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Elements of a Successful Direct Mail Postcard Design

Recently updated on October 17th, 2019 at 05:24 pm

There is this unofficial rule of direct mail postcards called the 40/40/20 rule. It’s the formula for the right combination of factors for a successful direct mail marketing campaign.

real estate direct mail postcard

40/40/20 Rule of Direct Mail Postcards

According to Ed Mayer, the marketer who coined the term said that 40% of your direct mail advertising success depends on your audience, 40% relies on your offer, and 20% goes to design, layout, and “everything else.”

Of course, a big chunk of your planning should go to researching the people you should be targeting. Creating a buyer persona to map your ideal target market is a good way to get a better response and a greater engagement from your marketing effort. After all, even the best marketing campaign in the world would not be effective if it is targeting the wrong people. A great deal of effort, about 40% according to Mayer, should be devoted to getting the right people on your mailing list. Services like Every Door Direct Mail can help you reach potential customers near your business.

The next 40% should be about your offer. No matter how catchy your marketing ad is, if your target customers do not have any compelling reason to purchase your product, then it’s doomed to fail. As a direct mail marketer, you want to incentivize your recipients to act, upon reading your offer, as opposed to building brand recognition which would only work over time. This need for immediate response forces you to think of offers that are highly valuable to your market.

save the date postcardevent postcard



Layout and design are factored at 20%. Even if you have the right audience and a compelling offer, that doesn’t mean you should give inadequate effort in presenting your offer to your audience. It will fail if your audience fails to notice it. Design acts as the emphasis that reinforces the idea that you want to give to your audience. Emphasis on the right places will definitely lead to a persuasive message to your recipient.

For a long time now, postcards have dominated the direct mail marketing industry. Its popularity comes with a good reason. At the age of email and the internet convenience, it can reinforce your message and compliment your email marketing efforts through a professional yet friendly approach.

What should you emphasize on your postcard design then? Here are the elements that you should focus on to have a successful direct mail postcard design.

1. Your Company Logo

I think it goes without saying that your recipient should know where the direct mail postcard they received came from. Putting your logo in a prominent place is good for brand building. However, your company logo should not overshadow your offer design-wise. Your brand is built up by the attractiveness of your offer, not the other way around.

2. The Headline

At first glance, the reader should see the headline and be able to identify the main idea. Formulate a clear but concise central headline. Use a bigger font size and separate it from the rest of the text.

3. Graphics

Your choice of graphics, from actual photographs to digital illustrations, should be relevant to your headline. It should reinforce the message through great imagery. For example, if you are a nonprofit organization, your images should send a powerful feeling to tug your recipient’s heartstrings and give them an emotional reason to read your postcard.

event direct mail postcard

The layout and choice of typeface can attract recipients to read your postcard.

4. Typography

“Typography” refers to the way text is designed and arranged in a space and encompasses more than typeface and color. Things such as spacing between characters or the length of the lines can be very influential to your readers if done correctly. Emotion can be conveyed through your choice of typeface. A doodle-like font can be great to show humor. A serif like Times New Roman can evoke that professional feel for serious information.

5. White Space

White space refers to space in between the elements of your design. In our case, it refers to the space between the graphics, the headline, and the text. In a sense it acts as your design’s breathing room. You do not want your direct mail postcard to look cluttered. Space makes it more aesthetically-pleasing, improves legibility, and it can actually draw your reader’s attention where it needs to.

Family Christmas Postcard

Color choice is important to evoke the emotion you want.

6. Colors

Bright and bold colors don’t necessarily make your central message “pop”. Your choice of color should be relevant to your message. Marketers use the psychology of color as a means of persuasion. Of course, it’s not always accurate because each individual has their own color preferences. However, there are certain patterns in color perception that you can use to your advantage. Green, for example, is primarily attributed to growth and nature while blue is tranquil and trustworthy.

7. A Great Offer

Again, you need to evoke an immediate response from your reader by giving them a compelling reason to take your offer. It is crucial, about 40% crucial, that your recipient will read your offer and think that they need it. That they need it NOW. Limited-time offers and great discounts are popular approaches to get those eyes bulging.

8. An Informative Body

You don’t actually need to write long copy for your postcard. It’s important that you communicate the benefits that your product or service can provide your recipient and why they need to take it NOW. 

Real Estate direct mail postcard

A clear Call-to-Action tells your recipient what you want them to do. 

9. The Call-to-Action

Follow your copy with a clear call-to-action. You need to tell your recipient what exactly it is that you want them to do. A good combination of design and typography can put the necessary emphasis on your CTA. Don’t forget to include return addresses, websites, or contact information that your recipient will need to fulfill your CTA.

10. Your Postcard Printing Quality

Finally, your direct mail postcards should have durable materials and top-notch printing. The quality of the cardstock that you use as well as the vividness of the printed images and text will affect your recipient’s perception on your postcard campaign.

Designing your own direct mail postcards? Show us your postcard design in the comments section below!

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