A popular myth today is that direct mail marketing doesn’t work. If we’re talking about direct mail marketing done wrong, we can confirm the myth often proves true.

In reality, direct mail marketing done right can be very effective, but only if you respect the rules. I share these rules with my clients and they are finding success with direct-mail marketing right now. Here are those rules.

Rule No. 1: Use oversized direct mail postcards to send to people who are not yet your customers. Why is that? Think about it. When you’re at home going through your mail what’s at your feet? A garbage can. You’ve got to stand out from the pile of mail you’re working your way through.

Rule No. 2: The oversized postcard has to have a great headline to catch people’s attention or they won’t see a reason to read on. The power of a great headline was true when newspapers were dominant, and it’s still true in the digital world today.

So, what makes a great headline? I can tell you the best headlines are short. Want more help here? (Hey, bet that question made you read on.) Put the headline in the form of a question because a good question creates the need to know. Just like I did.

My favorite example of a great headline in the form of a question is: “Want to make twice as much money at work with half the effort?” Who can resist wanting to know the answer? The key is to open their minds up to read on and take in the information you’re giving. It’s sort of like a key that unlocks their brain vault.

Now, put the headline in the form of a profound statement: “Lose 25 pounds in two months and never feel hungry!” I’m betting you want to know how. I would.

Rule No. 3: Then, follow up the headline with some plain-English conversational copy. Don’t refer to anything technical unless you use the key bridge word “like” that helps the reader understand it because it connects an analogy. For example: “Your heating system is like a car — you can’t run either of them for very long without a proper tune-up and still expect great fuel efficiency and reliability.” Make sense?

Rule No. 4: The oversized postcard has to be colorful and deliver a high level of visual impact. It’s just like the power of a great-looking truck design that, when done right, acts like a moving billboard that grabs people’s attention and delivers its message within a nanosecond.

Don’t believe me? Pay attention the next time you’re cruising down a highway to what billboards get your attention. I’m betting they have a great headline in typically five words or fewer with great colors and a visual design that made you pay attention.

Rule No. 5: You have to have great testimonials to get any traction with any marketing — and especially with direct-mail marketing. They figure you’re just trying to sell them something, so they need to know someone like them, your customer, is testifying to what you’re promising.

Don’t think testimonials are all that important? Do you eat out a lot? If yes, I’m betting you use Yelp. Why? Because there are testimonials and you’ve learned how to place a value on that.

Rule No. 6: You have to have a call to action that aligns with what you’re talking about. For example: “Call in the next two weeks for a $50 coupon on water filters.”

Why do you need a call to action and a deadline? We’re all procrastinators at heart. We need a reason to act. We need to know what one thing you want us to do now. And we need to know why we need to act within a specific timeframe.

Rule No. 7: You could do all of the above and fail, however, if you don’t mail these oversized direct mail postcards at least three times over a six-week period.

Multiple touches gives the customer three chances to get familiar with and become curious about your company rather than expecting miracles from a great piece only sent once.

Remember what I said about being at home with the garbage can by your feet. Where most contractors who do direct-mail marketing fall down is when they spend too much of their money on the piece and send it to too many people before they know it really works. Plus, they try to do all their selling from this piece. It won’t work. Your job is to get me to pick up the phone or go to your website and do something.

Any direct-mail campaign is better by multiple touches of a good piece vs. mailing an even greater piece just once. One way would be to do a laser-focused mailing to about 500-1,000 people in and around the area of the person who’s giving you the testimonial and mail it three times in a six-week period. Then, measure. If it’s working, you can expand the mailing with a piece that’s hitting home.

Follow these rules and watch your call count rise!