Direct Mail With Coatings Is Enhancement Strategy Part 3

The last couple of times we discussed how paper and then finishing can enhance your direct mail ROI. Now, it’s time to look at enhancing direct mail with coatings.

The last couple of times we discussed how paper and then finishing can enhance your direct mail ROI. Now, it’s time to look at enhancing direct mail with coatings.

Coating technology has really come a long way; there are a ton of options now! Coatings also protect your mail pieces as they travel through the mail stream — so that when your prospects or customers get them, they are not all scuffed up. So let’s look at some options.

First, there are some different types of coatings used for direct mail; they are UV, Aqueous and Varnish. UV coatings are cured by exposure to ultraviolet light to quickly dry and harden, as well as provide a highest-gloss finish. You would not want to use this on folded pieces, as the coating may crack. This can also have another challenge for mail pieces — when you plan to inkjet on the addresses, the ink does not dry on UV coatings. Aqueous coatings are pretty common for direct mail pieces. They are clear and a fast-drying, water-based coating. You can get a high-gloss or matte finish. Aqueous coating is more environmentally friendly than other coating options. Varnish coatings are basically clear ink. They come in gloss, satin, or matte finishes. This coating also causes issues for inkjet addressing.

Fun options to try on your mail pieces:

  1. Soft Touch — This creates a velvet feel to your mail piece. It is so soft, your recipients will feel compelled to pet it.
  2. Scratch-Off Coatings — These coatings are commonly silver or gold, but do come in other colors. These can be used for more than just a “see if you win” scenario.
  3. Step Tex — A raised UV for the embossed look, without the impression on the back side of the piece.
  4. Sandpaper — A sandpaper or grit-like texture with a rough tactile feel. The more tactile you make your mail piece, the bigger the impression you will make.
  5. Etch Coat — A very fine patterned coating with many options.
  6. Glitter Coating — A large glitter flake, where the color is influenced by the ink underneath it. There are various colors and pearlescent effects available.
  7. Metal Flake Coating — These are extremely fine metal flakes that are similar to auto paint, with many color choices.
  8. Glow in the Dark — These are high-gloss coatings that will glow in the dark.
  9. Tinted Coating — These are optically clear-color coatings, with many color options.
  10. Colored UV — These come in multiple colors, including white.
  11. Thermochromic — These are temperature activated coatings that come in multiple colors, which turn clear when heated.
  12. Photochromic — These are clear and are activated by sunlight to change color.
  13. Chalkboard Coating — These are available in black or clear, they emulate a chalkboard surface, which can be written on with standard chalk.
  14. Scented Varnish — There are many scents to choose from, which are realized when rubbed. So this works best on pieces inside of an envelope or on the inside panel of a mailer. It does not work well on a postcard.

As you can see, there are many coating options you can choose from to enhance your mail pieces. And you can use more than one at a time.

When you are in your design phase, take into account what coatings you would like to use to make sure you not only have the room — but that the design files are built correctly for the affects you want. Your print service provider can help guide you on the files. The most effective use of coatings on direct mail pieces are tactile and draw attention to your specific message. The better you integrate the enhancement element, the more your message will resonate and drive response. Are you ready to get started?

10 Fun Direct Mail Pieces for When Your Mail’s Gone Stale

Over time, mail pieces can become boring and less effective, because we end up using the same formats over and over again. Have you considered spicing up your next mailer?

Over time, mail pieces can become boring and less effective, because we end up using the same formats over and over again. Have you considered spicing up your next mailer?

There are a lot of different things you can do. Some are more expensive than others. One way to change up your mailer without a ton of additional cost it to change the way you fold it. There are many fun folds you can try as self-mailers or in envelopes.

5 Fun Types of Folds as Self-Mailers

  1. Coupon Mailer If you plan on including coupons with your mailer, check this one out.
  2. 6 Panel Mega If you need a lot of space, this is a great fold. It will qualify as a flat though, so the postage will be more than a smaller size.
  3. Pocket Mailer If you would like a pocket in a letter size mailer, check this one out.
  4. Rectangle Snake This is super fun fold for a self-mailer. Check it out.
  5. Star Iron Cross This is unique and can hold inserts. Check it out.

5 Fun Types of Folds in Envelopes

  1. Twist This is a super fun fold with a real cool factor! Check it out.
  2. Stepped Accordion This would work well if you have a bunch of headings in your copy or some other type of segmentation. Check it out.
  3. Double Swinger This has a professional feel to it and is not boring.
  4. Stacked Tulip This is very creative and unique. Check it out.
  5. Broadside Reveal This will allow you to have a peek-a-boo like window. Check it out.

