The Six Secrets of No-Surprise Printing

The Six Secrets of No-Surprise Printing

Even When Using Digital Printing… it pays to plan.


Successful print jobs are all about planning and communication. If you plan carefully and communicate exactly what you want, it is unlikely that you will need an expensive do over by a problem or disappointment later.

Number One.

The first step is to have a rational idea of the physical piece you want to create. That means determining the size, shape, folds, and other characteristics. For anything more complicated than a flat sheet, it is wise to create a dummy or mock-up to make sure that pages and folds are where you want them to be.

Number Two.

If you are printing for a mailing, a mock-up helps to ensure that the individual pieces will fit in the envelope properly. It can also help determine the type of printing equipment, such as die cutting or masking that will be a much-needed impact. Simple steps now could lead to savings to make the printing process more efficient. Changing the dimensions, for example, could allow a piece to be printed on a smaller press to save money. Check with the post office or your direct mailer. Non-Traditional size and shape mailers may require a special rate.

Number Three.

Proofing is also important. It is often tempting to rush when you are working under a deadline, but it is always better (and much cheaper) to correct a mistake before printing begins. Show your last design to several people, include those who have not worked on the project. Their input will be fresh and objective. Look for the usual spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Carefully check the headline and subheads. Most important, be sure that all vital information is correct, including phone number, return address, postal indicia, and bar codes. 

Number Four.

One common mistake is to include photos that look good on a computer screen, but which do not print well on a press. For most, you will need photos or graphics with 300 dpi resolution. Always use stock or vector images from a reputable company. If the budget permits, hire a photographer, designer, or direct marketing mail copyrighter. Make sure they sign off the rights of their property to your firm.

Number Five.

When submitting your design file for printing, you must include not only the file but all the attached files, including fonts, photos, graphics, and logos. Check early on with your printer what they need to get what you want to achieve. Just because it is digital, printers need to follow a protocol to get the best-looking printed material.

Number Six.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that printing involves putting ink onto paper. The ink and paper you use will affect the last look. You cannot rely on how a design appears on a computer screen. Paper can come in various colors, thicknesses, and textures which affect the last appearance of printing. When in doubt, ask for samples before you begin the design and writing process.

Please share with others–except your competition!

Direct marketing copy is like a puzzle.

Sharing my time with you is not over at the end of a post. There are many ideas I experienced in owning a small business. My ideas about using and writing direct marketing and customer-centric copy are intertwined in the marketing, advertising, and selling content, articles, reports based on my philosophy of people learn by reading, then learn by doing.

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Visuals attract and make the reader pause…

Visuals attract and make the reader pause…

but pounce on them with an offer they cannot refuse.

Direct and digital marketing is a combination of words, pictures, and ideas. A great visual tool without compelling words often goes unnoticed. Great words without the ability to attract the consumer’s attention often doom those glorious words to oblivion. Great visual images without substantive words and ideas often diminish the result.

At times, your audience may not understand a visual. Many have heard of the Pareto Principle, but after seeing in use in a post or an article, it deserves a trip to Google to answer people’s questions.

Use another pause visual to slow or stop the reader to check it out. Make sure a post or solicitation opens in another company web page so the trip back for the visitor returns to the original location. Also, this is a clever way to explain the definition of a word or phrase.

Do you know your competitors, directly or indirectly? Find out before you read their product description after seeing their product in a photo or video. You may say, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” Or, “this new product will kill us.”

Each example is important, but prospects and customers will overlook the best words and most monumental ideas unless something grabs their attention. Producing “grabbers” work well with about any communication channel today.

The grabber for direct mail is the design. It’s the proper mix of color, shape, size, illustrations, photos, and typography.

I know what you are thinking. If you said your digital and social media communications could use a design makeover, you are correct. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

A good headline accentuated with a photo or art is “a double whammy.”

Bright colors and bold graphics set your work apart. Illustrations are easily editable to fit your brand and can even be more universal than photography. Let Vector illustrations help your next project wrap up a punch.

Focus on creating a “how-to” or “why” or a “number series” while adding value and/or supplying entertainment in the form of a photograph, vector art, or even a short video or GIF.

As we learned in Direct Mail 101, the how-to is powerful because it engages the prospect on a deeper psychological level. It’s self-centered and most of us pay more attention when we hear “how-to and whatever follows after it.”

Try using a catchy relevant headline in the email subject line and see your open rate increase. Go a step further and add visuals with copy.

How to Reach a Qualified Target Audience… and motivate them to seek you out!

Momentum is not only a powerful force; it can keep people in motion. Eventually, when focusing on a segment of your contacts, such as once-buying prospects, you will learn how to qualify them.

The copy and the photo are enough to draw the reader in to the post. The copy can appeal to a human emotion.

Ask a question in the headline.

“What marketing communication channel delivers over 700 million messages each day?”

Curiosity can draw many reasons to find an answer. A good copywriter will add more subtle information. Like, in…

Subhead. Hint. Something you do with marketing.

 The answer is 700 million of letters and parcels are delivered yearly by the United States Postal Service. When you decide to use the US Mail channel, it’s a good guess the contact will get what you sent.

Thinking of using direct mail?

When designing direct mail, many people tend to be overly concerned about the individual design elements in the piece. Such as:

  • How does the headline look?
  • Should we put a few bullet points here?
  • How about some added color here?

Stop! Always try to look at your design. Stand back from your thoughts and look at it as you would a cool piece of art.

Imagine the blocks of text, the headlines, and various color blocks and photos as design elements – squares, circles, rectangles. Look at what stands out and what doesn’t.


If you want to learn more about this communication channel, direct mail, visit our and visit the Library of Marketing. There are a variety of sample writings. If you have a specific need send an email to

Thanks for reading and please share with others – except your competition! Your time is truly appreciated.

Learning and doing, marketing and selling ideas, is what you’ll find at Direct2Customers community.

It’s what we do. It’s what we love to do.

Thanks again for reading. Questions?     800-251-3608 (USA only)







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