Self-Mailers Make Great Direct Mail

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

Why do I love self-mailers? They are really versatile and allow you plenty of room for creativity to grab attention quickly. You can fold them in fun ways, too. Best of all, they are cost-effective. Color images are really important for self-mailers. Colors make your piece unique and help convey your message.

When do self-mailers work best?

  1. Sending to Consumers — Consumers like to get mailers. On the other hand, businesses tend to sift through mail before it gets to the designated person so many times, mailers are tossed before they are ever seen.
  2. You Have Great Images — Images drive attention and response, so if you don’t have good ones to use, skip doing a self-mailer.
  3. Tear-offs — When you have a tear-off section, like coupons, for your prospects or customers to keep or use, self-mailers make it easy.
  4. Sharing — A creative self-mailer will get shared with family and friends; this allows your message to spread farther.

There is no one best format. As a matter of fact, the more unique the format, the more engaged your prospects and customers will be. Think beyond the standard layouts. As with any type of direct mail, there are some pitfalls you need to keep an eye out for such as:

  • Size — The maximum letter size is 6 x 10.5. This still gives you tons of room; especially when you have three panels to use.
  • Paper Stock — You will need to use at least 80# text weight stock to meet mailing requirements. But in many cases, you want to use something thicker in order to prevent tearing during processing.
  • Aspect Ratio — When selecting your final size, you need the length divided by the height to be between 1.3 and 2.5. Anything less or more will be a problem.
  • Folds — Make sure that you design the folds in the correct places. Your final fold needs to be either below the mail panel or to the right of the mail panel.
  • Tabs — You will need to make sure that you are placing the correct size tabs and placement. If you don’t like tabs, you can also use fugitive glue.

There are so many creative things to do with self-mailers that just don’t work for envelopes and postcards. Test out some new ideas and see what your prospects and customers think. Consider folding in a different way. Don’t just take an 8.5 x 11 sheet and tri-fold it. Be unique. You could try a four-panel fold in from an 18 x 27 sheet; this would cut out so that the top panel folding down would be 6 x 9 then the left panel would be the same size, so would the right and bottom. Once folded, the final fold would be below the mail panel. This makes for a memorable experience for your prospects and customers. They do not get a self-mailer like that every day. Of course, there are tons more folds you can create that are different. Check out some ideas at: FoldFactory.com.

Consider ideas beyond folds, too. You can have die cuts on the inside panels, you can use foil stamping or embossing to have areas really stand out. There are fun ways to grab attention on a self-mailer that people do not see every day. Not all of them will fall in your budget. But if you take time to research options, you will find something that you can afford and helps increase your ROI. Are you ready to get creative?

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?

How to Beat Your Competition With Great Direct Mail

Direct mail is a great way to convert prospects and get customers to make more purchases. First of all, direct mail is a physical and tangible medium you can exploit. Using touch as part of the direct mail moment shifts the brain into a deeper level of engagement. Your prospects and customers understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on a screen. Make sure that they remember your message. So how can you harness this power?

Direct mail is a great way to convert prospects and get customers to make more purchases. First of all, direct mail is a physical and tangible medium you can exploit. Using touch as part of the direct mail moment shifts the brain into a deeper level of engagement. Your prospects and customers understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on a screen. Make sure that they remember your message.

So how can you harness this power?

1. Attention: First you need to create a mail piece that draws immediate attention with graphics and copy. Keep in mind that the images you select should convey your message. Our brains focus on and process images very quickly, so they are a very important part of your mail piece design. You want your images to help you stand out in the mail box and from the competition. Scope out what they are doing so that you can be better.

2. Integration: Your prospects and customers expect to be able to do more with direct mail. Integrating mobile technology, personalized URLs, as well as physical elements such as special folds or textures to provide a longer engagement process with your mail piece. The longer the interaction the more likely they are to purchase.

3. Simple: Keep your copy easy to understand. Make their decision to buy from you easy. Using less words and more commonly used ones will help you to generate a bigger response. Make sure to avoid the use of acronyms. They can cause confusion and a confused person does not make a purchase.

4. Consistency: Marketers that continue to send direct mail to prospects and customers over a period of time find that they get better response rates. Sending mail to someone on a regular schedule helps to keep your business top of mind. When the right offer arrives at the right time people jump all over it. This is not to say that you should send the same thing over and over again. Change up your offers and images, but make sure your branding stays the same so that they recognize you from the past mailings.