Which ones are you interested in? There are so many more fun folds to try. Your creative design can really make these folds pop. Give your prospects and customers a fun experience with your next direct mail piece. There is one more fold I want to highlight, that is the endless fold. These are super fun and your prospects and customers will flip through them more than once. Check out an example.

You will need to put this in an envelope to mail, but imagine their surprise as they keep flipping folds. The longer they spend flipping through your mail piece, the more your message sinks in.

Are your creative juices flowing now? There is one final thing to keep in mind as you design for new folds; Have your mail service provider check your concept against postal regulations to make sure you are complaint. Otherwise you will have to pay extra fees.

Are you ready to get started?

In Direct Mail, More Is Less: How Oversaturation Kills ROI

Yes, we are saying that more mail pieces actually get you less as far as results go with direct mail. Don’t be fooled by the notion that more choices, more text and more offers are better. That does not hold up to reality. It is harder for your prospects and customers to make a choice, understand more text and pick from multiple offers than if you stick with one or two.

Yes, we are saying that more mail pieces actually get you less as far as results go with direct mail. Don’t be fooled by the notion that more choices, more text and more offers are better. That does not hold up to reality. It is harder for your prospects and customers to make a choice, understand more text and pick from multiple offers than if you stick with one or two.

With two, they can make a comparison. Once you move past two, you get confusion. Confused people do not buy. Your ROI will reflect your “too many choices” with poor results. Not sure if I am right? Let’s look at some key ways people process your mail pieces.

  • Decision Processing — Good decisions are processed in three steps, on avaerage. The steps are: know the importance of your goals, consider your options to meet them and pick the winning option. Knowing this, you can help them make decisions faster by providing them with the benefits of your product or service to them in your copy. The more options you offer, the harder it is for people to make decisions. When decision-making is hard, people tend to just not do it. Your mail pieces should make it easy for them to decide to buy from you.
  • Intake — As people are looking over your copy, they skim as they read. Many tests have shown that what resonates with them is the last item read; make sure your strongest copy is last, in order to convince them that it is in their best interest to buy from you. The more positive spin you put on the benefits, the better people feel about your product or service and the more eager they are to buy.
  • Past Experience — All decisions we make are based on past experiences, but your prospects and customers can be influenced by other people’s experiences, too. That is why testimonials about your product or service are very important. Your customers and prospects can relate to others’ experiences and want to get that experience for themselves.
  • Familiar — People buy from companies that they are familiar with, so your company branding is important and must be carried through all your marketing channels. They need to be able to recognize you to help them decide to buy from you.

Take the confusion out of your direct mail pieces in order to increase your response rates. Your prospects and customers are inundated with marketing messages all day long in various forms. In order for your mail pieces to resonate, you need to grab attention with your design and then wow them with concise, easy-to-read copy. Focus on how great their life is going to be by using your product or service. Then make it a limited time offer so they respond quicker. Finally, make it easy for them to buy from you.

Stay away from multiple offers per mailer; target the right people with the right offer. You can still have multiple offers in your campaign; just send different offers to different people. When you are not sure what offer will work best, do an A/B test so half of the people get one offer and the other half get the other offer. You can then analyze your results to see which offer worked better. There are enough difficult choices in the world, make buying from you an easy choice and you will see your results increase. In your marketing, you cannot be everything to everyone. You need to be something to someone. Focus on the someones. Are you ready to get started?

Technology Makes Direct Mail Irresistible

With great ROI, marketers continue to use direct mail. However, direct mail marketing that works today is vastly different than five years ago. Take a look at the pieces you are getting in the mail, they are more targeted, personalized and engaging than ever before. Technology has allowed us to increase ROI even more.

With great ROI, marketers continue to use direct mail. However, direct mail marketing that works today is vastly different than five years ago. Take a look at the pieces you are getting in the mail, they are more targeted, personalized and engaging than ever before. Technology has allowed us to increase ROI even more. By adding technology, you can draw attention to your mail piece and create a wow factor.

Here are four ways to use technology in your next direct mail campaign:

1. Sound Chips: You can add sound to your mail pieces! Record any message you want, then when your prospect or customer opens it the sound starts to play. Most people have seen this mechanism with a birthday card. Check out an example below.These are not super expensive and can increase your response rates.

