7 Interactive Direct Mail Marketing Ideas

Direct mail marketing can be fun! The more interactive it is, the better your results are going to be. With all the marketing messages people see each day; you need to make your mail stand out. How are you doing that now?

Direct mail marketing can be fun! The more interactive it is, the better your results are going to be. With all the marketing messages people see each day; you need to make your mail stand out. How are you doing that now?

Getting your customers and prospects excited about your mail creation is the key to driving better response rates. There are several ways to do this; the one that is right for you will depend on your goals, your message and your audience.

7 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas to Make Your Mailings Fun and Interactive

  1. Consider 3D Mail: There are so many choices for dimensional mail. These can be expensive for postage as most are considered parcels; however, the response rates for this type of mail are significantly higher. They are well worth the postage costs.
  2. Use Cut-Outs: Create cut outs that, when put together, create fun objects: such as paper airplanes, buildings, dolls and so on. Make sure to send instructions on how to assemble your design. You can also create a special hashtag for social media sharing.
  3. Print a 3D Image: Create 3D art for the recipient to enjoy. This is a fun throwback technology. Make sure to send glasses, too.
  4. Try PopUps: These are fun and surprising for people to interact with. The recipient pulls out the piece and it pops from a flat form into a 3D one. This is usually accomplished through the use of tuck tabs and rubber bands.
  5. What About Scratch-Off or Scratch-and-Sniff? This can really be a fun one when doing contests; people like to scratch off and see what is beneath. The fun twist is when you have scratch and sniff, which works really well for floral, food, perfume or anything that smells good. It’s probably not a good idea to have them scratch a bad smell.
  6. Incorporate Augmented Reality: Bring your mailer to life with the technology of Augmented Reality (AR). This is a really great way to showcase how interactive direct mail can be. It is super cool and fun to play with. If you think this is too expensive, you are wrong. Check out Layar or HP Reveal.
  7. Think About Video: You can add video to your mailers! These have actual screens embedded into the mailers. They can launch content when the mailer is opened or when a button is pushed. These are on the more expensive side, but if you are selling a high-end item and want to really showcase it, this can be a great choice!

These ideas can spice up your mail campaigns and get your customers excited to see your mail pieces. Get creative and have fun, but remember that there are many postal regulations. So before you create your desired format, check with a mail service provider. You will want to avoid paying extra postage. What interactive and fun mail pieces have you seen or created?

6 Ways to Use the 2019 USPS Promotions to Your Advantage

USPS promotions are back for 2019. Do you have a planned marketing strategy to not only save money on postage, but really stand out? There are a variety of programs to choose from, so you should be able to find at least one that is a good fit for you.

USPS promotions are back for 2019. Do you have a planned marketing strategy to not only save money on postage, but really stand out? There are a variety of programs to choose from, so you should be able to find at least one that is a good fit for you.

If you are planning mailings in 2019, why not participate in a promotion and save money on postage?

Let’s take an in-depth look at each program:

6 Direct Mail Postage-Saving Promotions

  1. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Promotion — This program runs from Feb.1 to July 31. Use this program to highlight special finishing technologies that engage the senses. Some ideas are special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile coatings and even taste. In addition, you can create interactive mail pieces, such as pop-ups, infinite folds or other dimensional aspects. This is a really fun one that can only be done with print marketing.
  2. 2019 Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion — This program runs from March 1 to Aug. 31. Use this program to engage customers and prospects by use of mobile technology in direct mail. This can be done with QR Codes, augmented reality, NFC, video and more. This is a very powerful way to create a longer connection and increase the effectiveness of your message.
  3. 2019 Earned Value Promotion — This program runs from April 1 to June 30. This will have a more limited application, because it is only for companies that use reply mail. If you use reply mail, use this program to save postage on each piece of business reply mail and courtesy reply mail you get sent to you.
  4. 2019 Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion — This program runs from July 1 to Dec. 31. Use this program to add color marketing messaging on your bills and statements. Turn transactional mail into promotional pieces, also.
  5. 2019 Mobile Shopping Promotion — This program runs from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31. Use this program if you are selling products during the holiday shopping season. By adding mobile technology to your mail that allows your customers or prospects to make a purchase or pursue other online shopping experiences, you can qualify to save on postage.
  6. 2019 Informed Delivery Promotion — This program runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. Use this program of Informed Delivery, which will send an email to people with a color picture of your mail piece to let them know what is coming in their mail box that day. You can even provide a clickable link so that people can start purchasing right then.

