7 Steps: Tips for Creating a Targeted Direct Mailer

I just completed a commercial photography marketing campaign featuring seven direct-mail pieces to almost 300 companies. The project transpired over about 3 months, and all of the pieces are finally delivered or in the mail! Below I’ve explained my step-by-step process. Watch for a Part 2 at a future date in which I report outcomes; scroll to the bottom of this post to see the actual mailers.

Guiding Principles

  • Designs:  Modern, clean, simple, cohesive; clearly displayed contact information
  • Images:  1) my best work & 2) the kind of work I want to keep doing
  • Recipients:  Received a mailer targeted to their type of business

1.  Focus.

I am attempting, over time, to become more specialized. This mailer was a deliberate step in that process; I am actively recruiting the type of clients I want to have. First, though, I generated a comprehensive list of the types of images in my portfolio, such as travel, food, wine, events, fine art, technology, people, campaign, architecture, sports, landscapes, etc. Then, I focused on categories that had the most value relative to my long-term goals and desired future clients.

  • Tip: In today’s market, an unfocused portfolio isn’t always an advantage for photographers, because it doesn’t distinguish you from the pack.

2.  Images.

I settled on three major portfolio themes: technology / architecture, food / wine / events, and fine art / medium format. Then, I culled my archives for images in each of those areas. I was looking for images that would print well and that varied from one another.

  • Tip: Select images that are sharp, have good color, are dramatic/eye catching, and a variety of close-ups and wide shots, film and digital, etc.

3.  Product.

I reviewed the press-printed products available at my printer (Bay Photo), looking for a high-quality product that maximized my resources. 130# Semi-Gloss 5×7 flat cards fit the bill.

  • Tip: Choose a product that: Is sturdy enough to be mailed with or without an envelope; Simplifies the design process; Has a non-smudge/non-smear finish so you can write notes easily; Offers a high-quality 6-color print option (versus 4 color).

4.  Text.

In addition to proving portfolio samples, the mailers were designed to highlight my “resume” as well. Using captions and sub-captions, the pieces are intended to support my credibility by demonstrating that I’ve travelled for on-location shoots, participated in a juried fine art presentation, had work published, and licensed stock to multiple parties (etc.). And most importantly, they all contain my logo, location, email address, phone number, and website.

  • Tip: Highlight your experience, clients, and skills in addition to your photography.

5.  Design.

I sketched my ideas for Chris (4108 Designs), zipped the photo files, and sent her a chart showing the text and photo to use on each mailer. All of the mailers have the same basic design; the only variation other than content is landscape versus portrait orientation.

  • Tip: Be organized before you contact a designer. If they have to start from scratch, the process will take longer and be more expensive.
  • Tip: Cohesive designs are important for brand recognition.

6.  Target.

My targeted mailer list was generated over the period of several months, and it required significant research (especially because I am new to the OKC market). My list included existing commercial contacts, including former clients and business contacts provided by friends and family (such as audio-visual companies like R2W,  local ad agencies, local news and editorial publications, PR agencies, large employers, business associations, and universities). I hired a trusty friend, former colleague, and former client, Jess, to input all of their contact data into a spreadsheet for label printing. I categorized all of these contacts (i.e “technology,” “event,” “food & wine,” etc.), according to which specific mailer(s) they should receive.

  • Tip:  “A bad targeted mailer is better than a good non-targeted mailer.” For example, a gorgeously designed landscape mailer is wasted on an editor from a technology publication. And so on.

7.  Mail!

This was the most tedious part: label printing and envelope stuffing! But someone’s got to do it! I staggered the delivery over a few weeks in hopes of gaining more attention and brand recognition. I wanted them to think “oh, her again” each time once arrived.

  • Tip:  Take the time to add hand-written notes; it makes the mailer seem less “mass” and more personal.
  • Tip:  Fedex mailers (versus regular mail) to Magazine Editors/Art Director’s to make sure they actually land on their desk.

The Mailers & Who Received Them

  • Round 1:  Travel and Fine Art (2 Pieces): Related Publications, Ad / PR Agencies, Designers
  • Round 2:  Technology and Architecture (2 Pieces):  Everyone (except publications with a specific/unrelated focus)
  • Round 3:  Food and Wine (2 Pieces):  Ad / PR Agencies, Related Publications, Universities, Large Employers, Venues
  • Round 4:  Events (1 Piece):  Ad / PR Agencies, Universities, Employers, Venues, Event Planners, Large Local Associations, Caterers

And there you have it! Thoughts? What’s been your experience with direct mail pieces? Thanks to Jess and Chris for their help with this project, and also to friends and family that went above and beyond in referring me to the right people. Yay, team!



About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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2 Responses to 7 Steps: Tips for Creating a Targeted Direct Mailer

  1. Great write up Holly. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out for you. Hopefully very profitable!!!


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