is letter mail aspect ratio important? It’s the key to getting the lowest postage rate, by ensuring the package can run through the USPS automated mailing equipment. When considering the aspect ratio you must also follow the sizing guidelines from the USPS.

Please use this as a guide only. To make sure that your documents follow the proper sizing guidelines check with your local post office.

Curiosity Opens the Envelope

Using Feel to Get the Envelope Open

A credit card company recently mailed me this envelope, which looks like a package due, to the label and kraft color. Upon touching it, I felt some padding inside. It certainly piqued my curiosity and made me think: Is there something special inside for me? I opened the envelope to find just a prominent credit card offer and some bubble wrap. Question: The package look and bubble wrap can certainly get people to open the envelope, but is the offer strong enough to get people to act? And will enough people respond to get a great ROI?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I will say this: including the padding in the envelope is a great trick to keep in mind, if you want to get people to open what you send them – which, as you know, is a critical first step to any successful direct mailing.