Successful direct marketing with any communication channel, such as mail, email, social media or websites, is aimed at getting people to read rather than just “look” at your message. However, reading requires work for most people, so many bounce through the copy, eventually bouncing away more often than reading your “message.”
A goal of using direct marketing as a strategy, is always to encourage reading, and in fact make reading easier. Specifically, your designer should try to draw attention to the copy, make reading easy by applying basic rules of layout and typography, and help communicate the writer’s message.
Here’s a few ways to make your readers read.
Encourage the reader’s eye to move left to right. That’s the natural eye movement for people in Western cultures. That’s why using serif type is a good idea for body text — the serifs (the little horizontal lines on the tips of letters) form a lateral line for the eye to follow. Palatino Linotype, is the serif font we use in many articles.
The overall type layout should never be set top-to-bottom or at an extreme angle since these interrupts the natural eye movement. Type should be set flush left and ragged right in most cases, especially in business letters. This helps the eye when it comes to the end of one line of type and skips down to the next.
Of course, using todays many different communication channels may make this point moot. Never lose sight of your typical customer likes.
Avoid anything that makes the eye stop unless you want it to stop. For example, such as “learn more” or the “red send button.” Caution: Weird type or extreme letter spacing creates “fixations” where you don’t want them. This slows reading and interferes with comprehension. Which means, "thanks anyway, I’m gone."
On the other hand, you may want people to pause for a split second on key words, a free call number, email address, or in a social media account.
Italics, underlines, bold, and large type will make the eye stop where you want it to. Design copy in logical chunks. This is primarily the job of the writer, but the designer is usually responsible for how headlines and subheads look. Most people read and understand copy better when they can take in “chunks of information.”
For example, if a headline reads “Now you can get 12 ounces for $12,” you might break the copy into two visual chunks: “Now you can get” on one line and “12 ounces for $12” on the next line.
You could also play with colors or larger type fonts to emphasize one chunk of services that customers receive on an ongoing basis. This business model creates a valuable and predictable future income stream.
Looking for subscribers?
Direct marketing, also known as direct response, is an excellent communication channel to build a subscription base. It’s targeted, lends itself to numerous impressions, and works nicely in conjunction with other communication channels such as email.
Now that you’re thinking more about “subscriber marketing,” what other types of businesses can apply this type of marketing?
Examples include maintenance firms such as heating and air conditioning, utility companies, home security systems, software, meals, ride sharing, car repair services that offer warranties, and product warranties, just naming a few.
Using direct marketing to sell a subscription is selling prepaid services. You are receiving payment today for products or services you may not have to provide until some future date. In addition, with each new subscriber, you are adding to your customer base.
Here’s another positive. Once they pay you, why would they go to anyone else for your product or service? You now have a relationship with your customer that builds loyalty, increases cross-selling, and supports up-selling.
There is no better way to announce your subscription service than with direct marketing. Direct marketing using communication channels your customer prefers, gives you the space to outline the program, stress the features and benefits, link to a personalized web page for interaction, and even provide an offer to sign up for additional information.
Subscription services may be an old business model, but there’s nothing old about additional income. Ellipses (...) and dashes (—) divide copy into easily-absorbed chunks better than commas, colons, and semicolons: “Now you can get ... 12 ounces for $12.”
Stay away from unusual looks but use the one’s that appeal to your subscriber. For most text, especially body text, you should not set type in all caps or italics because that masks the look of words and makes them less recognizable. Lower-case with an initial cap is best for most sentences, including headlines.
For numbers, remember that spelling the number helps readers move faster, but if you want them to notice the number, use numerals. Remember that your readers may have tired eyes. Help them by using type that’s large enough to be read easily — 9 to 12 points minimum for body copy for average readers, but slightly larger for older or very young readers.
Break long blocks of text into smaller paragraphs, indent paragraphs, and space between paragraphs to give the eye visual rest. Black type on white paper is easy on the eyes. White type on black or a colored background is okay for short bits of text, but exercise restraint with this technique.
None of this means that a designer shouldn’t be creative. It simply means that they must consider “who is reading,” “what they are reading on, such as a smartphone, laptop or Facebook” and “how they read.” It’s important to create the right look and feel for a direct marketing visual piece, but ultimately everything should be geared for easy reading.
Direct marketing design looks simple to the untrained eye, but it can be a challenge. Just as a copywriter cannot write words at random, a designer cannot design at random. There is always a purpose. And that purpose is to get people to read and respond.
Thanks for reading. Questions?
Marketing Communications Group, Inc.
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