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?

The Best Direct Mail Is Influential

Is your direct mail telling a story right now? It should be! Why, you ask? Well, people respond to and remember stories. Stories build trust, and even alter our brain chemistry with cortisol and oxytocin to bring about focus and empathy.

direct mail storytellingHow is your current direct mail influencing people to buy from you? Are you getting the results you expected? What if you could increase them by changing your narrative? The normal facts-based approach is not the best way to reach people. In order to best illustrate the value of your product or service, you need to tell a compelling story. Why? Because emotion trumps logic every time.

Is your direct mail telling a story right now? It should be! Why, you ask? Well people respond to and remember stories. Stories build trust, and even alter our brain chemistry with cortisol and oxytocin to bring about focus and empathy. These are great ways to get people interested in your direct mail. No one is interested in your logic; they identify with the story and buy because of it. This is why we sell benefits with direct mail — not features.

A story is not your tagline, slogan or mission statement. Those things do not sell your product or service. A story happens in a moment of time. There is a beginning, middle and end. There are emotions involved not facts. There are people to care about. Do not just brush the surface with an idea — really tell the story. Commit to it and people will commit to your company. Keep in mind that it does not have to be heart wrenching to cause an emotional response.

So how do you find your story? Talk to customers about their experiences with you as a company and your product or service. Talk to your employees, too! You can even use your own life to find a story. Make lists of your differentiators, benefits, and changes that have happened and decisions that have been made for either better or worse. All of these can help you to craft your story. The key is to engage with your customers and prospects through the story. When your story resonates with your prospects and customers, they buy from you.

Once you have some concepts laid out, review each option along with your team to see which one stands out the most. It is a good idea to also show it to someone outside your organization to make sure they understand it and feel what you are expecting them to. If they do not, you will need to try another story or figure out a better way to tell that story. Creating your compelling story will take some time. Do not rush it. The more time you spend on it, the better story you will have.

So now that you have your story, how can you translate that into your direct mail? Obviously this will be easier with a letter format over a postcard, but that does not mean you can’t use a postcard. In fact, a visual story can start with a postcard and be finished by sending them to a landing page with your video story. There are many ways to incorporate your story into your mail piece. When reaching out for the first time, you will need to supply the whole story or a way for them to get the whole story. After that you can use bits and pieces of the story to draw them into your mailer and continue to grow the story. Have you tried using a story in your direct mail? How did it work for you?

4 Great Ways to Use a Postcard in Direct Mail (Besides Mailing One)

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Maybe they have a badly outdated picture, or a city’s name emblazoned across the front.

And sometimes, I’ll scrawl a cliched: “Having a wonderful time … Wish you were here” on the back.

Anyway, while buying some new ones the other day, I thought about other ways postcards can be an effective element in many direct mail efforts. Here are a few.

1. Go Somewhere New
amexdpostcard_01This postcard was the perfed front panel of a self-mailer that American Express mailed last year. It uses a tropical scene to draw in a prospect for the company’s Gold Delta Airlines SkyMiles credit card. One of the inside panels lists the many travel benefits of getting and using the card. For example, new members can earn miles bases on their purchases. And their first checked bag is free when traveling on the airline

2. Talk With Your Network
oatpostcard_01Call it a friends and family discount, or member-get-a-member. Asking your customers to reach out to people they know to help sell your product or service can be a powerful tool.

Overseas Adventure Travel, a tour operator often reaches out to its past customers for referrals for its many trips. A recent envelope mailing included a sheet of 5 perfed jumbo postcards, each showcasing one of its destinations. The reverse side offers “3 Reasons to Travel” to that location, like Peru. For letting their loved ones know in a colorful way where they’ve been, the traveler earns rewards, plus savings for their friend.

3. Leverage Your Assets
nytpostcard_01When you create and control good, valuable content, why not let everyone know that?

This postcard features an iconic photograph of President Kennedy that originally ran in the New York Times back in 1961. It was mailed in a subscription package for the newspaper a few years ago. According to that effort’s letter, it was intended “to provide a vivid snapshot of what you will find in the Times.”

Another good example: the National Museum for Women in the Arts mailed postcards for years as part of its membership acquisition package. Each one featured a work from a woman artist that came from its collection.

4. Work for Change
ifawpostcard_01As a component of a fundraising appeal, the postcard can be an effective involvement device to advocate for change. Examples abound in Who’s Mailing What! but many of them generally build brand and not much else.

