Planning a direct mail piece? Here are some important points to remember.

Write to a specific reader. Address the needs of the person you want to reach: a suburban homeowner, a condominium owner, etc.

Be informal and concise. Write at a level that's consistent with the reader you want to reach. Edit five or six times, using three or more people.

Use graphics and pictures. They always get attention. Make sure your picture carries the message. Your copy and typeface should complement the graphic, and your graphic should never have to be explained, only identified.

Keep letters short. People set aside lengthy letters. One page is the maximum. Use enclosures to make multiple points. Limit your paragraphs to four or five lines. And use the second person. Don't say “Our new siding …” but instead “Your home would look great with …”

The reply vehicle has to stand on its own as a selling piece. Use an image on the reply card — windows or a roof, for instance — to remind recipients of what the card is for. Make sure to capture fax, e-mail, or phone information along with permission to contact.

Appeal to ego, status, values, excitement, pride, concern, and security. For example, write, “Yours could be the best-looking house on the block.”

Always use a PS. Hand write or print it in a different font. Personalize it. Use urgency and command. Remind prospects to “Call today,” and “Be sure to take advantage of this offer.” For form letters to a database of customers or prospects, personalize for specific segments. Let the customer know that you know who they are. Example: “We thank you for visiting our showroom.”

Use #10 or invitation-style envelopes. Mail them with first-class postage stamps and don't use labels (unless the piece is obviously an advertisement). Consider using window envelopes. Include a pitch on the envelopes.

Replicate much of the above with e-mail blasts.