5. Personalization: Use your data to its maximum potential! Make your offers personalized to what your prospects and customers want and need. You can base this on many factors such as purchase history, demographics, psychographics and so on. Just putting someone’s name on a mailer is not the same as a truly personalized piece. Images, offers and messaging should all be part of your personalization. You can group similar people together so that you have less versioning.

Look, your competition is looking for ways to beat you, so don’t let them! Stay ahead of them with your marketing planning and execution. The early bird gets the worm in direct mail too, as long as the mail pieces are well thought out with great design, great offers and the right list of people. Be a leader in your marketing by standing out! Get creative with your design and your data to make mail pieces that your competition has never even thought of. The power of a tangible mail piece for your marketing is driving results. Use the printed piece to stand out in ways that digital marketing can’t. Think of texture, cut outs and special folds as a way to really embed your message into the brains of your prospects and customers. Are you ready to get started?

Great Direct Mail Examples From My Mailbox

Have you been keeping an eye on your mailbox? What worked on you? I keep a stash of the ones that worked on me for reference on client projects. Let’s look at a couple of great ones.

direct mail examplesCall me crazy, but I look forward to getting my mail each day, partly because we do direct mail all the time, but also partly because of my curiosity on what is being sent by others. Of course I am super critical of what I receive; looking at the condition it is in, if there is personalization, if there are errors and if it captures my attention. You would think that now with my mailbox being less full that more would stand out to me, but most of the time, that is not the case. As marketers we need to step up our game! Have you been keeping an eye on your mailbox? What worked on you? I keep a stash of the ones that worked on me for reference on client projects. Let’s look at a couple of great ones.

The first example is a retention piece. It has been a while since I bought from them so they are sending me a special offer. (Always a good idea.)

Mail Piece 1: A 5×7 envelope, tri-folded card with attached coupon card

The envelope was blue with just my address, a return address and a tagline of “Very Special Offer For Summer.” The card was setup like a standard greeting card, once you open the first panel there is a personalized short greeting on the inside panel and a half size final panel on the right. To the left of the greeting was the attached coupon card with my name on it and the offer was for a free pair of shoes when I buy one pair. (Buy-one get-one free is great!) The short panel was perfed to allow me to tear it off and share an offer with a friend. The friend offer was 50 percent off a pair of shoes when they bought a pair. (This is a great way to extend your direct mail reach and quickly gain new customers. People decide to buy based on recommendations, who better than a friend to provide that recommendation?) Of course I bought the shoes and I gave the other coupon to a friend who also bought shoes.

Retention mailings work very well. You know purchase history and the value that customer has to you so you can make an appropriate, compelling offer to get them to buy again. Have you considered doing a share with a friend offer? They work great! We highly recommend them.

Mail Piece 2: A 6×11 Postcard

Now if you are like me, you do not normally get excited about a postcard — but this one was different. The first thing I noticed was my name on a tackle box next to a woman fishing. (Yes, I love to fish.) Normally when I get postcards selling fishing things, there is always a man on the card. Not that appealing to me. This card was so much better. There was no other copy on this side of the card. When I turned it over, I realized it was fully personalized with not just my name and address, but with tackle that was of interest to me. I am not a lure fisherwoman, but I get mailers all the time trying to sell me lures. This card had various bait and hooks. So the discount offer was for 25 percent off any of the items on the card. (Wow, an offer I can use for tackle I want!) Did I use it? Of course I did! The true advantage to personalization is that the mailer will appeal directly to the needs or wants of the recipient. This becomes a valuable piece of mail to them.

So why am I sharing my mail? Because I want to give you real-life examples of mail pieces that work! They work best when they stand out and are relevant to the recipient. Are you creating your direct mail this way? When you do your ROI will show it. Are you ready to be creative and make the best direct mail piece yet? Do you have any pieces that you received that were great?

5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail

Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

what not to do in direct mailFor the last 26 years, we have worked with customers to send really good direct mail. Of course during that time there have been some flops for many different reasons. We have learned much more from the flops than the greats. Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

5 Things to Not Do in Direct Mail

1. Font: The most important thing in your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily read. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters, too, so make it larger.

2. Lie: Your direct mail should never lie to people or as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

3. Old List: Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is three years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change, too. Sending to people who are not there or no longer interested is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean it up, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

4. No or Unclear Call-to-Action: The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call-to-action where you tell them what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either. A clear concise call-to-action is a must to drive response.

