To Letter or Not to Letter, That Is the Question

There are many, many times when we get asked, “Is sending a letter better?” With the fast paced world now, many people are worried that a letter will go unread, so sending a postcard would be better. Here I will attempt to answer that question, beyond just, “Well … it depends.”

There are many, many times when we get asked, “Is sending a letter better?” With the fast paced world now, many people are worried that a letter will go unread, so sending a postcard would be better. Here I will attempt to answer that question, beyond just, “Well … it depends.” So let’s take the time to examine letters and self-mailers/postcards, keeping in mind that there really is the option that it may depend.

So let’s dig in. You may be tempted to say that postcards would be best as they are by far the cheapest and easier for the recipient to read. However, we need to look beyond the cost to produce. Yes, an envelope with a matching letter is going to cost you more money to send out. The funny thing about that is, it may not be a bad thing after all. We have found that recipients spend less time looking at the postcards and self-mailers. They are immediately identified as advertising. A well thought out and targeted personalized letter may provide you with more responses.

Benefits of a letter:

  • A letter is a little sneakier since it does not announce itself as an advertisement
  • Chance to provide more information about your product or service since you are not limited on space
  • Provide a reply device
  • Provide a brochure to keep or show others

Benefits of a Postcard/Self-mailer:

  • Catch the eye with images
  • Easy to understand with little effort on the part of the recipient
  • Cheaper, so more cost effective

In order to find out which is right for you, it is best to test your list. Split your list and send some people personalized postcards or self-mailers and the rest a personalized letter in an envelope. The key factor in what works for you is your audience. You need to find the best fit for them. What works well for your competitor may not indicate what works well for you. Track your responses to see what works best.

I have heard many people say that the younger generation is not going to read a letter so send them a postcard or a self-mailer. Well, while it may be true that the younger generation is not reading the whole letter, they are reading enough of it to get the point. Make sure that you have bold words, bullet points and a strong PS. This is what they are looking at as they skim the letter. Give a letter a try if you have not done so before, you may be surprised by your results.

In summary, postcards, self-mailers and letters are all good ways to market your company with direct mail. Each one has pros and cons. Test, test, test to see how your audience responds. Knowing who responds to what can help you provide direct mail your recipients want to receive. Assume nothing, test, track and test some more. See how creative you can get.

Direct Mail: A New Perspective

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results.

Many marketers spend all their time focused on the list and the creative, leaving the messaging as an afterthought. This does not work. All three components work together to get you top results with direct mail. So, how can you create better messaging?

Six keys to generate powerful messaging based on perspective:

  1. Focus: Who is your target audience? What are they interested in? What makes them tick?
  2. Benefits: What is your product or service going to do for your audience?
  3. Conversation: You are creating a conversation about your product or service with your audience. This may mean that it stretches across more than one marketing channel. You may start off the conversation with direct mail and lead them online to more information on your website or social media accounts.
  4. Opinions: Otherwise known as testimonials about your product or service by people like your audience. Real people making real statements are powerful persuasions.
  5. Inspire: If you can create language that inspires people to action, you have powerful means to generate response. This is your best call to action. How will you inspire?
  6. Review: Approach current customers who are similar to your target audience to solicit their views on your messaging. Are you getting the right message across? Does the call to action work? What would they say differently, you may be surprised at what you learn.

By taking the time to write your messaging to the perspective of the prospect/customer, you are first validating their position and thus grabbing their attention. Next you are creating an open environment to generate response. Make sure that you provide multiple ways to respond, such as phone, website, in person, mobile, social media and any others that are available to you.

Perspective is not about shoving products or services at people who should want them, but showing them how and why they need your products or services. Creating a belief of need in your product or service that they generate for themselves based on information your provided is the most powerful message you have. Take the time to write your messaging in this way.

Remember that you should create different messaging for different audiences even within the same campaign. Variable messaging will help you improve your results. You should test your messaging as well. See what works better and build on that. Always track your results. There are many ways to do that, from URL’s, phone numbers and special offer codes. Find what works best for you and implement it right away. Perspective can provide you with the means to better ROI.

Direct Mail Marketing Drives Response

Marketers everywhere are faced every day with many marketing channel choices. It’s hard to know which ones will work best. When choosing your channels don’t ignore direct mail. You may think its old school, so why use it, but direct mail can add to your ROI.

Marketers everywhere are faced every day with many marketing channel choices. It’s hard to know which ones will work best. When choosing your channels don’t ignore direct mail. You may think, “Its old school, so why use it?,” but direct mail can add to your ROI. You can use direct mail to drive online engagement. Add QR codes, URL’s, and augmented reality to link your marketing channels together. Let’s take a look at the direct mail channel.

Why choose direct mail as one of your marketing channels:

  1. Recipients: They view direct mail as less intrusive than other forms of marketing and in return, are more receptive to the message. Even millennials enjoy getting mail. As long as you are sending them direct mail that is correctly targeted they are open to it.
  2. Competition: There is less competition in the mail boxes these days so you can stand out. People are inundated with messages all day long from email and so much more. You can build brand recognition with direct mail as well as get noticed.
  3. Tangible: With a direct mail piece you can grab the senses in so many more ways that with online channels. People can touch, save for later or even pass the information provided in a direct mail piece to their friends. Use the senses to your advantage by adding texture and scents to your direct mail.
  4. Target: Unlike all other channels, you can target your audience very specifically with direct mail. There are so many selects to choose from it would be hard to list them all. Make a list of all the specific things you are looking for in your prospects and in many cases you can match them with a direct mail list.
  5. Personalized: Direct mail is more refined now. The personalization available creates a much more appealing direct offer. You can use images as well as text to create each piece targeted to each person.