Each of these promotions provides a 2% postage discount at the time of mailing, except for the earned value — which provides 3 cents, per piece returned. You can participate in as many of the promotions as you would like. Each promotion requires registration to participate and reporting after the mailing is complete, but they are worth the savings. Are you ready to get started?

How to Save Money on Postage

When done correctly, direct mail can be a very cost-effective way to reach targeted prospects and customers. Your return on investment typically exceeds most other forms of marketing. However, inefficient list targeting and poor mail piece design can cost you a lot of money. Because postage rates are rising every year, it is very important to keep your postage rates as low as possible. So now, let’s help you maximize your ROI in your direct mail marketing.

This JFK Forever stampWhen done correctly, direct mail can be a very cost-effective way to reach targeted prospects and customers. Your return on investment typically exceeds most other forms of marketing. However, inefficient list targeting and poor mail piece design can cost you a lot of money. Because postage rates are rising every year, it is very important to keep your postage rates as low as possible. So now, let’s help you maximize your ROI in your direct mail marketing.

Lists: Save Postage With Good Lists

  • People: Sending to the right people really matters! Target your lists to reach only the people most likely to be interested in your product or service. There are many tools available to help you to better target people. You can profile your mailing lists utilizing the amazing amount of information accessible today on households and businesses. This will give you valuable information to know exactly who your best customers are and find prospects just like them.
  • Clean: How old is your data file? You can reduce your undeliverable mail by updating your lists at least every three months. There are many data hygiene resources available to keep your list up-to-date, such as Delivery Point Validation to eliminate invalid or incomplete addresses, National Change of Address (NCOA) to get updated addresses for people who move, “Do not mail” purging to eliminate those who prefer not to receive mail, Deceased recipient purging and many others. You can control mailing waste, save on postage and printing. Continue to reach customers even after they move so you do not lose out on sales.

Postage is not the same for everyone. Some people pay more than others. USPS offers significant postage discounts to mail pieces that are designed and addressed correctly for processing on automated equipment. The following tips will help you to insure your mail qualifies for the lowest postage rates.

Design: The Wrong Design Can Cost You a Fortune

  • Size: For lower postage rates, keep your mail piece at letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5” long and a maximum 6” high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category. Flats can cost more than twice as much per piece as letters. The maximum allowed size is 12” high by 15” long.
  • Aspect Ratio: Letter size automation mail must be rectangular. The aspect ratio (length divided by height) has to be from 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces that fall outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage.
  • Address: Make sure your address and barcode block on letter size mail fits into the USPS OCR read area. If it doesn’t fit, you pay for it with additional postage. Your mail service provider can give you a template to guide you.
  • Panels: Tri-folded self-mailers must be addressed on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage.
  • Folds: On all folded self-mailers, the final fold must be either below or to the right of the mailing address. Any other fold configuration will result in additional postage.
  • Weight: Whenever possible, keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce. You can use minimum 70# text paper and 1 inch tab closures. When your mailer is over 1 ounce you must use minimum 80# text paper and larger tabs. Mailers over 3 ounces must go in an envelope.
  • Thickness: Mail pieces that are too thin will cost more postage, so keep your piece at least 0.009” thick and you can save 25 cents or more per piece. The maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”.

There are many more methods, but these are the most common ways for you to save on postage. Keep your direct mail at the lowest postage rates possible in order to maximize your ROI. If you are unsure of a new design, consult with your mail service provider before you print it. Many times, the only way to get a poorly designed mail piece to be accepted by the post office is to put it into an envelope. This is a waste of a pretty mailer, as well as a waste of money. Start saving on your postage now.