5. Features: Do not focus your direct mail on features — no one cares. People buy based on benefits, not features. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service. If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try listing the features on a paper and next to each one list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner, a feature is the motor power. A benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

This list could really keep on going, but we have hit in the five major areas. Have you made any of these mistakes or others? What else would you include in this list? We all make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing is to learn from them, to make your direct mail better. It’s time to make some great direct mail!

Direct Mail Drives Membership

Across the United States, many museums are struggling to maintain current membership levels, let alone increase them. They have aging members and that population deceases all the time. In order to remain relevant, many museums have adopted new programs trying to reach younger demographics. This is where direct mail, in conjunction with other marketing channels, can really help.

Postal workerAcross the United States, many museums are struggling to maintain current membership levels, let alone increase them. They have aging members and that population deceases all the time. In order to remain relevant, many museums have adopted new programs trying to reach younger demographics. While these programs may draw people in once, on average they have not been able to turn the visits into new memberships. This is where direct mail, in conjunction with other marketing channels, can really help.

1. First, profile your current membership list. What are their common interests? Ignoring their ages, what else do you see? Do they live in certain areas? Do they subscribe to certain magazines? Create a list of characteristics that fit with your membership. This will become the criteria for your list purchase. You want to target people based on interest in order to reach new potential members.

2. What are you going to send them? Why not start with a fun postcard? The design needs to draw attention. You should create a special membership deal just for them, for example, if they go to a specified event you are having, they can get a great deal on membership. Focus on what is in it for them and why a membership is good for them. You can’t just appeal to their sense of altruism — there needs to be clear benefits. These should be tailored to types of people since some features will be more appealing than others to each person. Just listing a bunch of benefits is not the same as highlighting three very specific things that are of specific importance to them.

3. Consider sending direct mail to people who have visited in the past, but have not become members. Send them a mailer with a card attached that lists all your upcoming events and a special membership deal that will get them into these events. They can detach the card to keep for reference. If you use a magnet they can affix it to the fridge. Consider trying new things with your direct mail that you have never done before. You can run a test by sending half your list a new version and the other half of your list your normal mail piece. See which one does better. Constantly changing how you send direct mail is important to get the attention and create a sense of curiosity with your potential members.

Usually at this point we start to have the discussion that since they are trying to reach millennials they are better off with digital only marketing channels. This is not true at all. Millennials like getting mail. I am not saying to stop digital marketing to them; I am saying add direct mail to the mix. Quad released a study about millennials, click here that shows they really do respond to direct mail. Of course when they get the mail piece they go online to make the purchase, so make sure to have a web link on your mail piece for them to buy the membership.

The big takeaway here is that direct mail can help boost your membership rates more than just digital channels alone. For best results, use an omnichannel approach. The more touches you have with potential members the greater chance you have of turning them into members. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and try new things; just make sure that you have a way to track responses so you truly know what is working for you.

‘Every Door Direct’ Not for Every Mailbox

For approximately the past year, the U.S. Postal Service has offered an innovative program called “Every Door Direct” that is designed to convince more small businesses to use direct mail for household geo-targeting. I love it. While social and mobile are all the rage—so, too, is “local”—and direct mail marketing, among other channels, is a powerhouse for local advertising. Mail pieces may be addressed to “Our Neighbors at Fill-in-the-Address”—as are some of the offers I receive from larger mailers—but “Every Door Direct” mail is relevant to me since, for the most part, they represent businesses close to home, in the neighborhood where I do 90 percent of my shopping.

For approximately the past year, the U.S. Postal Service has offered an innovative program called “Every Door Direct” that is designed to convince more small businesses to use direct mail for household geo-targeting.

I love it. While social and mobile are all the rage—so, too, is “local”—and direct mail marketing, among other channels, is a powerhouse for local advertising. Mail pieces may be addressed to “Our Neighbors at Fill-in-the-Address”—as are some of the offers I receive from larger mailers—but “Every Door Direct” mail is relevant to me since, for the most part, they represent businesses close to home, in the neighborhood where I do 90 percent of my shopping. Thus, I receive it, I read it, and I make an informed decision what to do with the information. (And my take-out menu drawer is filling up.)

Now, that’s my opinion.