As with any marketing channel, knowing who your audience is, is the key. You cannot create a targeted direct mail campaign if you do not have a good grasp on who you are sending to. Your messaging, your list and your creative are all effected by who you are trying to reach. Don’t forget that you need to be tracking your results. The only way to continue to improve your campaigns is to modify it based on the results from previous campaigns. Don’t be afraid to segment your recipients and try something new to a group of them. It is only by trying new things that we are able to identify possible new lifts in ROI.

A Postal Wish List for 2015 – I Wish I Could Say I Am Thankful

We are amid the Holiday 2014 mailing season, based on my home address catalog count of 33 so far (since Nov. 1). In the batch, I have just one duplicate, a J. Peterman catalog that I don’t mind receiving twice since the copywriting is so entertaining—so I keep one at home, and take one for the road.

We are amid the Holiday 2014 mailing season, based on my home address catalog count of 33 so far (since Nov. 1). In the batch, I have just one duplicate, a J. Peterman catalog that I don’t mind receiving twice since the copywriting is so entertaining—I keep one at home, and take one for the road.

So it’s time to write to the North Pole—and I assume with USPS Network Rationalization my letter to Santa will still get there with plenty of time to make all my postal dreams come true.

Here’s what I’m asking—and feel free to add to my list…

10. Somehow, someway, USPS Standard Mail volume actually increased last year by more than 1 billion pieces. A trend? A repeat performance in 2015 will help.

9. Congress will stay out of the way on postal facility consolidation, correct that, right-sizing the delivery infrastructure. We have 82 more facilities slated to close in 39 states in the USPS plan—yes, we need to monitor performance closely in the face of consolidation, but no more Congressional moratoriums on closures where delivery performance is little or not affected.

8. But we do need Congress and the White House elsewhere. USPS management, labor and marketers—and Republicans and Democrats… Can we find common ground on a postal reform bill in the new Congress? We’re almost there… Let’s support each other to get our Postal Service humming for the 21st Century. Compromise is never easy…

7. E-commerce is booming, and USPS will continue to innovate as a competitive fulfillment provider, teaming up with partners and even competitors where needed to bring U.S. households outstanding customer services. It’s very impressive to see what USPS has been able to achieve here (read, no monopoly).

6. If a magnificent postal reform bill isn’t immediately forthcoming, maybe a budget bill can carry an amendment to permit the Postal Service to manage its own healthcare plan and return pre-funded monies that don’t reflect realistic future trends. USPS customers have overpaid billions into the current healthcare program, yes overpaid, and it’s only serving to fuel year-after-year deficits which is taxing all of us and restricting innovation.

5. Since all hell broke loose after the USPS 2006 rate increase, digital migration and the Great Recession in 2008-2010, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe still managed to generate $15 billion in savings. Leaner is the day, and we have also to thank USPS COO Megan Brennan, the 74th Postmaster General-designate. Her skills and continued leadership are welcomed, and needed—if Congress can enable financial reforms.

4. No CPI rate increase in January 2015—but timing and the pending court decision on exigency makes a rate hike some time later in 2015 more likely. According to Charley Howard at Harte Hanks in October, had a January hike been proposed, it would have been in the 1.5-percent range, but inflation could speed up or slow down as we enter the New Year—and who knows if and when exigency goes away? The uncertainty is tough for marketers to manage—if only the Postal Service would respect CPI indexing as the 2006 legislation intended. Then maybe so many ad dollars wouldn’t go (so quickly) elsewhere. Return to CPI methodology and discipline. Give marketers predictability that’s so sorely still not there.

3. Direct mail advertising: If you’re a brand manager, you’ve got to love it. All those 5000+ ad messages per day—and only a precious few are in the mailbox. You touch it. You read it. You set it aside for later reading. You “process” it. How many branded touches a day get that kind of consideration, particularly in a digital age? Let integrated marketing integrate media wisely, and find the mail “moments” for your brand.

2. Delivery points keep increasing—but USPS productivity increases faster. In fact, USPS achieved record productivity by its own measure in 2013. This is an achievement beyond revenue and volume measures, which collectively go to show what could be achieved if postal, fiscal and operational reforms were allowed to happen.

1. Congress does something that’s postal and productive. I haven’t been too naughty this year—so can Santa make Congress and The White House actually get something done?

Next Thanksgiving, I promise that I’ll be more thankful.

Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.

How to Convert a Direct Mail Package to Online Video

Today we demonstrate how to convert a successful direct mail package into an online video. You’ll see how copy style translates and morphs from print to the spoken word, and how to integrate aspects of the original print design features in this video. Our criteria for this instructional video included these three

Today we demonstrate how to convert a successful direct mail package into an online video. You’ll see how copy style translates and morphs from print to the spoken word, and how to integrate aspects of the original print design features in this video. Our criteria for this instructional video included these three elements: A package we had originally written and designed, multiple enclosures (letter, sales sheet, lift note and order form) and a proven response generator.

When it was first tested, this direct mail package lifted response 35 percent over the control. On that strength, it became the new control and was mailed every month for three years, ultimately sent to over 21 million consumers.

This instructional video explains our process to convert this direct mail package to a short, but fully produced promotional video (under three minutes), scripting, voice-over persona, design elements, along with commentary about specific choices and plans we made while developing the video.

So while we’re light on words for you to read, you can digest this post in this in-depth video.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)