If you utter the phrase “direct mail templates” or even just the word “template” to an art director, don’t expect much enthusiasm. You even may end up seeing a sneer.
Indeed, to art directors and graphic designers trained to think creatively, the idea of a “template” doesn’t conjure up the notion of original creative thinking. Using a template means using similar formats over and over again. What’s creative about that? At first glance, that’s a “cookie cutter” approach that seems too conventional.
Sure, you want your mailings to stand out to improve response, but using a modern direct mailer template tool can help you outperform traditional creative AND provide data you need to boost response even more.
Template tools are now in the cloud
Over the past couple of years, the options for marketers to use direct mail templates have grown. New cloud based, online tools enable fast and easy creation, editing and testing of direct mail templates. Rather than locking up content in proprietary formats that only designers can use, that content is available in the open, flexible format of the world wide web.
New, dynamic HTML template options are easier and more cost effective when you want to frequently test more precise messages, offers, and narrowly targeted audiences, especially when triggered via CRM or marketing automation.
They’re a far better match for modern marketers than the old inflexible, custom-designed mail pieces created for long-cycle batch campaigns. Unless you’re planning to send the exact same mailer to hundreds of thousands of recipients, with little personalization or targeting, they’re not very flexible at all.
Measure once. Cut as many times as you like.
First, let me clarify that “template” could refer to a general guide that shows direct mail specifications as mandated by the USPS. But it could also refer to the design of your specific mailing.
Using a general “direct mail” template (like the ones shown below) assures that your mailing meets USPS standards for size, margins, and specific spaces to leave clear for bar codes and postage. Here’s one that shows how a USPS postcard template needs to be formatted:
And when you’re producing a letter, you’ll want to make sure to follow a printer’s template to make sure that the address and any required barcodes show through the window correctly:
What happens if your incredibly creative direct mailer creative runs afoul of these specs? Most likely, your postage rate will increase significantly, by 30-40%, because the USPS won’t be able to use their automatic sorting infrastructure to process and route your mailers. Think about what that will do to your direct mail campaign ROI.
Modern HTML direct mail templates support fast, dynamic targeting
While marketers often think about direct mail templates as a way to quickly start a design, a complete template management tools offers far more benefits.
Postalytics has developed a powerful HTML direct mail template system, complete with guidelines, authoring, editing, personalization, and proofing tools. We also provide powerful template library features, including free pre-built templates that you can quickly modify for your own use.
These features are essential if you want to rapidly deploy different messaging, calls to action, and offers to narrowly defined audiences, yet also adopt agile marketing processes.
Now even mere mortals can easily use these tools with no need to go back and restart the design process each time you need to change one variable.
Point and click template copying, drag & drop headline and call to action editing and instant deployment in live campaigns are all available at the fingertips of your marketing team.
Direct mail templates prevent costly errors
When you’re using a direct mail template system like Postalytics, there’s no risk of making formatting errors. A well designed templating tool automatically follows the USPS postcard template and letter template, and shows you exactly how your piece should be formatted.
The template prevents you from creating a design that’s unmailable, or does not take advantage of the best possible postage rates.
Direct mail template systems can also be used strategically to help you improve response rates over time, save you thousands of dollars a year on routine design changes, and save days of time by avoiding the traditional tedious back and forth exchange of proofs with your designer before you can you’re your mailing. Here’s how.
Change your mailing built offline? Be prepared for extra expense.
Think about some of the campaigns you work on. You’ve likely paid a designer to create work that fits your brand, communicates the right message, and positions your offer correctly. You may have even tested a few offers and major headlines.
Now it’s time to make a few changes. What do you do? Go back to the designer and ask for changes.
Go ahead. Try to edit your PDF.
Designers usually use tools such as Adobe® InDesign® – relatively expensive software you might not have or are not an expert in. Sure, you may have a PDF of your mailing, but those files aren’t easily edited. Of course, the designer is going to charge you for changes. Even minor changes of a word or two take time and can add up to high fees.
And any change requires that you review at least one proof. If changes are more extensive, you might be in for several rounds of proofing changes that could take a week or more to complete.
