First Impressions Count: Make Your Direct Mail Grab (the Right) Attention


The best way to make the right first impression with your direct mail is to think like your customer. What would they respond to, what kind of offer will excite them, what problems are they seeking solutions to? Far from being all about you, your mailed offer needs to be all about the customer. When recipients see you’re putting them first, they’ll think well of you in return.

Send it to the Right Address

According to the USPS, 17% of Americans move house every year. If your mail lands in the mailbox addressed to the previous occupier, it doesn’t create a very favorable impression. Keeping address databases up to date is vital, not just to ensure you’re mailing to the correct location, but to save money on wasted postage. Make it a regular task to remove duplicate or incorrect records, and check the spelling of names and addresses.

Send It to the Right Person

You’ll get a better return on your investment with carefully targeted offers than you will with a blanket postal strategy. Use your buyer personas and any other demographical information to hand to create smaller, segmented lists from your main database. When your direct marketing offer is both timely and relevant, the recipient will be highly motivated to respond favorably.

Choose the Correct Format and Tone

Tone of voice and choice of language matters, especially when addressing different generations or depending on whether you’re mailing to new or old customers. If you’re familiar with your buyer personas you will be aware of the lifestyle and interests of your market, so build on these to craft an effective message. You can get away with slang and humor when you are addressing younger generations, or if it is relevant to your offer.

Format is just as important. Key considerations when choosing format include:

How much explaining, educating or persuading is needed dictates, to a certain extent, length, and a letter format might be more appropriate than a self-mailer. Whichever you choose make sure there is enough space available to fully explain the offer along with key benefits, and the all-important call to action through which people will respond.

If you’re stumped, consider these advantages of each popular format:


  • Look personal and important
  • Are a familiar way of communicating
  • Allow for additional inserts


  • Can be graphically captivating
  • Are easily sharable since they’re not perceived as overly personal
  • Are cheaper if you’re on a budget

A third alternative is the three-dimensional mailer such as a box or tube. Because of the associated higher costs in graphic design, manufacture and shipping, these are best reserved for highly targeted or qualified leads. They’re memorable though, and people are unlikely to ignore them.

Make Communication Two-Way

Give recipients a few different ways of responding and they can choose which method feels most comfortable. If their only choice is to fill in a form and they don’t have a pen to hand, they’ll put it aside and likely forget. Likewise, if they need to go online and they don’t have a computer or smartphone, they won’t bother. Some of the different ways you can invite people to respond to your offer are through personalized web pages, phone numbers, email, pre-paid envelopes, NFC or social media.

Making the right first impression does another important job – it makes recipients more receptive to any follow on offers you send. Spend a little time making sure the message you’re sending out is the one you intended.

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