2. Video: You can add video screens to your mailers. When your customer or prospect opens the mailer the screen is right there and it can either launch automatically or when they push a button. Want to see how they work? Check this out. Keep in mind that these are on the more expensive side.

3. Augmented Reality: You can have an image come to life and be manipulated by your prospects and customers with the use of your mail piece and a mobile device with an app. This is a very powerful way to engage them. Many marketers think that this is very hard to do and expensive, but it does not have to be. You can create a great user experience without breaking your budget. Check out this example. How can you create an awesome experience?

4. Data: You have so many options now to enhance your data or just take advantage of the data you already have. Segmenting like people together allows you in send more powerful messaging to the right people. You can profile your current customers to find prospects who are most like them. Then you take your data and create variable data mailers with targeted images, as well as copy and even design if you want to. The power of your data is only limited by you.

Technology doesn’t have to be a big budget item. You first need to plan out what you would like to do, then figure out the costs. Now you are ready to create your marketing campaign plan.You need to think strategically, starting with your goals. Creating direct mail using technology is a great driver of response when used correctly. Your best bet is to consult with your mail service provider; they will be able to help you with postal regulations and other aspects to save you money.

Keep in mind you still need to consider the basic requirements of good direct mail. A good list, an eye-catching design and a strong call to action are a must to drive response. If any of these are lacking, you will not get the response you wanted. Make sure to provide instructions on the mail piece as to how your prospects and customers can use the technology. Don’t forget to provide them with great content to view. If the content is not well designed or planned out then the whole process will be a waste of time. Are you ready to get started?

Top 5 Reasons People Don’t Trust Your Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing is considered the most trustworthy marketing by recipients, so why wouldn’t they trust your direct mail? There are actually many of reasons for this. We will focus on the top five reasons, as they are the most common.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.27.28 AMDirect mail marketing is considered the most trustworthy marketing by recipients, so why wouldn’t they trust your direct mail? There are actually many of reasons for this. We will focus on the top five reasons, as they are the most common.

1. Superficial/Unbelievable Content

People don’t want to be misled. It makes them very angry. Your message is your brand promise — it cannot be vague or open to interpretation. This also includes over promising — bait and switch tactics are very bad.

How To Fix It: People buy from companies they believe. Be direct and specific with your headlines, calls to action and copy. Be realistic with your statements and promises. Authentic and direct messaging is the best way to build trust. Do what you say and say what you do. Under promise and over deliver is your best bet.

2. Too Busy

You have included too much information for them to process. It’s too hard to figure out what they need to do. It gives them a headache just to look at it. It appears that you are trying to throw information at them and may be hiding something in all that copy they don’t want to read, so they throw it away.

How To Fix it: Use less copy with bullet points for a quick scan. Be specific in your call to action on what you want them to do and why they should do it. Use fewer images and make sure that they work with not only your branding, but also with the copy and tone of your message. Clear and compelling messaging is necessary to make the right impression. You only have a few seconds before you end up in the trash.

3. Dated

When was the last time you updated your design? If you have been sending direct mail for years, many times the control piece ends up being the same as it was in 1995. That’s not good. The impression you give with an outdated look isn’t nostalgic — it’s suspicious. This can be especially true of letters. Don’t be an old school form letter. You will end up in the trash.

How To Fit It: Check your copy for out of date wording. Does it flow like 2016 language or do you need to change it? Look at your competition. How does your direct mail compare to theirs? Make sure you have relevant information — these days information gets old quickly.

Direct Mail That Worked on Me

I admit that I am very interested in direct mail. So I like to look to my mail box both at work and at home to see what others are mailing. As a seasoned direct mailer, I am critical of what I receive. Every year there seem to be fewer and fewer pieces that really stand out to me

I admit that I am very interested in direct mail. So I like to look to my mail box both at work and at home to see what others are mailing. As a seasoned direct mailer, I am critical of what I receive. Every year there seem to be fewer and fewer pieces that really stand out to me. Since that is the case, I thought it would be a good idea to share a couple of examples of direct mail I received that I really liked. You can do this too, what is in your mail box, what works on you? Keep samples at your office of good direct mail so that you can emulate what they are doing.

The first example is actually pretty old. I received it in the early 2000’s. However, I have kept part of it all these years because it was a great idea.

Mail Piece No. 1:

  • 6 x 9 envelope.
  • In the envelope was a letter and a strange shaped object.

