The “neuroscience of touch” sounds like something you’d study in an advanced science class, but it’s actually a term that the direct mail industry understands quite well. The sense of touch influences emotion and decision making — which is certainly something marketers want to do, especially when it comes to generating a lead.

For example, touch can enhance (or detract from) perceived value. Imagine the feeling of holding a glossy brochure printed on very high-quality paper stock. Or a version with the very same words printed on a piece of copy paper folded over. Before you read any of the copy, you know that one of the brochures just feels better and leaves the impression that it has more value.

Plus, there’s the practical aspect that an ad in the hand gets read. You’re also more likely to remember what you touch — as opposed to what you scan quickly on a screen.

Those are just some highlights of the science that supports the lasting value of direct mail and lends credibility to why it still gets response. Plus, direct mail stays in the home for up to 17 days. Or possibly even longer. Studies show that 66% of consumers keep mail they find useful (such as coupons for a discount on future service). On the other hand, the email inbox is often the place where marketing messages get deleted unread.

Personalization helps get attention too. People tend to respond to their own names, which is why it’s estimated that 65% will open mail that is addressed to them. Apparently “Dear Occupant or Current Resident” just does not offer that warm and fuzzy feeling homeowners crave.

So, the value of direct mail is there, but you still want to make sure you’re making the most your investment. That includes:

  1. Make a strong first impression. Whether your media is electronic, digital or print — people are still busy, overwhelmed and impatient. Your direct mail teaser copy should work to get the envelope opened, and the headline needs to make a strong case for reading further. It should draw the reader’s attention to key benefits or promises that you’ll support in the copy.
  2. Make your direct mail easy to read. By all means, skip the technical language and industry terms. Instead, write to the person in clear copy that promotes the rich benefits of your offer. Use subheads, bullet points and call-out boxes to emphasize what you want them to know or do. Don’t try to sell every service or product in your company’s inventory; just keep your copy focused on a problem they have that you can solve.
  3. Connect with your readers on an emotional level. To draw them in, tell a story. Talk about a dangerous situation you’ve seen that they could avoid. Or let them in on a secret way to save. Tap into effective psychological sales triggers, such as love, fear, greed, exclusivity, curiosity, novelty — there are many others — to generate a response.
  4. Give prospects the logic they need to take action. While emotion drives decision-making, people look for logic to support the emotion-based action they want to take. The logic comes from the details you provide in risk reducers, guarantees, statistics and social proof such as testimonials.  
  5. Make your direct mail part of an integrated campaign. For as much value as direct mail can bring, you wouldn’t want to do one letter and leave it at that. Getting in front of your prospect with other impressions like digital ads, email, social media, electronic commercials, billboards, telemarketing calls and even your company vehicles work together to increase response rates. With a seamlessly integrated campaign, each message supports the other. By the way, the direct mail portion of your campaign could include an initial letter followed by postcards. Postcards have the amazing ability to be read at first glance. Plus, postage costs are less.
  6. Connect to your website. Direct mail letters can provide a lot more information than a billboard or radio commercial, but not nearly as much as the extended links and sign-up forms on your website. In fact, direct mail usually does prompt a visit to your online hub. Prospects visit a company’s website 8% more often after reading direct mail than when seeing your ad on social media. That’s an interesting result, considering that they’re already online when on social media.
  7. Set a limit. If you want someone to take an action, you need to give them a sense of urgency. Limits in direct marketing are usually a number or a date. For example, “Respond by Jan. 30” or “We only have 50 in stock. When they’re gone, they’re gone.” Procrastination is an inherent human quality. You’ve got to give your prospect a reason to act (benefits) and a reason to act quickly (limit).  
  8. Don’t forget the P.S. Highlight a benefit or limit to urge a quick response. Oddly, most people (studies say 79%) will read the P.S. before they read any other part of your letter. So, add a final thought that ties to the rest of the letter. This is not the place for something new — such as “ask us about our remodeling services too” if you’ve been talking about new water heaters.  

Direct mail hits on the high points that anyone would want from an effective marketing campaign: Print builds trust more easily than digital ads. The tactile quality of your piece gets your marketing handled, seen and remembered. Your message faces far less competition in the mailbox than it does the inbox. Your marketing sticks around the home for a while, resting on counters or coffee tables for a durable impression. And it’s effective in getting a response.