Direct Mail Creative – concepts, copywriting, graphic design

McCarthy & King Marketing provides strategically focused direct mail copywriting and creative services for businesses and non-profits.  If needed, we also offer list research, offer strategy, print/mail production and testing. 

It all starts with your objective

Do you want to generate leads, orders, retail traffic or donations?

This is the first step in direct mail marketing – knowing your objective.

Why is this important?  Your objective will have a major impact on many of the decisions you make in your campaign.  For example, your offer, your mailer format and your message will all be directly affected by the objective of your campaign.

Choose the right mailer format

It’s not the most important part of your campaign, but it’s what everyone notices.

We can help you choose the right format for your objective.

  • Letter mailers
  • Letter/brochure mailers
  • Letter/survey mailers
  • Postcards
  • Folded self-mailers
  • Multi-page booklets
  • Three-dimensional mailers

All of these formats come in a variety of sizes.

Which format you use should be decided not by your personal preferences, but by the application and objective of your campaign.  We can help you decide which format makes the most sense for you.

Results-based direct mail creative

Direct mail copywriting and graphic design are essential to the creation of your direct mailer.

But creating your mailer is more than just a creative exercise.  It also needs to generate a response.

Unlike traditional advertising creative where the focus is entirely on brand awareness, direct response creative is much greater challenge because it needs to produce results.  Measurable results.

We’ve been creating direct mail for clients for close to 30 years. We understand the techniques and methodologies for generate response – not just the right quantity of response, but the right quality as well.

Persuasive copy and design

People often look at a direct mail package – or any advertising for that matter – for its overall look and feel …

Was it professional looking?  Was it eye-catching and attention-getting?  What is it interesting or compelling in any way?  Was it memorable or worth sharing in any way?  Was it creative, clever or entertaining?

But really, the only question worth asking is…

Was it persuasive? 

Did the mailer convince you – the reader – to take a specific action … to respond in some way?

After all, that’s how you’re going to be judged, right?   Were you able to persuade enough people to respond to this mailing?

The persuasion bar

The persuasion bar is the level of persuasive copy you need to reach to generate the desired response.  This will vary from one application to another.

For lead generation, the persuasion bar is relatively low because you are only asking people to raise their hands to say they’re interested in some free information.  This means your message can be shorter.

Compare that with an order generation (or direct selling) mailer in which you need to persuade the reader to actually buy something – to reach into their wallet and give you their credit card number.  This calls for a much longer message – often a multi-page letter or self-mailer.

The retail persuasion bar is relatively low because response is often in the form of discount coupons for products the customer may already be planning to buy … at stores you may already be patronizing.

The fundraising persuasion bar is similar to order generation because you are asking people for money.

Direct Mail Creative Process

Below are some of the steps involved in the Creative Process.


Message Development

  • Main message (main selling proposition)
  • Secondary messages
  • Supporting evidence
  • Message presentation –  copy, photos, art?

Offer Development

  • For lead generation, focus on informational white papers or reports
  • For order generation, focus on pricing, discounts, trials and premiums
  • For retail, focus on discounts and premiums
  • For fundraising, focus on “ask” amounts, front-end premiums and back-end premiums

Format Selection

  • Message/offer  will dictate space requirements
  • Letter package vs. self-mailer vs. postcard
  • Budget consideration
  • Audience consideration


Concept Development

  • Develop two versions
  • Additional versions optional
  • Develop finished version based on feedback


  • Develop an initial rough draft with headlines
  • Write complete copy based on feedback
  • Revise as needed

Graphic Design

  • General layout comes from Concept Development
  • Complete layout based on feedback and copy
  • Revise as needed


  • Complete project according to print specifications
  • Deliver to printer

Get started or learn more

So what’s your next step?  If you’re close to making a move, we’d love to talk.  Call Bob McCarthy at 508-473-8643 or send him an email at

If you’re not there yet, let’s stay in touch.  Please join our mailing list and get all of our updates and articles.

Of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.


If you’d like to discuss an upcoming campaign – or if you’re looking for ways to improve an existing mailing program – call us and let’s schedule an introductory call.