It was made of card stock paper, but I was not sure what it was. I, of course, did not read the letter first—I wanted to know what that thing was. As soon as I lifted it out of the envelope, it popped out of my hand and landed on the desk in the form of a box. It startled me and I jumped! (Probably not a good idea to send to seniors) Each of the four sides of the box had different messaging in bold. On top it read “think outside the box,” another panel read “fulfillment is more than packaging,” the third “easy orders mean easy money” and finally, the last panel said “your increased success is one phone call away.”

I did read the letter, because by then I was curious about what they were selling! It was fulfillment software with inventory and store front controls. I did end up buying the software, and is has worked great.

This pop-up type of mailing can be very versatile. The best part about it is that it is unexpected and breeds curiosity. They can be created in many different shapes, so get creative and pop up your ROI. Now for the second mail piece that caught my eye.

Mail Piece No. 2:

  • 6 x 10 mailer with a three panel roll fold, fugitive glued closed.

The first thing I noticed was that it was not tabbed. (I prefer the look of fugitive glue.) As I flipped it over, I noticed that it was personalized. They included my name in the tagline. When I opened the mailer, I realized it was fully personalized. My name was again on the inside note. The best part was it had coupons for things that I buy. They knew what I was interested in, and only offered me coupons for those items.

Did I use them? Of course I did! The true advantage to personalization is that the mailer appeals directly to the needs or wants of the recipient. This becomes a valuable piece of mail to them.

If there are only two things you take away from reading today I hope that they are:

  1. Direct mail needs to stand out.
  2. Direct mail needs to be relevant to the recipient.

If you create direct mail campaigns that address these two concepts, your ROI will show it. Direct mail can also be a great way to introduce your organization to new prospects who are not familiar with you. Direct mail is not viewed as intrusive and can be held onto for a period of time without the issue of being forgotten. It does still require you to vet your lists to mail to only prospects who are interested in what you are offering. When purchasing a list of prospects, this can be done with demographics, psychographics and so much more.

Stand Out With Texture

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

How can you get your direct mail to stand out in the mailbox? Have you considered using texture? Coatings do more than just protect the print from scratching damage in the mail. They can capture interest for your direct mail piece. With all the different types of coating available, you can now choose one that really emphasizes touch. By creating a unique textured feel, your response rate will increase. Think of all the different ways you can add texture to your piece to grab attention to it.

Some fun coatings for you to consider:

  • MiraFoil: Create metallic effects in a precise fashion.
  • Raised: Gives the embossed look without actual embossing.
  • Pearlescent: Gives an elegant shimmer look.
  • Sandpaper: Gives a rough sand paper like feel.
  • Soft touch: Creates a velvet texture for a nice soft feel.
  • Glitter: A large glitter flake that is available in a variety of colors.
  • Metal Flake: Fine metal flakes similar to car paint.
  • Thermochronic: Temperature activated, changes color when heated.
  • Photochromic: This coating is activated by sunlight to change color.
  • Glow in the dark: This is a high gloss coating that will glow in the dark.
  • Scratch off: Available in gold or silver provides a non-see thru coat

Now that you have selected your coating, imagine how creative you can get with your design. You want to have the feel of bricks? No problem. 3D raised steps? No problem. It’s like the old “Pat the Bunny” books: You can have so many textures at your fingertips to choose from. It is not advised to go crazy and put several on one mailer, but you can mix a couple to really get a pop. Show your recipients how your product or service feels; grab that sensory emotion to increase response.

The standard coatings are:

  • Varnish: This is basically like a colorless ink and can be applied in gloss, dull or satin forms as the piece is printed. This is not environmentally friendly.
  • Aqueous: A water based coating applied as the piece is printed. It protects better than varnish and is more environmentally friendly.
  • UV: This provides superior protection and comes in glossy or dull.
  • Laminates: This is best for protection from water as it seals in the paper. This is not usually needed for direct mail pieces.

With any of the above coatings, it is a good idea to check with your mail service provider to make sure they can inkjet over the coating. You do have a couple of choices if the coating is not inkjet compatible. You can knockout the mail panel when coating to leave it unfinished for inkjet. Or you can use and envelope/poly bag as a cover. Just one more thing to consider is that a paper envelope can be inkjeted, but a poly bag will require labels. Make sure to consider all your options and costs before proceeding.

Direct mail is about engagement, pulling the recipient into your marketing by creating interest in your mailer. The more interesting it is, the better response you are going to get. You will also find that when you create a direct mailer that people really enjoy, they show it to others. The more people who see your mailer, talk about it and share it, the better your response will be. Sensory input leaves a lasting impression on the recipient. If you want to add another layer of input, check out our blog post on adding scent to mailers. A good combination of texture and scent can knock your ROI out of the park!