Some people don’t want to receive direct mail at home. These individuals may turn to the Direct Marketing Association’s long-standing and free consumer service DMAchoice (formerly the Mail Preference Service) to indicate a preference not to receive direct mail offers from companies and organizations. Consumers, by using DMAchoice, can choose to turn off most all their direct mail at once (some of us call this the “nuclear” option), or by mail category (credit card offers, catalogs, magazine offers, for example), or by single companies and organizations by name. It really works well.

From the marketers’ perspective, DMAchoice saves money—mail is not sent to those persons who have chosen not to receive it. DMAchoice also provides mailers with a “resident/occupant” suppression option when using the all-categories opt-out portion of the file. By subscribing to DMAchoice (which is available to both DMA members and non-members) and its resident/occupant suppress option, mailers can prevent in advance resident/occupant mail from being sent to any consumer who has signed up for the off-all-lists option. To implement the resident/occupant mail suppression, DMAchoice relies on letter carriers, according to their route, to actually handle the non-delivery so each consumer’s choice can be honored. (Typically, the letter carrier has a printed list of suppressed addresses along the daily route which tells the carrier which addresses to skip delivery of the resident/occupant mail piece.)

National mailers who use resident/occupant mail (also known as Saturation Mail) have been using this suppression capability for years. Now the Postal Service is using Every Door Direct to make it easy for local businesses to “one-stop” shop and distribute direct mail pieces by local geography. Except there’s one important component now missing from this “one stop”—honoring previously expressed consumer choices to not receive mail.

A solution is on its way for local mailers who use this USPS program.

Discussions are underway that would enable DMAchoice to be accessed and used by local printers who support Every Door Direct across the country. Thus, these printers, who apply an address on each Every Door Direct mail piece on behalf of the local advertiser, could use DMAchoice to honor consumer choice to opt out at an address-specific level before the printing even takes place, or to provide the “do not deliver” request to the local post office. It may take some time to work through all the details of how this will be executed, but the commitment is there, wisely, to honor consumer choice.

Certainly, the Postal Service is very much aware of how important it is to honor “do not mail” preferences of consumers. It’s good for advertisers, too. (By the way, 2012 marks the 41st anniversary of DMA’s consumer suppression file.) I only wish Every Door Direct had been designed to have available name suppression such as DMAchoice applied up front. Just because it’s easy to toss a direct mail piece in the trash or recycling bin, doesn’t mean “every door” of Every Door Direct should be delivered. That will be remedied shortly.

The Bowels of the Mail Beast

While my duties have shifted (radically) over the past few months, I still review our giant mailbag (over 1,000 pieces a month) in order to uncover the trends in direct mail, along with finding intriguing new pieces or others that have stood the test of time. Recently, I took a look inside many of these increasingly colorful mailers to see what trends were popping up.

While my duties have shifted (radically) over the past few months, I still review our giant mailbag (over 1,000 pieces a month) in order to uncover the trends in direct mail, along with finding intriguing new pieces or others that have stood the test of time. Recently, I took a look inside many of these increasingly colorful mailers to see what trends were popping up.

First, just like the outside, the slimmed-down approach is also visible inside, with more 2-page letters instead of 4-page letters, for example. More reply cards are perfed to the letter, which usually means that the letter is only one page.

I’m also seeing fewer copy tactics like the Johnson box, bolded copy, subheads, margin copy, multiple P.S., etc. It’s almost as if the marketer no longer believes that prospects 1) have much time and 2) even remember what a letter looks like anymore! Apparently, prospects don’t want to read much, yet with the scarcity of long letters in the mailbox, perhaps the chances for long copy succeeding are actually better than ever today?

Funny enough, the letters — long or short — with shorter paragraphs and readable font (that’s large enough, even up to 14 pt.) still strike me as the most effective. The small, cramped copy in long paragraphs on a single page are a turn-off, in my opinion, compared to the letters that still take their time, lead with a great story, etc.

Of course, many mailers these days don’t bother too much with story and simply get right to the punch, with their offers, their missions, etc. They often start with the reply card as the first thing the prospect sees when cracking open the envelope. This seems ludicrous to me, but it happens more and more.

Component-wise, there are fewer of them. Buckslips are an endangered species, while brochures are holding steady, largely because they sometimes replace letter copy entirely, or at least in part. Freemiums are also disappearing, but when they do appear, they’re less bulky and likely to be simple things like a bookmark, decal, a certificate of appreciation, etc. Even address labels have decreased, while calendars have become rare.