Endless Fun With Direct Mail

We all know that if your mail piece doesn’t get looked at, it’s not going to be effective. Create a fun and entertaining mail piece by taking a normal folded piece and creating a whole new look with endless folds. These go beyond visual stimulation by requiring recipients to touch and manipulate the piece.

endless folds fun direct mailWe all know that if your mail piece doesn’t get looked at, it’s not going to be effective. Create a fun and entertaining mail piece by taking a normal folded piece and creating a whole new look with endless folds. These go beyond visual stimulation by requiring recipients to touch and manipulate the piece. It creates a sense of curiosity on what they will find after each fold is turned. By endless folds, we mean that your customers or prospects open the first set of folds that leads them to the next set and the next and so on. This can be a hard concept to visualize so check out this video.

As you can see, you have the opportunity to showcase your product or service in a very unique way. Endless folds are not commonly done, so your piece will stand out and be remembered, as well as shared with others. In most cases, people will go through the entire set of folds multiple times because it is such a fun and curious experience. This type on physical interaction is not possible with digital marketing channels, so when you add endless folds to your direct mail in conjunction with other marketing channel efforts, you are able to more effectively communicate your message.

Don’t let your direct mail pieces be overlooked. Adding special features like endless folds enhances the appeal to your prospects and customers. This increases your response rates. These are cheaper to produce and mail than dimensional pieces, so they can be a great cost effective alternative. The best part about using endless folds is that it allows you to incorporate more information about your product or service in a fun way. Get creative with your messaging so that you generate interest as well as enjoyment.

Another great benefit is that the USPS has a program called the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement Promotion. It runs Feb. 1 through July 31, 2017. You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. Print elements can be incorporated into direct mail to engage a multi-sensory experience through special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile treatments or even taste. In addition, interactive features such as pop-ups, infinite folds or other dimensional creations also qualify — try this out and save on postage!

Not sure you are ready for endless folds, but still want to change up the way you fold your pieces? Check out these examples of what you can try. There really are a lot more folding options available to you that many marketers are either not aware of, or have not had time to consider. Do something different on your next direct mail campaign and see what results you get. Talk with your mail service provider for some ideas and what layout will work best. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it may end up being the best thing you ever did.

Why Use Dimensional Mail?

The good part about dimensional mail is that each one may cost more to produce, but you will get more responses with this type of mail. Here are the top three reasons to use dimensional mail:

dimensional mailDimensional mail is mail pieces that are not flat like normal, but have dimension such as boxes or tubes. They have a much higher response rate compared to traditional mail pieces. Switching from direct mail postcards to a dimensional piece is very costly — before you consider this, you need to know your budget constraints. The good part about dimensional mail is that each one may cost more to produce, but you will get more responses with this type of mail.

Top three reasons to use dimensional mail:

1. Appeal

This unique mail piece resonates with recipients. Not only will they open it, but in most cases, they share it with friends and family. It’s also remembered much longer than other types of mail.

2. Response

Dimensional mail has a higher response rate than regular mail. According to the 2010 Direct Marketing Association report, the average response is around 8.5 percent.

3. Longevity

In many cases, the dimensional mail is useful to recipients and is kept to be used over and over, thus keeping your company top of mind each time they use it.

Since this can be costly, it pays to plan ahead. Generating cost saving where you can is the best way to increase your ROI. This is not to say go cheap on paper and packaging, but to consider all your options and pick what will work best for your campaign. Many times you can take advantage of a sale on items you want to use.

Here are some other cost saving ideas:

  • List: Really take time to target your list to the right prospects and customers. Don’t spend money on people who will not want or need your product or service.
  • Size: The dimension of your piece will help it stand out in the mail so there is no need to go for extra-large. The printing and assembly of a smaller package will save you money.
  • Method: You can mail in batches if that is preferable, but make sure your batch sizes allow you to take advantage of standard mail postage rates. Your mail service provider can give you all the information specific to the size of your piece.

