Consistency, Creativity and Simplicity Fuel Direct Mail Success
Question: How important is direct mail in the editorial field? Is it better to keep the direct mail piece simple yet creative and well thought-out, or do complex pieces get more attention?
Postcard marketing is a vital part of my success. It's as important as my right hand and I still rely on it as my No. 1 form of advertising.
Still the One
I've probably labeled and stamped 50,000 postcards in my lifetime. Early in my career, postcards were the beginning and end of my marketing plan. Now I mix it up with emails, personal meetings and social media – but I've never stopped mailing out those postcards!
I do two to four large mailings a year to over 1,000 contacts and plenty of smaller ones as well. Art directors often tell me “I just got your postcard” or “I’ve been hanging onto your postcard.” Sometimes the effect is immediate. Sometimes it’s more of a slow burn.
While essential, creating promotional postcards is always a bit of a pain. I definitely stress out over it, going back-and-forth between images, how many to show, etc. Lately I've been doing smaller runs, so I can customize my postcards a bit more.
Here are some other tips and rules I follow when doing direct mailings:
1. No envelope for just one postcard. You want to get that immediate impact, and if you're only sending one postcard, there’s no need to get formal.
2. Make your envelope memorable. If you do plan to put multiple pieces in an envelope, make sure that envelope is unique enough to get some attention. It could just be your logo on the envelope, or an actual illustration; in the past, I've had custom ink stamps created and stamped my logo on a regular 9 x 12 or 6 x 9 envelope. Now, I use a translucent 9 x 12 envelope if I send multiple samples.
3. The bigger the better. I rarely do 4.25 x 5.5 postcards. I've found they get noticed less than 5.5 x 8.5 or oversized 8.5 x 11 cards. Of course, the 8.5 x 11 postcard costs more to mail, so it's a bit of an investment.
4. Consistency. Keep sending out those postcards, even if you're not getting an immediate response. It can take a few mailings to stick in an art director's head. Of course, you should always be critical and analyze the quality and type of the work you're promoting.
5. Keep it simple ... most of the time. I go back-and-forth on how simple to keep my postcards. I probably lean toward my postcards being too busy, using multiple images on the front and back. I try to cover my bases, show a portrait and a business illustration and a tech illustration, etc. I tend to do a lot of different types of illustrations, and sometimes I want my postcards to show that. But I alternate between a busy postcard and a simpler postcard during each mailing; try different things and see what you have the most success with.
© Brian Taylor
6. Do something original. This year, I tried something new in addition to my regular three to four mailings. I decided to do a monthly postcard featuring celebrity birthdays for that month. I'm sending them to about 150 select clients. After six months, it’s been a bit hard keeping up, especially since it's been a busy year, but the effort has paid off. I’ll see this through until December.
That’s sort of the nature of direct-mail postcard mailings: more a marathon than a sprint. It takes consistency to make them successful. But I don't see a time where I would ever abandon them … they’re integral to my marketing efforts.
Brian is an editorial and portrait illustrator. His clients include: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Wired UK, The Washington Post, Fast Company, Games for Windows and The Boston Globe. He lives in the Washington DC area with his wife, two daughters and a dog named Bill. BTillustration.com
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