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Flats

As you know from parts one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Finally, let’s look at flats:

As you know from part one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Finally, let’s look at flats:

  1. Flat-sized mail is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. These mailers have fewer restrictions as the equipment they run on at the USPS is very different. They lay flat, mail-panel side up, as they run through. Unlike the letter-size machines that run so they stand up on the edge below the mail panel.
    This means less damage happens to flat-size mail pieces. They also stand out in the mailbox better.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 0.009 thick. The maximum thickness is 3/4 inch for the whole mailer. Usually this is not a problem since many flats are mutli-pages.
    Many people get creative here, since you can go a lot thicker. Just make sure you keep the thickness even throughout the mailer.
  3. No aspect ratio requirement. Since these run laying flat through the equipment, there is no need to adhere to a ratio.
    This gives you more freedom in your size design. If you want a more slender look, you can do it!
  4. Flats are required to have address blocks in the upper half of the short edge. For instance, with an 8.5 x 11 mailer, you would need to address from the top of the piece down only to 5.5, do not address below the 5.5. There is no barcode clear zone for flats. You will need to use an address block that includes the barcode, a 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images. You must also make sure that you have at least a 0.125 clearance for the address block from the edge of the piece and any text or graphics.
    This requirement is not actually for the machines, but for the employees to more easily see the addresses when distributing the mail.
  5. The fold or binding must be to the right of the mail panel. If you are using a poly bag or envelope, this is not necessary.
    The reason they want it to the right is because as they pass through the machines laying down, the lead edge is on the right side.
  6. No tabs are required. In some cases, such as when you are inserting a piece loosely into the mailer, you may decide to use tabs to hold it closed. You may do that if you wish, it is just not a requirement to do so.
    Most people opt to not use tabs even when they have a loose insert, since in most cases they do not fall out.
  7. If you use a poly bag/envelope, the maximum extra space you can have inside the bag from the edge of the piece to the edge of the bag is 0.5. This is very popular now. It allows the recipient to see the creative through the clear material, as if it were just mailed without an envelope and then lets you put loose pieces together like when using a standard envelope.
    You can either address the materials on the inside of the bag or you can label the outside, both are acceptable as long as you are using USPS approved bags.

Your best bet is to design your flat and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Self-Mailers

As you know from part one of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Now let’s look at Self-Mailers

As you know from part one of “Why Can’t I Mail It?” with postcards, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Now let’s look at Self-Mailers:

  1. Self-Mailer size is 3.5 x 5 to 6 x 10.5, anything larger is not mailable in this category. A self-mailer is a single or multiple unbound sheets of paper that are folded together and sealed to form a letter-size mail piece.
    The USPS created this category in Jan. 2013 to stop jamming and tearing of mail pieces. To us it has been a pain to redesign sizing and folding. Why not just slow the machine down a little? But, alas, that is not the case.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 70lb, as long as the weight is under an ounce. If the weight goes over 1 ounce, the minimum is 80lb. Anything less will need to go in an envelope.
    Our main issue with this one is how the heck will the postal clerks know what kind of paper stock was used? Are they really going to measure them all? We get it that thin equals floppy and floppy equals bad for machines, but it could have been addressed with a thickness of 0.009 or something along the usual guidelines.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the self-mailer and divide it by the height.
    We are told that the reason for this rule is machine compatibility, when the mailer is short and long it does not run through the equipment correctly, causing jams and again torn mailers. We don’t want that!
  4. There are two options for addressing a self-mailer.
    • Barcode in the address block: A 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
    • Barcode clear zone addressing: The barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of 0.125 inches.
      These requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules in our favor does not happen!
  5. There are two kinds of folds: horizontal and vertical:
    • Horizontal folds: The final fold is below the mail panel. This can be an 8.5 x 11 half folded, an 11 x 17 half folded and half folded again and so on. If you use the 11 x 17 keep in mind that the first half fold needs to be to the right of the mail panel, the second below it.
    • Vertical folds: The final fold is to the right of the mail panel. Folding requirements are very strict so make sure to adhere to them.
      This rule was created so that mailers would have a fold in the two areas that most often cause machine jamming the bottom and lead edge. These seem a little stringent, but we do want the mailers to arrive looking nice!
  6. Tabbing or fugitive glue closures are required:
    • Tabbing: Up to 1 ounce mailer needs two 1 inch tabs, mailers over 1 ounce need two 1.5 inch tabs and if you are using perforations or inserts it needs two 2 inch tabs.
    • Fugitive gluing: use a continuous glue line of 1/8 inch wide or glue spots of 3/8 inch diameter, three to four spots or elongated glue lines 1/8 inch wide, three to four lines. As an example, on a horizontal fold you will have two tabs above the mail panel or two to the right and one to the left. On a vertical fold you will have one tab above the mail panel and one to the left, or two to the left.
      This one really hurts! With all these tabs and glue, the mailers are really hard to open and in a lot of cases they tear. Not really the presentation we are looking for!
  7. Poly bag/envelope: If you use a poly bag or envelope, your mail will have to go at flat postage rates. You cannot use them with self-mailer letter size mail.
    This is not too onerous, but it would be nice to be able to use the clear envelopes to keep the mailers looking nice and still be able to see them.