This exception to the rule was mailed by International Fund for Animal Welfare. It’s part of a campaign to stop the declining numbers of rhinos in South Africa. The front includes a stark caption to accompany a cute image. The reverse side contains a message to the country’s Minister for the Environment, asking for an end to poaching and slaughter.

The common element in all of these cases is that the postcard’s job is to inspire an action.

It is not enough to be eye-catching, or look pretty; the postcard has to make a connection — maybe several of them— to be relevant to the customer or donor.

 

Revisiting the Lowly Postcard

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

“The Toilet Crisis” was the headline on the first inside panel. The copy continued, “600 million people in India do not have access to indoor toilets,” and then explained in two bullet points that this leads to the spread of diseases and safety issues for women.

I was intrigued. After all, conventional wisdom is that postcards, lacking a response means other than going online, are not the best fundraising tool. They also offer limited space to make a case for support. Yet they are relatively inexpensive and lack the barrier of the envelope that one needs to open before seeing the contents. So, was this enough to drive people to the website to give a $130 toilet to a family in India?

I spoke to Tejal Parekh, the senior operations manager at Share and Care Foundation, and asked her, “So, did it work?” The short answer is “yes.” The foundation’s goal for the mailer was to raise enough money to build 750 toilets in 2016; it already has completed more than 500 toilets as a result of donations it’s received from the postcard and a follow-up email.

That’s worth a second look, so let’s unpack this postcard just a bit.

Measuring 8×6″, the mailer folded to 4×6″ and was double tabbed. The address panel had a live, presorted, standard-rate stamp. There was no teaser on that panel, but it did invite the recipient to sign up for updates; call or email with questions, comments or concerns; or “Please let us know if you receive duplicate mailings.” In other words, this panel was hardworking, albeit functional.

BardenPostcard1
The exterior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

The front panel was pretty much a rule-breaker when it comes to direct response. It had artwork—a doorway that might represent the entrance to a house, but it’s not really clear because it is stylized. The headline was in all caps with a drop shadow and never mentioned “you,” the donor. Added to that, it referred to one of the least sexy of all programs: indoor toilets, and sanitation and hygiene education.

But once you opened the postcard, the story unfolded, beginning with the headline noted earlier.

Parekh explained that the young person on the marketing team who put this together for Share and Care Foundation “told the story in a few simple lines. People don’t want to see too much misery, so photos were more positive images, and there was also a simple drawing of a family. It was short, yet it told a story.”

The interior of Share & Care Foundation's postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.
The interior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

I agree. The postcard caught my attention and apparently that of others on its U.S. database—donors and prospects. As mentioned, the response was excellent. Why? According to Parekh, the offer made sense, and the price point was reasonable.

The response mechanism was to drive people to a webpage that reiterated the offer (and added more information). When one clicked the “Donate Today” button at the bottom of the page, he or she went directly to a donation page that quickly summed up the offer and asked for $130 for a toilet. There were also lower amounts, but $130 was the focus. (One change I would make would be to add the “Donate Today” button to the top of the page, as well; right now, there is a “Donate Now” button as part of the header, but when you click that, it goes to a generic donation page. That could discourage someone who just wants to give a toilet.)

One of the surprises for the foundation was that a lot of lapsed donors responded. Again, it was a clear, compelling offer (reduce disease and improve women’s safety) at an affordable price point ($130). Plus, the only barrier to reading about the offer was two tabs. The copy was minimal, the story was easily understood, and the focus was on the beneficiaries, not the organization. Plus, it offered proof—the foundation already built 350 toilets in four villages and wanted to do more.

Yes, there are some things I would l want to change on this mailer (that’s an occupational hazard), but that’s not the point; the point is that Share and Care Foundation took a risk and sent out a lowly postcard that some would argue lacks what it takes to be a serious fundraiser—and made it work. It told a story briefly and in terms “Average Pat Donor” could understand. It made it relatively easy to respond by providing a simple URL and a specific landing page. It kept its costs low.

The foundation took a risk—and it paid off. So kudos to Share and Care Foundation. And for all the rest of us, maybe it’s time to rethink the postcard. It’s worth a test, but remember Parekh’s advice: The offer and the price point need to make sense, and the story has to be simple.

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?

Talking Baseball … and Direct Mail?

They’re not exactly two things that you would think go together, but when I got a postcard from my hometown Philadelphia Phillies in the mail, I knew it would make for a good story. Or maybe two.

