Print Pieces That Work, Using Print Effectively to Get Strong Results

By Josh Barinstein

It is plain and simple. There are two types of Print material: effective and ineffective. Most of it, unfortunately falls into the “ineffective” category. This misfortune is not due to bad design or lack of content. What these pieces fail to do is engage their audience to take action—the kind of action that results in successful sales.

If you are not convinced, check your mail more carefully next time. Sift through and separate the “junk” from what really catches your attention and leads to something you are truly interested in. Now analyze the junk mail. What is it about it that is not working? Is it the impersonal appearance of the envelope? Is it that nothing pulls you in to open it? And once you do open it (if you do!), is there nothing worthwhile within, no enticing message, no interesting call to action?

And this applies to postcards or any other format, where glossy and colorful might be the main focus… focus for them, but not for you! You quickly spot it and toss it in the trash. You have to if you are going to stay sane…

So what can you do on your next Print piece to avoid these common and expensive pitfalls? Here are some ideas that have worked time and time again:

  1. Your piece needs both to inform and to prompt your audience to take action. For example, sending out a “we’ve moved” card and including a coupon for 10% off the next purchase or project. Or, sending a holiday card for Thanksgiving and providing space for listing people to whom to give thanks. In both cases, you get your audience to participate and, in doing so, make a contribution to them.
  2. You need a headline that grabs and copy that flows. To come up with a strong headline, focus on the purpose of the piece, on the main message you are trying to convey. Is it to thank the receiver? Is it to announce a change at your company? Is it to invite them to participate in some event?
    Develop copy that stems from the headline and stays on course. Be concise and to the point, unless you truly have a great deal to say and can keep it interesting for the reader. Remember: it is all about them, not you.
  3. Design needs to appeal. Be sure to keep taste in mind! Spend time on font, color, and the few, but well-selected elements (for example, taking the time to have a good photograph taken, which makes a huge difference). Do not overdo it, though, as with the text, unless it contributes to the message. Visuals should never overpower the copy, and vice-versa.
  4. Beware the clutter. Too many messages, too much uninteresting text, too many flashy graphics and that card will be tossed. Keep it simple and do not forget that you are competing against many, many other mail pieces.

Follow these steps and watch your audience widen their eyes to what you have to say—you will know when the response to your materials increases. And remember: it is always a game of honing in on what works and making it as effective as possible, which may take a few tries. Good luck!

About the author:
Josh Barinstein is President of Red Frog, Inc., the Southern California ad agency that provides worry-free experiences and powerful results in the areas of Marketing, Print design, and Web/CD-ROM development.

Learn more at or by calling us at 888-955-0550.

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