By Barbara Pellow December 15, 2005 -- Yesterday, in the first part of this article, we talked about some of the key characteristics of effective direct mail campaigns. Today we look at the final parts: appearance, the importance of good creative, and some examples of how print providers are running their own winning campaigns. Looks can kill. Good creative plays an invaluable role in how a mailing performs. If it's over-done, it will undermine the credibility of your message and earn your mailing a one-way ticket into a trash bin. Too much glitter and flash means "junk mail" to most readers--making it difficult for any audience to take you seriously. I've seen a number of mailings that look fantastic but offer nothing more than good looks. It's also important to make sure you've chosen the best vehicle to deliver your message. Format is extremely significant in how well a mailing performs. Creative design needs to complement your message and compel recipients to open the piece and read what you've got to say, so evaluate your creative carefully to see if it's helping or hurting your position. Direct marketers are using unique packaging, custom newsletters, and postcards. Creative design needs to complement your message and compel recipients to open the piece and read what you've got to say The key is to combine good data, a relevant message and creative execution that yields a result in excess of the typical 1 percent direct mail response rate. While not all print service providers are "walking the talk," a number of printers are leveraging digital print to differentiate their firms in the market. Padgett Printing Dave Torok, President and CEO of Dallas-based Padgett Printing, effectively uses his digital print capabilities to expand his prospect base. Padgett is a full-service print provider whose mission is "turning vision into visual communications." Last year's sales were in excess of $24 million for Padgett; the best year ever for both revenue and profitability in the company's 102-year history. Padgett decided to demonstrate how effective its digital print technology could be through a direct mail campaign that emphasized the values that technology and their organization can deliver to clients. The five-part mailing used variable data. Each mailer communicated a key value that is important to Padgett and its customer base, including quality, speed, variability, affordability and trust. This campaign used a very recognizable technique to better convince prospects and customers to buy: REPETITION. Effective advertisers concentrate on making sure the product or company name is widely recognized. Doing a 5-part mailing where each piece built on the message included in the preceding mailer(s) helped prospective buyers remember the Padgett name and gain an understanding of the new services that Padgett was offering. TanaSeybert TanaSeybert is the largest privately held company for print management solutions in New York City. The firm has a digital printing subsidiary called Digital Now that is an integral part of the operation. Cheryl Kahanec wasn't satisfied with digital print volumes. She partnered with a small software company called DreamType. Leveraging the Valentine's Day holiday, TanaSeybert developed direct mail campaign that blended both personalized direct mail and direct e-mail for both current customers and prospects. The campaign was designed to show potential users how personalization could work for them. The call to action pointed them to a personalized URL (PURL) where users could develop their own template-based campaigns. According to Kahanec, "The results exceeded everyone's expectations. The response rate was outstanding and new business followed." Corporate Press Corporate Press is the employee-owned flagship of the print communications companies of Corporate Press, Inc. and is based in Landover, Maryland. It is a graphic communications solutions provider,, which includes customized direct mail pieces, corporate newsletters and eCorporate printing solutions, designed to simplify re-orders. One of its key direct mail focus applications is the effective utilization of custom publishing. Custom publishing is the delivery of editorial content from a sponsoring company to a targeted audience. Whether in print or electronic form, custom publications provide intrinsically valuable information that moves the perceptions and behavior of the audience in a desired direction. Please click on the newsletter image to view the complete document as a PDF (1.45 MB pdf). Corporate Press prospects and existing clients can register for a free subscription to What's Cookin'. This newsletter is delivered to their mailboxes each month. It is an informative newsletter designed to help clients with items like design, direct mail, and increasing response rates. The June edition included an article discussing 14 ways to improve marketing performance; tools for understanding paper grades; print terms and jargon; and terrific recipes for Steak Dijonaise, Pepper Steak and meatloaf (all of which I personally recommend!). This is a direct mail tactic to drive loyalty and customer retention and cross sell new service and support offerings. The Bottom Line As a print service provider, you have the technology. While a 1 percent response rate is considered a successful direct mail campaign in the industry, you and your customers should not be satisfied with that. You need to demonstrate to customers how to target the right audience, and build a compelling message and call to action combined with high quality creative design. Teach them that the sky's the limit if direct mail is done properly. Be a role model for success. Build a case history that has meaning for both your business and your customers with a relevant eye-popping campaign that yields powerful results.