How to Choose the Right Design Team for Your Catalog or Direct Mail Program
When clients come to me with questions about starting a catalog and/or direct mail program, invariably the subject of creative development comes up. This is the question: Should it be handled by their internal creative department (despite its limited knowledge of direct development), their agency (which really knows the business) or someone else entirely?
My answer is always this: Choose designers who specifically know the mail order market. Why? Consider the following: Catalogs/mailers accustomed to generating sales via mail/internet ordering are a very different animal from a branding vehicle. They may look similar, but companies that create mail order catalogs and direct mail know exactly how to leverage creative that not only builds their brands, but also sells product. That’s the key difference. What looks simple is actually highly specialized and technical.
Beautiful doesn’t always sell. Direct mail design companies know how to generate sales for a couple of reasons:
- They understand the key drivers of stimulating response.
- They understand the budgetary constraints that separate mail order from brand building.
How to Start, Who to Choose
If you’re entering the direct mail arena for the first time, you’ll likely have a limited testing budget and no time to figure out how to build mail order creative on your own.
A catalog-specific or direct marketing agency, especially one with specific knowledge in your category, should be a core member of your team. Start by contacting a number of these creative agencies and invite them to develop creative concepts for you. You’ll immediately see who gets your business and who doesn’t based on their comps.
In choosing an agency, look for one that does all facets of the production process, from photography to layout and design, and even pre-press (or pre-media, as it’s often called now). That gives the agency a major stake in the process and provides you with complete accountability.