Strategic messaging for direct marketing materials

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When pressure surfaces to boost sales, direct marketing materials often present a logical fit. However, given the importance of executing these campaigns properly, it’s amazing to see how much emphasis is placed on the advertising materials and how little on the messages that go in them.

Designing and printing direct marketing postcards, for example, with standard promotional language will only go so far in increasing sales leads and conversion rates. Ultimately, the most effective postcard will speak to the unique messages of your customer base.

Strategic messaging should be a routine exercise for any business. If customers prefer convenience, then focus on language that will best elevate the need (i.e., “hassle-free” or “user-friendly”). If they prefer variety, then consider terms such as “choice” and “flexibility” in your materials. These seemingly simple techniques can make a huge difference in whether you resonate with your target audience(s).

In order to differentiate your company from the litany of competing materials, you need to give customers a reason to trust your brand. Your marketing materials only represent the beginning of a much greater dialogue with your customers. Here are a few tips for initiating and growing this relationship.

Needs before leads. Any marketing piece can have a call to action, reaping short-term benefits. It’s just a matter of dangling the right incentive. But the best organic sales growth comes from the quality of your leads, not the quantity. Keep your messages connected to the fundamental needs of your customers.

Education over assumption. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They probably require more information to truly appreciate the merits of your products and services, even if they appear ready to sign the dotted line. Whether it’s having a comprehensive Web site or a call center of friendly sales reps, you should always promote ways to create a more informed customer.

Keep it simple. Using acronyms is a common mistake among industry professionals. In many cases, customers are unfamiliar with the terminology. And only when their confusion turns to disinterest does it truly grab most companies’ attention.

Be honest, and set realistic expectations. There’s nothing more off-putting to customers than seeing unsubstantiated claims in a promotional piece. Even if you think the tactic will raise revenue, consider the cost of losing trust and credibility. Customers need to know what your products and services can and cannot do because, in the end, they will discover the truth.

Initiate the commitment. You may be seeking a commitment from the customer, but it’s the commitment you make to them that matters most. Customers want to see that you can fulfill your promises—whether it’s promising to respond to a sales lead within a precise time frame, demonstrating a genuine interest in listening to the customer’s needs or offering quick turnaround time on work quoted.

Successful football coaches always come prepared with a playbook—helping them know which tactics to employ in any given situation. Your next direct marketing campaign should be approached with similar precision—specifically, determining which messages to convey to an appropriate audience.

Those strategic messages will indicate both the integrity you bring to your industry and the confidence you instill among your customers.

Brian Whiteman is CEO of, a leading online printing solution provider for business cards and direct mail postcards. He can be reached at

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