Don’t Be Like Ted: 3 Smarter Ways to Get Political Direct Mail Noticed

It happens every election cycle. A candidate running for political office sends out a direct mail effort that gets attention, but for the wrong reason. A single miscue can result in a lost opportunity to garner support, as well as provide ammunition for the opposition.

It happens every election cycle. A candidate running for political office sends out a direct mail effort that gets attention, but for the wrong reason. A single miscue can result in a lost opportunity to garner support, as well as provide ammunition for the opposition.

What sparked this post was a news story about presidential candidate Ted Cruz that was forwarded to me by Denny Hatch, former editor of Target Marketing and founder of Who’s Mailing What!

TedC_01The Cruz for President campaign recently mailed this matching gift appeal that carefully skirts the legal, if not ethical line. The #10 outer envelope bears Cruz’s signature and name in a script similar to that on official mail sent to constituents.

The recipient’s name appears on a blue-and-white lined high security-like “check” that shows through the address window. To the window’s right, there’s a promise that raised red flags for some people: “CHECK ENCLOSED.”

Now maybe people should have asked themselves why someone from the government — a U.S. Senator — would be sending them a check in the mail. Or noticed the “PERSONAL BUSINESS” disclaimer in the corner card, or the “NO CASH VALUE” note on the faux check inside.

Yes, it’s a tactic that’s been around a long time in direct mail. But why court controversy, when there are so many effective approaches to deploy?

Based on my review of direct mail I analyze for Who’s Mailing What!, here are three techniques that political campaigns can use to stand out in the mailbox and raise money.

1. Use a Teaser in the Candidate’s Voice
When you need all good people to come to the aid of your party or candidate, a tagline on the outer envelope can speak to them in a way that sounds authentic.

Here’s a good one mailed by the Rand Paul for Senate 2016 campaign.

Rand_01“The NSA Hasn’t Read This …” appears on a 9”x12” manila outer and suggests that some secret information might be inside. To an audience that cuts across the usual ideological lines, concern over snooping gets them inside to see what the chief critic of government surveillance has to say.

Some others:

“Please help me respond to the biggest threat Wall Street banks have ever made against us.” —Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

“President Obama doesn’t want you to open this letter. But I do!” —Rubio Victory Committee

 “[FNAME], this is our moment … are you with me?” —Hillary for America

Each of these examples, when mailed to the right target, sets up the candidate’s identity and the narrative of their campaigns, or at least the letter inside. For Elizabeth Warren, it’s opposing Wall Street. For Marco Rubio, it’s fighting “liberal elites.” For Hillary Clinton, it’s siding with “everyday Americans.”

3 Ways to Make Your Direct Mail Maps Great

Maps are a pretty common element in direct mail. Whether it’s an insurance agent looking for leads, or a retail brick-and-mortar store trying to create traffic, maps can provide a lot of information quickly to a customer. But the effectiveness of those maps — how well they do their jobs — varies widely based on the mail I see every day.

Maps are a pretty common element in direct mail. Whether it’s an insurance agent looking for leads, or a retail brick-and-mortar store trying to create traffic, maps can provide a lot of information quickly to a customer. But the effectiveness of those maps — how well they do their jobs — varies widely based on the mail I see every day.

As the director and archivist of Who’s Mailing What!, I keep folders of mail and email details that aren’t part of our website. These are subjective things you can’t measure or quantify, or find in a database search, like great envelope teasers, best practice order forms, or emails using effective testimonials. You get the idea.

Based on what I found in my map folder, here are three tips on what to do — and what to improve upon — in creating direct mail that can drive customers to the front door of any business.

1. Make the Maps Clear
As an important supporting element in a direct mail package, a map should make it as easy as possible for a prospect to find you and do business with you. This overcomes a common objection – “I don’t know how to find you” – as your mail gets read, and, then, is acted upon, saved, or tossed into the recycling bin.

Inova_01This 6”x11” postcard was mailed by Inova, a healthcare system based in Northern Virginia. Covering its entire front, the well-rendered, readable street map pinpoints the urgent care facility’s location, as well as those of nearby landmarks like parks and shopping centers. Alongside a photo of the center, the street address — perfect for finding on a GPS device — is also provided.

In sharp contrast, below is a map from a mailer for a Kia dealership. Measuring a measly 1-1/2”x1-1/2” on a 5-1/2”x8-1/2” panel, important details like street names and route numbers are blurry and nearly impossible to read.

KIA_012. Make the Maps Relevant
Providers of medical services, such as hospitals and care centers, are big users of maps in direct mail, and probably the best at it. In promoting these vital services, it isn’t enough to list the location of the nearest facility, it has to be shown on a map. New movers are a particularly good target market for this kind of mail.

Comcast_01Comcast promoted a new XFINITY store with a self-mailer that included a large map on the inside. It’s positioned near the center of one panel, across from copy and images that promote the wide array of products and services demonstrated and offered there. There’s also an incentive offered for a visit:  a “free gift”.

3. Make the Maps Personal
Why use a generic map when customized variable mapping can make the journey personal? Leveraging personal data, like an address, on a visual, printed mailpiece is a powerful service offered by a number of providers. Without getting creepy, it grabs the customer’s attention by showing his or her home’s location in relation to the business being promoted by the mailer.

Here’s a good example, from Patient First, a chain of urgent and ready care centers.

PF_01Above the indicia on this 5-3/4”x11” postcard, there’s a unique map that shows the recipient’s location (the “You are here” designation), the new Patient First Center, and the driving route between them. It’s readable and bigger than what you’ll see in almost any direct mail package, measuring 2-3/4″ x 4-3/4.”

At the same time, there’s still plenty of real estate on the left to include messaging, like letting the addressee know that they’re only “8 minutes away” from the new center. Bullet points list the center’s hours and the medical services it offers. And the call to action also pushes a gift: a first aid kit.

When you think of all the kinds of businesses that would love traffic driven to their doors — retail, insurance, financial institutions, automotive, museums and zoos, travel offices, restaurants — the power of the individualized map becomes even more apparent. And adding other relevant overlays — based on previous purchases, or gender, for example — can increase ROI even further.