Your best bet is to design your self-mailer and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI.

Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Extended Coverage: USPS – Will It Disappear?

When your editor makes a decision to defend you in the comments section below a feature article, then the article must have hit a nerve! I talked to several mailers, and association leaders who represent them, in a feature this month in the magazine … as I should: mailers have a lot to say about goings-on at the Postal Service

When your editor makes a decision to defend you in the comments section below a feature article, then the article must have hit a nerve!

I talked to several mailers, and association leaders who represent them, in a feature this month in the magazine … as I should: mailers have a lot to say about goings-on at the Postal Service (and not-goings-on in Congress) leading some mail marketers to re-evaluate the medium. I’d say it is a timely premise—particularly with the recent exigent postage hike on top of the inflation-indexed hike.

Far more was offered than I could include in the feature. However, “Marketing Sustainably” has a bit of room and—with my editor’s permission—allow me to share a few more observations.

Let me be clear, every mailer I talked to wants the Postal Service to succeed. The prescriptions may vary. What may be unclear is how it will succeed…

Always the Postologist, Charley Howard of Harte-Hanks had these points to share on a future path:

“If the Postal Service is allowed to manage its own healthcare, get the pre-retirement funding relief from Congress that it is due, and get Congress to back off on leaning in on operations, I believe that we would have a USPS that is both viable and competitive. We should close post offices that only see 1.5 people a day, limit some mail delivery to five days (keep the parcels moving) and have the USPS become more sensitive to pricing. These outcomes require enabling legislation—and that’s a big ‘if’ and certainly not likely in an election year, never mind by 2020 or 2025.”

“I believe the leadership of the USPS, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in particular, has made the right decisions to try and save the post office,” says Paul Ercolino of U.S. Monitor. “Cost cutting, Network Rationalization and five-day delivery are all controversial decisions, but they are essential if the Post Office is to survive in the coming years.”

Hamilton Davison of the American Catalog Mailers Association spoke about innovation—but still sees challenges because of the process of oversight:

“Innovation on the revenue side, or improvements to [the Postal Service’s] cost structure, will only occur if it is given the freedom to experiment free from regulatory or political concerns. While it is right and proper that the enormous market power of the Postal Service not be unchecked, it should be given greater freedom in advancing markets or improving its cost structure without undue concern about these regulatory and political pressures. Management today is handcuffed in too many areas. Barriers to experimentation on a modest scale must be removed so the USPS can demonstrate pathways for greater innovation that can then be rolled out system-wide under the review of a regulator. Getting the regulator involved in early stage exploration of potential innovation is much more cumbersome.”

And Joel Quadrucci of Quad-Graphics spoke to mail’s role in a multichannel, digital-savvy world:

“We live in a multichannel media world, and print is—and will continue to be—a critical marketing and communications channel,” he said. “Print is especially powerful when connected with other channels. Direct mail is a critical channel because of its ability to drive action to numerous other media channels. Direct mail and digital marketing channels will move forward hand in hand, with direct mail creating a compelling call to action and digital marketing channels giving consumers a way to act.”

“The entire world of logistics is evolving along with retail,” Quadrucci continued. “More and more consumers are opting for the convenience of shopping online. We already see it with Amazon building distribution centers all over the country with the goal of facilitating same-day delivery of its products. The USPS could play a pivotal role in this evolving world of logistics; it is has many strengths. But in order to be competitive with alternative delivery systems, it must address its current challenges head-on.”

Clearly marketers must stay engaged with the Postal Service—and with Congress—as we tackle these challenges together. The Postal Service clearly has my support, too. Now if I could only sate Denny Hatch.