Dimensional mail is a great opportunity to showcase your product or service. There are so many options to choose from, so you can get very creative. Remember to keep it relevant to your audience and that you need to stay in line with your company brand. Just sending any old thing to stand out does not work: You need to have a symbiotic relationship between the mail piece and your company along with the product or service you are trying to sell. Keep it functional but add some fun to it. Creating something fun that people like is a great way to get them to keep it and show it off to other people to increase your campaign’s reach.

As with any new direct mail venture, take the time to really plan out your campaign. All the little details really matter. You will find that there are fewer bumps in the road when you have a fine tuned plan ready to tackle any problems that creep up. Make sure to consider how the post office handles mail so that you do not end up sending out items that arrived damaged. The strength of the carton and the way the contents are packed matter a great deal in how the materials arrive to your prospects and customers. Are you ready to try dimensional mail?

Postal Promotions: Reduce Postage Costs and Improve Response Rates

For several years, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has offered promotions to encourage marketers to integrate mail with new technologies and help increase customer engagement — enabling incentives to see how direct mail can best be deployed in an increasingly mobile and digital nation. The six USPS promotions for 2017 and their promotion periods are:

This week, I’m away on vacation, but blog readers have a special treat — an expert opinion from GrayHair Advisors’ Jody Berenblatt on postal savings in the offing for 2017 calendar year, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service and its plans for postage promotions. Plan and save! — Chet Dalzell

USPS postal promotions 2017For several years, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has offered promotions to encourage marketers to integrate mail with new technologies and help increase customer engagement — enabling incentives to see how direct mail can best be deployed in an increasingly mobile and digital nation.

The six USPS promotions for 2017 and their promotion periods are:

1. Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion: January – June 2017

The Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion enables the USPS to automate the reply mail accounting process. At $0.05 credit per mail piece, this promotion is the easiest postage credit to earn. To qualify, you must use an Intelligent Mail barcode on the reply device for postage paid by the customer (courtesy reply mail) or postage paid by the business (aka business reply mail).

2. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement Promotion: February – July 2017

What could make mail irresistible? The tactile, sensory and interactive mail piece engagement program encourages marketers to invest in the experiential aspect of mail (textures, scents) to earn a 2 percent postage credit on future Standard mailings. The USPS recently won a ‘Webby’ Award for its own “irresistible” catalog.

3. Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion: March – August 2017

To connect mail with mobile, the emerging and advanced technology promotion creates an opportunity for marketers to experiment with augmented reality, virtual reality, near-field communications, beacon technology and earn a 2 percent postage credit on both First-Class and Standard Mail.

4. Direct Mail Starter Promotion: May – July 2017

The Direct Mail Starter Promotion is aimed at digital marketers and newbies to advertising mail; earn a 5 percent postage credit on Standard mailings of 10,000 or less.

5. Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion: July – December 2017

The Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion encourages businesses to transform statements with colorful, personalized, targeted marketing to earn a 2 percent credit on First-Class Mail.

6. Mobile Shopping Promotion: August – December 2017

To earn this 2 percent credit for Standard mailings, marketers must create a call to action that allows the mail recipient to take action with his or her mobile phone. Easy.

For the balance of 2016, marketers also can enroll in both the Personalized Color Transpromo and the Mobile Shopping promotion. Simply register before the mailing enters the mail stream in order to qualify for either promotion.   For more information about the promotions and, importantly, program requirements, click here.

These savings are significant — so they are very much worth planning for and participating.

Exigency Is Gone, But Where Is Reform?

The bone chill of Sunday, April 10 in the Northeast may have reminded us how winter just wants to hold on, long after its calendar passing. However on that same day, a 4.3 percent exigency on U.S. postal rates was lifted — it felt warm for a moment, but deceptively so.

USPS default imageThe bone chill of Sunday, April 10 in the Northeast may have reminded us how winter just wants to hold on, long after its calendar passing. However on that same day, a 4.3 percent exigency on U.S. postal rates was lifted — it felt warm for a moment, but deceptively so.

