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By “promotional mailings,” we mean the letters, brochures, flyers, postcards,

presentation folders, and other collateral materials that freelancers and small

design firms use to market their own services, as well as those of their clients.

In The Business Side of Creativity, author Cameron Foote advocates that

small and mid-sized firms choose direct mailers as their promotional medium of

choice. “When done well and mailed to the right people, direct mailers create

more immediate impacts than any other type of promotion,” he explains.

Four Pointers about Promotional Mailings

1. Long-term Investment. The first thing you need to realize about promotional

or direct mail is that it may take time (and repeated mailings) to get a

response from your prospective clients. Marketing specialist Maria Piscopo sums

it up this way, “Repetition leads to recognition, which leads to response.”

You will do well to remember that a promotional mailing is neither a

shotgun approach nor a one-time shot; rather it is an important part in your concerted,

ongoing efforts to reach your target market.

2. Frequency. When you’re creating a promotional campaign, frequency

beats impact. This may be a bitter pill for many impact-loving designers to

swallow. However, when you’re operating on a shoestring and cost is a determining

factor, make the wise decision to spend your dollars on frequency.

How frequent? Freelance illustrator and graphic artist Michael Fleishman

advises, “I myself believe a mailing every forty-five to sixty days is an extremely

effective program.”

3. Response. Develop a realistic expectation about the response rate. Direct

mail is considered effective if it garners a 2 to 5 percent response rate. What can

you do with such a poor return, you wail? Keep plugging away is our answer.

The sooner you get that first promo piece in the mail, the sooner prospective

clients may contact you.

4. Audience. Last, remember that promotional mailings are useful not only

in attracting new customers but also in keeping you on the radar screen of past

and present clients. Periodic promotional mailings remind your clients that

you’re still around and eager to work with them again.

The Predesign Work

1. Get your creative juices flowing with a little research. Before you begin

designing your first promotional mailing, check out what other creatives have

done by browsing through the Self-Promotion categories in any of the many

annuals and creative directories, such as Communication Arts, HOW, or Print.

Also if there are local competitions in your area, scope out those winners.

2. Gather information about bulk mailing. Call or visit the United States

Postal service Web site at Familiarizing yourself with bulk

mailing regulations (for mailings in excess of two hundred pieces) may save you

both time and money.

3. Review “Boosting Your Design Career Through Improved Communication

Skills” beginning on page 1. Then compose a promotional message that observes

the ABCs of effective direct mail:

• Arrest attention

• Be easy to read and understand

• Contain a single focused message

• Direct your reader to take a specific action

• Emphasize a client-centered point of view

4. Make your message all about your reader, not all about you. Your text absolutely, positively must convince prospective clients that you understand their needs and you are the one best suited to help them meet those needs. If your copy merely extols the features you offer and plugs your creativity, chances are very good that your message will get ignored. 5. Approach your writing with the certainty that it will take numerous revisions to nail your message. Once you think you’ve achieved the maximum impact, circulate your promo mailing to select audiences for feedback. Revise, revise, revise. The last step is to proofread several times until your message is letter-perfect. 6. Know you don’t have to go it alone. Suddenly developed a bad case of jitters about writing top-notch copy for yourself? You can bring in a talented copywriter. Offer to barter services, your designs for his or her words. 7. Finally, before you rough out some concepts, think about multipurpose usage. For instance, can your promotional pieces be used as leave-behinds after an initial client meeting or passed out to new people you meet? What about as self-mailers or as an insert in a presentation packet (more on that in a minute)? Maybe you can hang direct mail pieces on neighborhood or community bulletin boards or hand them out as calling cards when you exhibit or attend trade shows.