They’re not exactly two things that you would think go together, but when I got a postcard from my hometown Philadelphia Phillies in the mail, I knew it would make for a good story. Or maybe two.

So here’s the deal.

For a couple of months, I’ve been providing direct mail pieces from Who’s Mailing What! to my colleague, Ashley Roberts of Printing Impressions (a sister brand of Target Marketing) for use in her video series on PI XChange. The only requirement is that they demonstrate an interesting printing technique.

Phillies_01This postcard jumped out at me for several reasons.

First, it came from the Phillies, my favorite team. I’ve always been a fan, even if it sometimes has meant a lot of time waiting for them to jell into a pennant contender again.

Second, the printing. I love the spot gloss that was applied in spots on the front.

Third, the clever messaging. It’s promoting game tickets to a business audience. Yes, business and pleasure are two things that definitely go together.

Anyway, long story short: I showed this mailer to Ashley, and we agreed that both the printing and marketing audiences of our brands might be interested in learning more. She did all of the legwork, getting all of the important information on who designed it, who printed it, and how.

Last week, we and our great video production crew were privileged to be guests of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. We talked with Tina Urban, the team’s Director, Graphic Production, and got more insight, as well as the nitty-gritty details about both aspects of this mail piece. And we got to wear our Phillies gear!

Please check out the video for much more. And, as always, any comments, etc., are welcome!

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Creative Cage Match: Bicycling Magazine vs. GrubHub

There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond. For the inaugural Creative Cage Match, let’s see how a consumer cycling publication can fare against a food service app and website.

There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond.

So, once a month I’m going to select two marketers and toss them into a Creative Cage Match. I’ll be looking at everything ranging from email to direct mail, website to mobile site. It’ll be a mix of objective and subjective, and each time a  marketer will walk out of the ring triumphantly.

For the inaugural Creative Cage Match, let’s see how a consumer cycling publication can fare against a food service app and website.

In this corner, weighing in as the “world’s leading cycling media brand since 1961,” you have Bicycling Magazine, published by Rodale. Providing 1.9 million magazine readers and 1.6 million-plus website visitors with top cycling news, reviews, tips and more, Bicycling Magazine is a pretty hefty contender.

In the opposite corner, hailing as the “nation’s leading online and mobile food ordering company,” stands GrubHub, connecting millions of hungry diners with more than 35,000 restaurants in 900+ U.S. cities and London. This powerhouse processes close to  220,100 orders daily, on average (that’s alotta hungry people!)

Email vs. Email
Bicycling Magazine offers a plethora of digital products, ranging from Bicycling Newsletter to Mountain Bike Newsletter, as well as Bicycling Special Offers and Bicycling Partner Offers.

I personally receive Bicycling Newsletter and signed up for the special offer promotional emails. While the newsletter contains good articles, the look is pretty … blah.

Bicycling's Oct. 23 E-newsletter
Note: This email is cropped since it’s a bit of a scroller, but trust me, you’re not missing much.

Don’t get me wrong, I like white space, but this is … stark. And the border boxes with rounded edges are a bit dated. There’s only a few images, which I feel is another letdown. This is cycling! There are lots of great images of bikes, and even a few well-placed stock photos would be fine.

To Letter or Not to Letter, That Is the Question

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

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

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

Benefits of a letter:

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

Benefits of a Postcard/Self-mailer:

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

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

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

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

Why Direct Mail Won’t Die

You’ve seen the proclamations over the years that direct mail is near death, along with the counter-arguments that it’s nowhere near dead. Today I share a deeper perspective of the reason why direct mail won’t die

You’ve seen the proclamations over the years that direct mail is near death, along with the counter-arguments that it’s nowhere near dead. Today I share a deeper perspective of the reason why direct mail won’t die. It’s as simple as comprehension. Research reveals comprehension is better when information is consumed in print. And there’s more: millennials — digital natives, if you prefer — who today are in their 20s and 30s, prefer print.

Count me among those who prefer to read the news from a printed newspaper rather than my iPad. Books? My concentration is pitiful if I try to read an e-book. Still, I do a lot of reading — or maybe it’s more like scanning — online. I realize there are others of all ages who feel they comprehend content on electronic devices just fine. Or who at least think they comprehend the content. This research reports how students only think they comprehend as well on digital devices (the research suggests they don’t).