While many mail and marketing groups have lauded exigency’s end, DMA among them, the one reality remains: Postal finances are a mess, and our very inactive Congress — not for lack of some leaders trying — has the keys to fix it.

Bouncing from crisis to crisis and kicking the can seems to be the Congressional leadership position of the past “count-them” 10 years. And none of the crises — defaults, exigencies and otherwise — seems to muster any amount of attention, unless of course, a local postal facility is slated to close. It’s really a travesty that microeconomics (and micromanaging), not macroeconomics, is the only motivation that some elected officials (not all) appear to have on this Constitution protection of mail delivery.

Will Congress act on our continued cry for postal reform? Probably not in an election year.

Yet Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is pushing for his iPOST bill, with some GOP support, with the marketer-disliked exigency likely to be reinserted alongside very much needed reforms (healthcare, plus). Hence, a compromise that perhaps — just perhaps — we can move ahead with one tweak or another? I’ll let our trade associations handle the maneuvering and wisdom of the bill alongside other USPS stakeholders.

Winter hanging on? Maybe waiting for postal reform was just too bitterly cold for the models of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Why Your Postage Rates Could Go Down in April

Since postage is the most expensive part of direct mail marketing, any postal rates changes are big news. Usually, the USPS announces a pending rate increase. On Feb. 25 the USPS filed a notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission that would reduce postage rates.

direct mail postalSince postage is the most expensive part of direct mail marketing, any postal rates changes are big news. Usually, the USPS announces a pending rate increase. On Feb. 25 the USPS filed a notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission that would reduce postage rates. Within the filing, the USPS stated:

“… It intends to remove the exigent surcharge on Sunday, April 10, absent action by Congress or the courts to make the existing exigent surcharge for Market Dominant Products and Services part of the rate base or to otherwise extend it.”

In this filing, the USPS also noted that while it “… recognizes that daily revenue fluctuations could result in a one or two day variation on when the revenue limitation is reached, our current estimate is that the revenue limitation will be reached some time on Saturday, April 9, 2016.”

The end of the 4.3 percent increase surcharge has been anticipated for some time, though the rate of collection left the actual date hard to determine. The reason there was a 4.3 percent increase was because the post office was granted an exigency rate case that allowed it to try to recoup some of the funds lost during the great recession. The court ruled that the rates could not be permanent and must be rolled back after the allotted amount was reached. That means that on April 10 we will see an overall decrease in postage by 4.3 percent.

The post office has been hoping for either legislation or court action to allow the higher rates in order to help offset the losses the post office has suffered for the past several years. The Postal Service worries how it will replace the 4.3 percent of revenue that’s been essential to keeping it in the black for the past two years. These rates have been in place since January 26, 2014, so it will be good for marketing budgets to have more money for the rest of 2016.

So let’s take a look at what some of the most common new postage rates will be:

  • First class single piece letter = $0.47
  • First class single piece postcard = $0.34
  • First class single piece flat = $0.94
  • Presorted automation first class letter mixed rate = $0.419
  • Presorted automation first class postcard mixed rate = $0.272
  • Presorted automation first class flat mixed rate = $0.75
  • Presorted automation standard letter mixed rate = $0.291
  • Presorted automation standard flat mixed rate = $0.539
  • Presorted automation nonprofit letter mixed rate = $0.176
  • Presorted automation nonprofit flat mixed rate = $0.40

As you can see, these amounts will add up over time to marketer’s postage savings. This means you may be able to mail more pieces or add additional design elements that would not have been affordable under the current postage rates. There is still a chance that action could be taken by either the courts or Congress to change the rates, but as of now, it does appear that we will have a postage reduction starting on April 10. What will you do with your postage savings?

Laser-Focused Direct Mail With Personas

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Many marketers are familiar with personas in their inbound or digital marketing, but for some reason have not applied them to their direct mail campaigns.

Benefits of Buyer Personas:

  1. Ability to target the right people for each message — send them only offers that they are interested in.
  2. Increase response — better offers equal a better response rate.
  3. Ability to find more prospects like your current customers — when you profile other people you can match them accurately to your current customers.

