One may think that the content or copy of a direct mail appeal letter is King (or Queen), but studies have found that there is something else as equally or maybe even more important than what the letter says.
What is that one thing?
Typesetting. And, typesetting does matter when it comes to direct mail appeal letters.
Typesetting refers to how one presents information on a page. Eye-motion studies have found that readers don’t read word for word all that is on the page. Reader’s eyes are drawn and attracted to what is on the page through the strategic use of photos and captions, liberal uses of white space, and formatting emphasis such as bolding, underlining, and italicizing. Today, this is becoming more of the case as we rely on social media such as Facebook and Twitter for 140 characters and snippets of information.
Here are some of my top tips to help your direct mail appeal be the best that it can be.
Readers skim. So, photos with captions (and a caption that points out how the donor is making a difference), and underlined and bolded text all help to keep the reader skimming and highlighting the key points you would like them to learn. Ensure that photos are of high quality and show faces, especially emotive eyes. People connect to one another, even on paper, with eyes.
A two-page letter does test better than a one-page letter. Since donors are skimmers, repetition is essential. It may seem redundant to keep repeating things over and over, but, donors do not read all that your write. So, keep repeating your core message and “ask” throughout the body of the letter with again using formatting for emphasis.
Keep letter format consistent regarding type size, font usage, etc. Anything that makes it difficult or confusing for the donor to read, decreases readability.
Keep your paragraphs short and concise. The reader may lose their place, focus, and tend not to finish a story that they are in the process of reading if there is too large of a block of text. And, you certainly do not want to have the reader miss important stories and other critical letter components.
Make sure it is as easy as possible for the donor to give to you. Odds are they will not go too far out of their way should they wish to donate. Include the direct link to donate or make it as streamlined as possible.
Lastly, don’t forget a P.S., invite the donor to speak with you directly, remind them that you are available for questions, or welcome their suggestions. Direct them to give online here. Just make it compelling with a direct ask, a deadline, and a call to action. Research shows that no matter what is in the body of the letter, the P.S. draws one’s eyes in.
So, though you may think that what you say is key, think again, a well-typeset letter has the power to get your letter read especially in this day and age of 140 characters of less.
For your next direct mail appeal letter, why don’t you take the six items listed above and incorporate them into your writing? Doing these six things alone has the potential to significantly increasing the response rate of your letter. And, don’t we all want letters that speak to our donors in ways that they will read them?