Direct Mail: Still an Important Part of Your Marketing Mix

Don’t ignore direct mail in your move towards digital messaging. Of course digital must be part of your mix, but don’t underestimate the power of print.
In the case of direct mail, people generally have to sort their mail, which means you have a chance to get their attention.
Once you’re in the reader’s hand, you have a second or two to help them decide if the message is for them—and to get them inside the piece. So think about every micro-second of the buy journey as you develop a direct mail piece.

  1. Does the cover clearly offer a promise to a problem they have—thus inviting them further into the journey?
  2. Does the overall look convey the right image? For a hospital, for example, there’s an expected dignity and credibility that telegraphs competence. This is done through color, type choice, word choices and photos.
  3. Is it easy to browse, so the reader can go right to the content that interests them?
  4. Is the call to action easy to find and clear?
  5. If they respond to the call to action, will they get what they’ve been promised? Either someone knowledgeable on the phone, or a Web page that truly offers useful information without much effort on their part. 

We’re still fans of this medium. If it’s done well, it can definitely affect people’s buying decisions.

Get Noticed

We’re all overwhelmed with information, so first impressions matter. They determine whether the recipient will go deeper—or walk away.

Sometimes you have to break out of the pack to get noticed—before you can make your case. This can be done with humor, arresting graphics, interactive features or by delivering content that’s designed to be kept.

 Need some inspiration? >> 


Next time you want to create a brochure, think creatively about format. In this piece, individual cards increase engagement and deliver bite-sized messages that aren’t overwhelming—all in a package that uses novelty to pique the reader’s interest.

There’s no media buy with this print calendar, and its petite size makes it ideal for a tack board and a year-long reminder of the sponsoring organization.


This handsome centennial direct mail piece defied being thrown away, by including a gift pen and beautiful note cards featuring regional icons.

In this video designed to recruit new businesses, see how powerful words deliver a message that couldn’t be sent by words alone.

We helped a national association promote their website digitally by developing this short video that highlights the site’s benefits.

For the Love of Letterpress


Perhaps we should thank Martha Stewart for the renewed interest in letterpress printing, since she's been advocating use of this beautiful reproduction technique for wedding invitations for some time. 

It's easy to see why people are attracted to this style of printing: the tactile experience exudes quality.

However, before deciding to use letterpress for your next project, spend a few minutes to consider if it's right for you. Because colors are applied one at time, letterpress printing is best for one- or two-color designs. Using three or more colors significantly increases the cost. Remember too that photographs are impossible to reproduce with this style of printing.

We couldn't resist using this technique for our new business cards—and love the results!

Sweat the Details and Get a Proof

Your creative project is finished, and now it's time to send it to the vendor for printing or production. But never assume that once it is out the door it doesn't need your attention anymore.

On the contrary, mistakes often occur in production. Here's an example of a recent problem we navigated.

The project below was for a mall display (featured last week on our blog).  As always, we include a printed proof along with the design files, so the production team can see how it should render—and this can often save mistakes in the final stages of a project.

Even then, it isn't uncommon for something to go wrong—which is why we insist on seeing proofs.  In this case, we went through three proofs before getting it right.

In the first, the outside vendor producing the actual display introduced those odd shadows around and across the bottom of the icon where there should have been a drop shadow instead. In the second, they corrected this problem but introduced a new one—the registration was off causing the type to appear blurred. We sent it back with instructions and finally got it resolved in the third round.

Sweating the details at every stage of the project is the only way to ensure that you receive the quality of work your firm aspires to.

Attempt 1: Drop shadow didn't print correctly

Attempt 2: Registration was slightly off resulting in blurred type

Client Showcase: High Impact Brochure Markets Region to Businesses

In this project for the Port of Walla Walla, we made the pictures tell the story on this first-impression piece designed to promote our beautiful region to prospective businesses looking to relocate. Using a high-impact paper and printing technique, the piece went from handsome to stunning—and captured the spirit of this community that pairs history with a strong vision for the future.

If readers pay attention only to the images, headlines, subheads and bullet points, they'll walk away with an accurate and positive view of this area. This is a good example of making key messages apparent in the images and easy-to-browse copy. And for those who desire more, the body text presents a persuasive case for moving one's business here.

We've been so very lucky to be able to work on projects that we care deeply about—and this one holds a special place in our heart because it's for our very own community.

Stop by and see us if you're ever in the area!

Printing Tip #3: Fit

Had we not been in this business, we would not have believed the remarkable range of printing estimates one can receive on the same job. The variances are so wide that at times we have to wonder if they are talking about the same job.

Several factors impact pricing, but today we'll talk about fit.

Printers all have their niches. They each have different types of equipment that are suited to various jobs. Putting a small job on a large six-color press simply won’t be competitive, no matter how they sharpen their pencil. You have to know your printer, and know which jobs they are best suited for. This will impact not only your price, but the quality of your printed piece.

Stay tuned for more printing tips.

It Pays to Shop

This month we saved a client more than $2400 on a printing job by bidding it among several of our preferred printers—and this was on a quantity of only 6,000 printed pieces. Every printer has their niche, and print jobs must be matched to printers who are a good match for the project. While we're the first to say that we don't buy printing on price alone, once you have identified trusted printers who are well suited to the project, obtaining estimates from more than one printer can save you money and help you find the right vendor for the job.

Printing Tip #2: Invest in the Relationship

In printed work, the printing of the job is where the final creative work takes place. The artisans in the print shop will make or break the project. They are essential partners in the process who will stand to contribute to both the creative and financial success of the project. So how does one make sure one is getting the best work for the money? There’s a fine line between balancing quality and price, and those who want to get the best of both worlds must be very savvy in both arenas. Here's the second in our series of tips on printing.

Invest in your relationship.

Quality printing comes from developing a relationship that requires communication and education. At the beginning of a relationship, we talk with our printers about our culture, our expectations, how we resolve differences, and how we define quality. We tour their shop, and ask about their processes. If they seem a likely match for our firm, then we begin the process of working with them over time to acquaint them with how we do business. With each new project, we develop a better understanding of how we can work together. This includes our learning about how we can work with them more effectively, too.

Printing Tip #1: Quality Relationships

How can you know if you're getting the best print job for your money? A fine line exists between balancing quality and price, and those who want to get the best of both worlds must be savvy in both arenas. Here's the first of some tips we'll share from our experience in the business.

Develop a relationship with several quality printers.

No one printer is suited for all of your print jobs, so find three or four that you are willing to invest in. Their skills, culture and equipment will determine their capabilities. Treat them as partners, and make sure they understand the goals of your project, your quality standards and your service standards. By cultivating a relationship with those star performers, you'll have a trusted team of experts who can bring to life your creative material, delivering them on time, on target, and on budget.