Amid the ongoing debate about whether direct mail or e-mail or social media is the best method to market to customers and prospects, very little is being said about the one thing that is crucial to the success of each – the message. Unless the message is relevant to the audience and persuasively presented, it doesn’t matter how it is delivered. So while the discussion about the delivery method continues, focus on developing good content and honing your writing skills.
If you are like most of our customers, you have a lot of questions about designing an effective direct mail marketing piece. Should you use a post card, a self-mailer, or an envelope? Use lots of copy or lots of white space? Announce who the mail is from or build the reader’s curiosity? With so many variables to consider, where does one begin to seek the right answers?
To help sort through the maze of interlocking decisions, remember that there are two ways to judge how well a direct mail piece has been designed. One set of standards comes from the discipline of good graphic design; the other comes from what makes mail move efficiently through the mail stream. We believe both are important, and that a good strategy is to thoroughly understand each set.
Marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create, and maintain satisfying relationships with customers that result in value for both the customer and the marketer. — Dr. Paul Christ
For long term success, every business or organization must attract and retain customers. Most of us understand the term marketing as the discipline associated with such activities.
Marketing encompasses a broad range of activities, from product development and pricing, to promotion and distribution. As your printer, we play a role in helping you to effectively promote your business’s or organization’s products and services.
The term marketing communications describes messages used to communicate with a market. Marketing communications focus on the products or services of a business or organization, rather than on the company or organization itself, and are used to create demand or position a company’s product or service.
The task of generating marketing communications often is the responsibility of the business owner, sales manager, or development professional. Once written, this information can be used to create a variety of sales collateral material – flyers and brochures, direct mail marketing packages, newsletters, press releases – and can also be used on company web pages and emails.
Think of marketing communications as salesmanship in print. And just as you carefully prepare and plan for a sales call, prepare and plan for salesmanship in print.
It can be a tricky situation – editing copy written by others. Whether your task is to compile and edit the company newsletter, review the boss’s PowerPoint presentation, or prepare the company marketing material, the job of copy editor requires diplomacy and discipline. The diplomacy is necessary to avoid alienating the writer (and losing your editorship); the discipline is required to impose standards and create consistency.
To help with this delicate balancing act, it is useful to have an editor’s toolkit – measuring devices that transform your editing from subjective to objective. Here are our favorites.
We’re not sure how this association with shiny paper – which we printers refer to as coated paper – got started, but we have a theory. Full color printing requires a smooth, uniform paper surface and therefore almost always uses a sheet that has had a coating applied during the manufacturing process. The purpose of the coating is to improve the way the surface of the sheet receives the ink, and it works! Full color printing on a coated sheet looks sharp and bright – in a word, professional.
Decades ago, when there were fewer products and fewer brands, mass marketing made sense. Often one company owned an entire category. When the only coffee sold in supermarkets was ground and in one-pound cans, marketing to all coffee drinkers as an undifferentiated group was easy. The choice was between brands, each making taste claims.
Think how this has changed! Not only has the number of companies selling coffee increased, there are now more brands offered by each company. And at the same time, coffee products have proliferated — regular, decaffeinated, blends, flavored, ground, whole bean, instant, cans, packages, pouches, even individual portions. Clearly mass marketing is not the most effective way to advertise all these choices.
Whether you use them for product identification or shipping, for security or promotion, or for any other use, labels are a part of every business’s inventory of printed items. The earliest use of labels was for product identification; uses now include a wide range of applications across many industries.
Label, Sticker, or Decal?
We’ll begin our discussion of labels with a semantics question: what is the difference between a label, a sticker, and a decal? Since many people use the terms interchangeably, we think there’s no obvious answer beyond common usage.
- When adhered to a product (such as a soup can or a piece of fruit) as a means of identifying or providing information about the product, we most often refer to the item as a label.
- When affixed to something (the bumper of a car, the front of a package, or a voter leaving the polls) in order to call attention to what is written on it, we refer to the item as a sticker.
- When the item can be moved from one surface (the substrate it is printed on) to another (a window, a model airplane), usually with the aid of heat or water, we refer to the item as a decal.
As you would expect, there are some products we typically print for many of our customers. Letterheads, note pads, thank you notes, newsletters, and brochures are common business printing projects for which we print multiple orders each week.
In this issue we’d like to suggest some options for refreshing the look of these printed materials… with a few simple changes.
With literally thousands of typefaces available, it is no small matter to determine which ones to use for a specific document. In this issue we’ll present some guidelines to assist you in narrowing the choices, as well as information about increasing the effectiveness of the type you select.
Defining the Task
Regardless of the document you are preparing – brochure, newsletter, flyer, training manual, or direct mail marketing piece – your first task is to be sure the typeface you select promotes readability and comprehension for your audience. In turn, this requires careful attention to a typeface’s legibility.
Readability refers to how the letters interact when combined into words, sentences, and paragraphs. Legibility refers to the clarity of the type – how easily one letter can be distinguished from another.
Next, think about what you must accomplish with the document. The goal of a brochure is much different compared to the goal of an annual report or newsletter. For instance, a brochure must engage the reader’s interest quickly and tell a convincing story, while an annual report consisting of large blocks of text with charts and financial tables must explain without fatiguing the reader. For a newsletter, eye-catching headlines and an informal look may be the goal.
Then consider the demographics of the intended audience. What is the age range, educational level, attention span, and vocabulary of those you are addressing? Different typefaces appeal to different audiences: seniors look for clarity and legibility; teens are drawn to edgy, unusual type even at the expense of readability; children and beginning readers prefer larger, easy-to-read fonts.
Finally, think about how much reading you are requiring of your audience and what message you want them to take away. The more text your document contains, the more readable the font must be.