One might think that jumping from reading on printed pages to reading on a digital screen is a no-brainer. But biologically, reading has been an evolutionary development over hundreds — even thousands — of years, as suggested in an article in Scientific American.

Our brains evolved to keep the human species alive, eat and reproduce. Reading is a new addition to the mind, biologically speaking. It took unimaginable centuries for the brain to adapt to reading text in print. And now, in just a generation or so, we’ve been introduced to reading on screens, another reading adaption for the mind.

As marketers, we need to recognize which channels are best suited for reading comprehension, and how we can effectively create Short- or Long-Term Memory that persuasively leads to a sale.

In a moment, I’ll outline comprehension effectiveness (based on my experience) of social media, email, websites/landing pages, short video, long video, direct mail postcards, and direct mail packages.

As I see it, there are three stages of comprehension:

Glance and Forget in seconds what we just saw or read (the vast majority of what happens with marketing and advertising messages).

Short-Term Reading Comprehension that evaporates in just minutes or hours.

Long-Term Memory Comprehension that can last several hours, a day, maybe a week, and in a few instances, a lifetime.

We can only stuff so much into our mind and memory. There is a place for “Glance and Forget” channels when multiple instances of “Glance and Forget” impressions build over time to create awareness and anticipation. When we want our marketing efforts to convert to a sale, we need at least the “Short-Term Reading Comprehension” stage. The most successful campaigns, I believe, will make it to the most valuable “Long-Term Memory Comprehension” stage because of telling the story and effective persuasion.

Digital and print channels can co-exist and strengthen each other. Digital is useful for the moment when a person is looking for top-line or summary information, or just a place to make a quick impression (recognizing there is an additive effect of impressions over time). Print is most useful and effective when your prospect is ready to pause, read and more deeply comprehend, leading to long-term memory and action.

My experience, and my opinion, suggests that as marketers, we can best leverage certain channels in these ways:

  • Social Media: Serve readers short, light content. Build your brand, organization and follower base. Don’t expect action beyond likes and shares (which you can’t take to the bank). But social media, in my experience, is good for impressions and building top-of-mind awareness. Keep it curious, likeable and sharable. But don’t expect purchasing action. Unless there is a click to a landing page, it’s a Glance and Forget channel.
  • Email: The best use for email is when you have built your own list of raving fans. Email results are lousy when sent to people who haven’t opted in to your message. So if you’re writing to your opt-in list of customers (or inquiries), write content to provoke curiosity that leads them to click to a landing page, leading to the possibility of Short-Term Comprehension. When the email was only opened, but there wasn’t a click, then it is a Glance and Forget channel.
  • Websites/Landing Pages: If someone searched and happened upon your website, and if the bounce rate is high, you have a Glance and Forget website. If, on the other hand, you have a landing page with valuable content and call-to-action, or CTA (for example, opting in to an email list), you have a shot at Short-Term Comprehension, and in some instances, Long-Term Memory Comprehension.
  • Short Video: A short video will likely be a Glance and Forget channel unless you have a call-to-action leading to a landing page with a CTA or opt-in to your list. When that occurs, you might be able to lead to Short-Term Comprehension.
  • Long Video (or a Video Sales Letter): When viewed all the way to the end, a long video should result in Short-Term Comprehension, and possibly Long-Term Memory Comprehension and a sale, when there is an effective CTA.
  • Direct Mail Postcard: There’s not much space on a postcard, and with so much postcard competition in the mailbox, most postcards are a Glance and Forget channel. A thoughtfully created postcard can result in Short-Term Comprehension, however. And if you have a strong CTA, you can move a postcard message to Long-Term Memory Comprehension if the person acts by either calling for information or making a purchase.
  • Direct Mail Package. The ability to deliver long persuasive copy is the value of direct mail, and is why direct mail won’t die. Let’s not kid ourselves: most direct mail is never opened and goes directly into the trash, making it a Glance and Forget channel to most recipients. But when the recipient is curious upon seeing the outer envelope, opens it, and dives into a long-form letter, brochure, or reads an insert or order device with your offer, you’ve achieved at least Short-Term Comprehension. When the creative and copywriting effectively persuades and sells, you lead your prospect to Long-Term Memory Comprehension. When you do that, you can score the sale.

Direct mail, I’ve found, is usually the best channel for converting and producing sales. Direct mail, when using persuasive copywriting and clarity of design, facilitates high comprehension and works. And that’s the deeper reason why direct mail won’t die. What do you think?

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.