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5 Best Practices for Writing Direct Marketing Campaigns

Acxiom Last Updated February 28th, 2020
5 Best Practices for Writing Direct Marketing Campaigns

You know your customer, you’ve got the list, and it’s segmented for prime response rates. It’s time to do the thing you fear most.

It’s time to put pen to paper and write the direct marketing campaign.

I know, I know! For most, there is nothing scarier than sitting down to create the copy for your direct marketing campaigns. Whether it’s a full newsletter for direct mail or a subject line you’re crafting for email, the pressure that comes with writing the words that will grab a reader’s attention is almost too much.

But you can do this. And we can help.

Below are 5 direct mail best practices to think about as you begin writing (it’s going to be okay, we promise).

1. Understand Your Audience

First, consider the audience who will be receiving your direct marketing piece.

  • Who are they?
  • What is their relationship with your company?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are they likely to be doing when they see or receive your message?
  • What would make them stop and read something?

It’s a good idea to review your Audience Reports before you begin writing, as they allow you to deeply focus on the demographics, interests and behaviors of your customer. The more you can keep these top-of-mind, the tighter your messaging will be.

2. Know the Problem & Find the Solution

While you’re thinking about your audience, ask yourself: What pain are they experiencing? What is the problem they would come to you to solve?

  • Is it more time?
  • Better education on a topic?
  • More efficient way to do something?

Identify the specific problem your customers are facing, and then work backwards to identify how your company can help them solve it. What is the specific product or service you offer that will alleviate this pain?

3. Plan for the Channel Being Used

Direct marketing may be channel agnostic, but your messaging never is.

When preparing to write your direct marketing piece, consider the medium being used. If you’re focusing on email, then you’ll want to pay heavy attention to your subject line, your opening sentence and the call to action at the end of the email. You’ll want to make your messaging as succinct as possible. Remember, you’re speaking to people in their personal email – this is an intimate space. Treat it appropriately.

If you’re working on messaging for your mobile advertisement, you have limited pixel space to work with. Keep your message as succinct as possible, and use power words to grab attention. Consider how your design will help to convey your message while also demanding attention.

Writing an oversized postcard? Don’t forget to account for text on the front and back of the printed piece, and decide how it is you’ll track the call to action. Remember, you’re competing with the latest phone bill, catalogs and a letter from Aunt Betty. How will you stand out?

4. Write Actionable, Engaging Copy

  • The Headline/Opener

The purpose of your first line is to get people to read the second line. Your headline or opener should include a bold statement or question. It should be succinct. It should be highly targeted to your customer segment. And it should stand out and demand attention.           


  1. Asking a question: “Is ANYONE Reading Your Direct Marketing Pieces?”
  2. Making a bold statement: “Everything You’ve Read About Direct Marketing Is Wrong!”
  3. Focusing on Education: “Your Comprehensive Guide To New Leads”
  • What’s In It for Me (WIIFM)?

Make no mistake – it is not your product or your service that will take center stage in your direct marketing campaign. It is your customer. To get their attention, your direct marketing piece must be focused on them, their need and what’s at stake. This is an important copywriting rule many companies lose sight of. Do not focus on the features of your product. Focus on how this product will help your customer. How an extra-large dining room table means the ability to fit more loved ones around it. Or how that new slow cooker means more time out enjoying life, and less time in front of the stove preparing meals. Speak to your audience’s innermost desires.

  • The Offer

Most direct marketing pieces will include a specific offer for customers to rush to take advantage of – be it a special introductory price, a free gift, a discount on their purchase or maybe even an entry into a contest or drawing. The offer should appear front and center, and it should include a time limit or expiration date to encourage people to act.

  •  The Call to Action

Surely, you wouldn’t forget to include a call to action, right? Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Tell people what it is you want them to do – to call, to register, to subscribe, to join, to come in… whatever it is. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. A call to action is just as necessary in that flyer as it is for an email campaign.

  • Contact Information

Your contact information should appear prominently on your direct marketing piece so customers know how to get in touch with you. Don’t leave it off or hide it in small print.

5. Remember Your Brand’s Voice

Consider the voice of your sales piece. Will it be personal or formal? Will it be serious or playful? Will it sound like it’s coming from a friend or will it read like an urgent message? The voice you choose will be deliberate based on the audience for the piece and the channel you’re using. An email may be written more intimately than a flyer.

While writing for direct marketing may seem like an overwhelming task, if you break it apart and focus on the five core elements, you can help remove the fear.  It may even be fun!