The direct mail headline is one of the most important elements of your marketing postcards. It needs to entice the recipient to flip it over and read more—rather than toss it into the recycling bin. And you’ve only got a few seconds to make your move.

So, how can you quickly grab a reader’s attention?

Marketing copywriters will tell you that as a general rule, headlines should communicate a benefit and be clear and easy to read. But you’ve got to do a lot more than that if you really want to hook your audience.

To up-level your headlines, put these 5 direct mail copywriting tactics into action:

1. Know Your Direct Mail Audience

Okay, this is the first rule in copywriting—and, well, pretty much in any facet of life. But understanding your audience is necessary in order to create a compelling direct mail headline that inspires action. One of the best ways to get to know your audience and create a targeted headline is to study data within your CRM as you automate direct mail.

Here are a few more ways to learn about your audience:

  • Analyze your direct mail list for common traits and behavioral patterns. Are there trends in buying behaviors that can help you frame your offer in the direct mail headline?
  • Survey customers to ask whether you’re meeting their expectations. This will help you learn more about them and how to communicate with them better. Pro tip: For a cross-channel lift, send a postcard invitation to a social media or website survey. Be sure to encourage people to complete the survey by offering a thank-you coupon or special gift to respondents.
  • Talk to your frontline employees, including sales and customer support. No one knows your customers better than those who talk to them every day.
promotion postcard example

The direct mail headline example above speaks to dog owners who are likely to respond well to discounts and a sense of urgency.

2. Choose Words that Evoke Emotion For Direct Mail Headlines

Emotions drive people to act, and this is one of the reasons direct mail works as a channel. Neuroscience research shows that paper-based media, such as direct mail postcards, are both easier to process and more memorable than digital media. Almost regardless of copywriting, your postcards can inspire people simply by being postcards—a tangible form of media. And you can capitalize on the natural benefits of postcard marketing by using words in your headlines that evoke emotions.

Wondering which words hit people where it counts? Test urgency words like “limited” and passion words like “enjoy” or “delight” in your headlines and sub-headers. Pro tip: Check out the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from The Advanced Marketing Institute to make sure your headlines evoke emotion.

direct mail headline example

The marketing postcard example from Framebridge uses “custom” and “easy” to make a stronger emotional impact.

3. Use Numbers in Your Postcard Headlines

Numbers are a powerful tool for content marketers. They can grab a scanner’s attention while quickly sorting through direct mail headlines; they can support your case quickly; and lend credibility to benefits statements. Keep the following tips in mind when using numbers in your postcard headlines:

  • Use numerals instead of spelling numbers out (10 vs. ten). Numerals are far easier to scan and they leave you more white space for design.
  • Dollar signs and percentages are powerful and much easier to read when expressed as symbols. This means “Save $10” is has a far greater impact than “ten dollars off.”
  • Use numbers to lend credibility and detail to benefits. Instead of this postcard headline, “Finally, an affordable gym membership,” try: “Finally, a gym membership for less than $40/month.”
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4. Prioritize Clarity in Direct Mail Copywriting

Direct mail marketing copywriters often want to be creative, but sometimes it is best to simply be clear and to the point. With growing stacks of mail to sort through, consumers value clarity so they can predict exactly what they’ll get if they spend more time reading.

Being direct and concise is a good default when writing postcard headlines. When in doubt, think like you’re writing for social media vs. a blog or email. With direct mail as with social media, you just want to catch someone’s eye, and sometimes the best way to do that is to be brief and clear with what you’re offering. This postcard copy from The North Face gets right to the point.

postcard copy example

5. Split-Test Postcards to Improve Headlines

When writing direct mail headlines, run a/b tests to learn which styles perform best. The people responding to direct mail may respond differently than those responding to email, so it is important to test headlines in the actual medium. With Inkit, you can split-test postcards.

postcard split test
A postcard A/B test created by Ron Rowland

The example above tests design as well as copy. To understand the impact of headline copy alone, use identical designs in your A/B postcard tests.

Direct mail headline writing is a skill that takes time to master. You may find that what works in direct mail is different than what works in digital marketing, and it can take even the best copywriters time to get into a postcard headline groove. Despite the tips above, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to direct mail copywriting. The best thing to do is to get creative and make sure you are using your CRM in sync with our direct mail software to continually test results and iterate.

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