By creating buyer personas, you can identify who your ideal customers are, where they are and what they want. When you combine this with variable data direct mail you can laser focus your message to each individual based on that person’s persona while getting the benefits of postal discounts for mailing a larger quantity rather than doing a separate mailing for each persona.

We get asked many times, how can we create personas? Here are a few ways you can start researching:

  • Interview or survey current customers — create questions that answer what you need to know in order to build your personas.
  • Review LinkedIn profiles — try to find the common themes between each of your customers.
  • Ask questions on social media — this can give you a larger pool than just your customers, but be careful to fully vet each person responding before you add their input to your research.

After your research there are some best practices for building your personas:

  1. Focus on motives not behavior. Why are they doing what they are doing?
  2. Keep them fictional, but be as realistic as possible. Do not base them off of your most important customer, this can give you a skewed result.
  3. Choose one primary persona, this should be the group of people that will make you the most money.
  4. Create a story for each persona that is explained in five segments:
    • What is their job and demographics?
    • What does a day in their life look like?
    • What are their challenges or pain points?
    • How do they search for information?
    • What are their common objections to your product or service?

There are two big benefits to adding personas to your direct mail. The first is that you can save money on services and postage — and since direct mail’s biggest expense is postage, you can save a lot by not mailing to people who are not interested in what you are offering. The second is by getting more people to respond because they are interested in your offer. So, while you are saving money you are also making more money. It is a win-win situation!

Have you tried using personas in your direct mail? How has it worked for you?

Get Your Direct Mail Noticed

Direct mail is not effective if recipients do not read it. The first thing that your direct mail needs to do is to get noticed in the mailbox. This can be a real challenge. Direct mail is a very effective tool when done correctly. The golden rule is list, design, and offer, generally in that order. However, if you stop to think about it, there is a reason for the golden rule. You need to send mail to the people who will want it, so there is your list. You then need to design an appealing piece and you need to provide them with a good offer. So assuming that you are mailing to the right people, you now need a design to get noticed.

Direct mail is not effective if recipients do not read it. The first thing that your direct mail needs to do is to get noticed in the mailbox. This can be a real challenge. Direct mail is a very effective tool when done correctly. The golden rule is list, design, and offer, generally in that order. However, if you stop to think about it, there is a reason for the golden rule. You need to send mail to the people who will want it, so there is your list. You then need to design an appealing piece and you need to provide them with a good offer. So assuming that you are mailing to the right people, you now need a design to get noticed.

Here are five ideas to get your direct mail campaign noticed:

  1. Variable Data Messaging: Target your message to the individual or to grouped personas. The better targeted the message the more likely they are to respond. This can be as simple as a tagline on an envelope or as complex as variable images and text.
  2. Use Color Envelopes: Color is inviting and not used often enough. Your envelope will get opened because it is unique. There are many standard colors available that do not drastically increase your costs. Keep in mind some colors are not USPS approved, so contact your mail service provider to make sure you stay within postal regulations.
  3. Use Stamps: Many direct mail pieces use indicias for postage. There is a stamp available for each postage class. In most cases they can be affixed by machine so you should not see a drastic increase in cost by using stamps. Stamps are seen as more personal and therefore more important.
  4. Use Larger Pieces: You can use up to a 6 x 10.5 self-mailer or a 6.125 x 11.5 postcard and still pay the lower letter size postage rate. Take advantage of that. Larger pieces get noticed. If you do not mind the postage cost increase, you can go even larger at a flat size postage rate. Your mail service provider can help you choose what will work best for you.
  5. Add Fun Taglines: Get your recipients excited about what they are going to find in the envelope. You can use color ink to make the tagline pop and even change the angle. It’s okay to be funny if you can do so while keeping with your brand image and the theme of your marketing piece.

Remember to change only one thing at a time, so that when you are analyzing your results you will be able to see if the change you made has increased your response. It would be best to have a control group of what you always have done, and then split off a segment to try the new piece with. This will give you the most accurate results and allow you to make adjustments with each campaign.