But what if you or someone on your team could make those changes – in the same way you can use an email editor? Then those minor changes take just a few minutes and you avoid another bill from your design firm.
Don’t get me wrong. You may need design help if you want to develop all-new packages, but why pay high fees and delay your mailing if all you’re changing is a headline, an offer, an image or a few bullet points?
Build & manage your direct mail templates online instead
Here’s an example of a huge time and money savings.
Take a look at this postcard as designed on the Postalytics platform. The background image was originally designed by an art director and imported into Postalytics, where the colored highlights and text were overlayed using our online editor:
Now let’s assume you want to test changing that offer from “buy one, get one at 50% off” to ”Buy one, get one free.”
Postalytics makes that exceptionally quick and easy. Just copy your template make the change, and use the online proofing tool to make sure everything reads correctly. That could take less than 15 minutes and you’re done! Compare that to days of time when working with a design firm.
And while many designers have minimum fees for changing even just one word, you don’t pay those fees with Postalytics.
Here’s another example:
The copy for your letter may perform well, but perhaps you’d like to try highlighting the offer in a sidebar.
Want to change that offer? It’s easy in Postalytics:
You may want to maintain your existing offer and letter copy, but test how benefits in a sidebar are presented – changing the color, adding icons or swapping out one or more benefits:
Once again, anyone can make these changes in Postalytics. There’s no special training or expensive design tools required and you can execute your testing strategies in just a few minutes.
Use data from CRM and Marketing Automation to drive dynamic content in advertising mailer templates
Once you’ve created a postcard or letter in Postalytics and saved it as a template, you’re not limited to merely making universal changes to offers and messaging. You can use that template to customize mailings through variable data from your HubSpot, Salesforce or other CRM database.
Indeed, one best practice in direct mail is to personalize your mailing as much as possible to make it more relevant to specific audiences.
With a powerful template system, you can easily use this data to execute strategies like these in a way that helps you focus on more precise messaging, yet not incur expensive graphic design and production costs for small quantity tests.
For example, let’s say that you send out mailings to sell homeowner’s insurance. Perhaps prospects may qualify for different discounts based on whether they live in a single-family home or a condo. If this data is available, you can use it to vary your mailing based on this information.
Here’s an example of data-driven dynamic content, using the Postalytics Variable Logic Editor:
Or you may wish to vary your message and offer based on this data. It could be that condo owners may respond to different offers. Compare these two packages which are basically the same, but with a minor change to that offer:
Calling these offers out more precisely means that you can be more relevant to BOTH audiences instead of watering down your message so it suits both groups.
It may also be possible that including messaging relating to specific geographical regions improves response.
For example, you might want to dynamically print different images to potential vacation home buyers who live in Florida and Colorado.
Template Library features scale your template building investment
In some cases, you may even find opportunities to vary creative executions in a way that require “almost” a new design. With Postalytics it’s easy to duplicate one template to quickly create another and then work with that new format to make changes to images and headlines.
Template libraries ensure that your saved templates become a re-usable assets, so that your investment in template building can be leveraged across as many campaigns as possible. Templates shouldn’t be “stuck” supporting just one campaign. When they live in a library, they can easily be searched for, copied, edited and re-deployed. Without having to start over with a new template for every campaign.
Let’s say you are raising funds for a non profit animal shelter, and you’ve built a base direct mail template targeting cat owners. You’d probably want a “dog version” of your template to send to those on your list that you’ve identified as dog owners.
Just copy the base template, modify your copy and pick a different background image. You’re done! It takes just five minutes to make changes instead of hours and days of back and forth communication with a designer.
A “cookie cutter approach” can bake in better results
As I noted, the phrase “cookie cutter approach” can make it seem as if you’re not being creative. But even pastry chefs often don’t bake cookies by hand.
With a modern direct mail template tool you can quickly makes changes, test those changes, review results, and test again in a lot less time than if you hire outside designers. You can target ever more narrow and focused audiences, and continuously learn what works and what doesn’t.
And you can save thousands of dollars per year in the process.
For more information on how to use the Postalytics direct mail template tools: