3 Common Direct Mail Questions and Answers

Direct mail can be a complicated and intimidating marketing channel if you are not familiar with it or have encountered problems in previous campaigns. Don’t let that stop you from using it.

MailboxDirect mail can be a complicated and intimidating marketing channel if you are not familiar with it or have encountered problems in previous campaigns. Don’t let that stop you from using it. Here are answers to three common direct mail questions and concerns that can help you not only avoid issues, but have confidence that your direct mail will provide you a good ROI.

1. What Do I Do if My Data Files Are Not Current?
There are a few ways that data files can be cleaned to give you a fresh list. The first is to update addresses for moves. This can be done before mailing with the USPS NCOA (National Change of Address) data file. Your list is run against the USPS file and any move addresses are appended to your file.

In some cases, people move and do not update the post office with their current address. In those cases the records are flagged and the addresses can be removed.

Many times an outdated file will have people on it that are no longer living. In order to correct that problem, your data file can be run against the national deceased file.

This will provide you with all the people that should be removed from your mailing.

2. How Do I Keep My Postage Costs Down?
The first thing to do is to make sure that the design of your mail piece is USPS compatible. If it is not, you will have to pay postage surcharges. If you need help with the USPS regulations, contact your mail service provider and they can guide you.

The next thing to do is to make sure that you are only mailing to addresses that have been CASS/DPV validated, so you are sending to good mailing addresses.

Finally, choose your mailing list wisely. Only send to people that are interested in your specific offer. You can save the rest of your list for the next campaign that is a better fit. Sending an offer to someone who is not interested is more than just a waste of postage and printing, it can aggravate the recipient and have them think twice before buying from you again.

3. How Long Will My Mail Take to Deliver?
Since the post office has made so many changes over the last two years we have seen drastic changes in delivery times.

The worst recorded times were last spring. At that time, the post office really stepped up to the plate, admitted a problem and took measures to fix delivery times.

On average, the delivery times we are seeing for letter size mail are: First Class Mail to the other side of the country in five to seven days, Standard Mail in seven to 15 days. This can vary depending on the amount of mail at each post office along the way.

The closer the recipient is to the origin post office, the faster they will get the mail. In many cases, in order to speed up delivery of standard mail we will drop ship the mail to a post office closer to recipients. The cost of the shipment is usually offset by the postal savings when submitting mail to a local SCF (Sectional Center Facility).

Direct mail is a great way to reach recipients — even millennials like to get mail. Using the information we have discussed you can create direct mail that is cost effective and will contribute towards your ROI.

The three key factors that you must plan for in direct mail are the list, creative and call to action. Taking the time to create a formal marketing plan that includes direct mail is vital to your response rate. Do not send out direct mail without a plan, a way to track it and how you will follow up. Do you have a great direct mail story? I would love to hear it!

Top 3 Direct Mail Mistakes

Over the last 25 years, I have seen a lot of direct mail mistakes. Sometimes they have been really funny, like the time when a wrong phone number was put on the mail piece so when recipients called it they reached a sex hotline. That was pretty funny. Other times, the mistakes have just been sad.

Over the last 25 years, I have seen a lot of direct mail mistakes. Sometimes they have been really funny, like the time when a wrong phone number was put on the mail piece so when recipients called it they reached a sex hotline. That was pretty funny. Other times, the mistakes have just been sad, like when a nonprofit had the wrong return address on their courtesy reply envelopes, so they did not get the donation checks delivered to them. The worst mistakes are the ones that cost you the most money, so learning what to avoid can really help.

Top 3 Mistakes:

1. Missing or Unclear Call to Action
The purpose of direct mail is to get recipients to respond. When you are missing a call to action or it is unclear to recipients what you want them to do, you will not get the response you were planning on. If you get a response at all it would be surprising. Be sure to have a specific call to action that is easy to follow. Highlight the great things they will get when they respond. Remember that this is all about the recipient, what is in it for them. Engagement requires you to go beyond getting recipient attention and really getting them to interact with you. The deeper their engagement with you, the better the relationship and more money and referrals come to you.

2. Designed Without Postal Regulations in Mind
The USPS has many regulations on direct mail and if you do not follow them, it will cost you more in postage. Since postage is your biggest cost this can mean a lot of money. There are strict regulations on where an address can be placed and that will depend on which mail category you fall in. There are folding specifications as well as paper weight. Your best bet is to consult with your mail service provider during the design phase to make sure you are meeting all the requirements before you print. This can save you a lot of money.

3. Unorganized or Not Well Planned
Marketing in general is complicated. There are a lot of things to consider as well as keep track of. Direct mail is definitely one of the more complicated channels. Before you start a direct mail campaign you need to plan out all of it, from design through tracking. Set not only your goals and expectations but also your timelines with your mail date in mind. Many times, people run out of time to make their planned mail date. All the time get sucked up in design and printing without leaving enough time to get the mailing out on schedule. Whenever you rush through a step there are bound be to things that go wrong, so take the time upfront to address issues before they happen. Creating the follow up with tracking and reporting once the campaign is complete is vital to your success. You need to know what is working and what needs to be changed.

All three of these mistakes can cost you a lot of money. If you take the time to create a direct mail campaign, make sure to address the potential problems before it is too late. Don’t waste your money. Direct mail can be a great way to promote and grow your business when it is done correctly. With careful planning and tracking direct mail can increase your ROI. What mistakes have you done or seen in the past. I would love to hear about them!

Direct Mail Marketing With Humor?

Yes, humorous direct mail works. Many marketers shy away from it because they are worried about offending someone. There is no need to use dramatic political cartoons when trying to reach a broad audience. Analyze who is on your list and then you can plan out humor that would suit them. The reason that you should try using humor is it works. It is a great way to engage people and get them to share, when it is done correctly.

Yes, humorous direct mail works. Many marketers shy away from it because they are worried about offending someone. There is no need to use dramatic political cartoons when trying to reach a broad audience. Analyze who is on your list and then you can plan out humor that would suit them. The reason that you should try using humor is it works. It is a great way to engage people and get them to share, when it is done correctly.

5 Suggested Funnies:

  1. Create your own comic strip: Create your own fun comic strip with characters that represent fun things about your company or industry. You can highlight real problems people have in a funny way and resolve them. Get creative! This can be really fun for your team as well as the recipients.
  2. Cartoons: Add cartoons in humorous situations that people could get into in your industry. Make them really over the top to get the laughter. Make the message fun, maybe even a play ob words that ties into the cartoon theme.
  3. Images: Find a funny image that makes you and your team laugh. Create a way to integrate that funny image into a problem/solution you can fix. There are plenty of images that can invoke laughter without being offensive.
  4. Real life examples: In many cases, there are real life examples of funny things that have occurred either in the office or with customers that can be highlighted and incorporated into a funny example of what not to do. These are very popular as they are relatable, it could happen to them too.
  5. Jokes: Now, no dirty ones allowed! Clean fun jokes that show how your brand can relate to people on their level and be fun.

First, when you are creating your direct mail and want to include humor, make sure to test your ideas on several people from different backgrounds who are outside your organization. This will allow you to see first if people get it, second if they think it’s funny and third if anyone is upset by it. After your idea passes the people test your next step will be to find ways for people to share your fun. Try creating a landing page where people can go to share the funny with others on social media, text message or email. Keep in mind that the landing page needs to be created with responsive design so that if accessed by a mobile device or a desktop it will look correctly as well as be functional for all.

I really like to use humor in direct mail. People love to laugh and to share what they think it funny, just look at Facebook, people post funny things all of the time. The last thing you need to make sure your funny direct mail is a success is to have your call to action stand out. Don’t get so caught up in the humor that you ignore what is important. Test your call to action with the same people you showed your funny design to. You will learn a lot from them. Consider testing more than one CTA to see what offer pulls the best when paired with the humorous theme. Now it time to go out there and create some really funny direct mail. Do you have an example that you have created or seen? If so, I would love to hear about it!

Unique Ideas Drive Response!

I recently came across a very unique campaign by PostNet. They are using their new Zombie Apocalypse marketing campaign to help them stand out in the crowded B-to-B services segment. PostNet is the chain of Neighborhood Business Centers that provide printing, shipping, graphic design and marketing solutions for today’s time-strapped small businesses and consumers. I had to know more about this idea so I interviewed Rachel Reynolds, Director of Marketing at PostNet to learn more.

Unique Ideas Drive Response!I recently came across a very unique campaign by PostNet. They are using their new Zombie Apocalypse marketing campaign to help them stand out in the crowded B-to-B services segment. PostNet is the chain of Neighborhood Business Centers that provide printing, shipping, graphic design and marketing solutions for today’s time-strapped small businesses and consumers. I had to know more about this idea so I interviewed Rachel Reynolds, Director of Marketing at PostNet to learn more.

Of course I just had to know where the idea for Zombies came from. Rachel shared “We were looking for an interesting way to introduce our new Online Print Center, a fully functional e-commerce website that allows customers to purchase print products online from our franchise locations. We launched our new Online Print Center on October 1, so a Halloween-themed campaign seemed to make sense. From the hit television show, “The Walking Dead,” to the wildly popular Plants vs. Zombies video game, zombies have become a pop-culture phenomenon and this is a trend we are hoping to capitalize on with this campaign.” I think this was a great idea.

Let’s take a look at what PostNet is doing. “We favor marketing campaigns that integrate tactics following the traditional marketing funnel touch points: Awareness, Activation, Participation/Purchase, and Evangelism. To increase awareness of the brand and of the new Online Print Center, we are running a national ad campaign on FM Broadcast radio, geo-targeted digital display advertising, and Facebook and LinkedIn advertising, all driving to a centralized microsite, www.BeatZombies.com.” These touch points are common and work well together.

Since the website is the focus, I wanted to know more about what users will be doing. Rachel shared that as well. “Once on the site, users can view the entire Zombie Apocalypse story by watching five 30-50 second videos. They can also sign up to win an all-expenses-paid trip to London where they can participate in a “Zombie Infection Experience,” allowing us to capture prospect contact information for subsequent direct marketing activities. Also on the microsite, they can learn a little more about the PostNet brand and how we support small businesses, and finally, click through to the Online Print Center where they will receive 20 percent off their first purchase.”

Unique Ideas Drive Response!Some other ways they are reaching out to people are: “We are also using direct marketing to drive users to the microsite with a five-part HTML email campaign to current customers, where each email distributes a video to tell the Zombie Apocalypse story or the life of the campaign. We are utilizing social media content marketing around the campaign theme, primarily on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, where our primary objective is increased engagement and brand evangelism. We have also developed Zombie Outbreak Survival kits consisting of a campaign branded canvas bag, a 29-piece survival kit, a flyer and a PostNet pen, which we are utilizing in social media contests as a reward for submission of user-generated content, as well as in local center marketing efforts. Finally, we support the campaign in-center with window clings, posters, banner stands, vinyl banners, table tents, counter mats and A-Frame inserts.” This is a well-rounded mix of digital and print with multiple touch points in order to reach people where they are.

The idea to create entertainment that drives recipients to a deeper engagement is a popular one. However this campaign has really taken that to a new fun level with zombies. Rachel states that there are three goals for the campaign: “Continue to solidify our positioning as a vital resource for the small business community no matter what the emergency is – even if it’s a zombie apocalypse.; Drive awareness, account set up and first purchase on our new Online Print Center; and increase brand awareness, engagement and evangelism.”

Unique Ideas Drive Response!The results they are tracking are “Earned media impressions through PR; paid media impressions through radio and digital display; digital advertising CTR; microsite unique visitors; sweepstakes entries; click throughs to the Online Print Center; number of Online Print Center accounts created; dollars sold on the Online Print Center; and social media engagement.” In this campaign, the biggest challenge is that they want recipients to take a lot of actions from “go to the microsite site, enter the sweepstakes, click through to the new Online Print Center, engage with us on social media, and share about your experience with others.” Since there is a big entertainment focus PostNet is counting on that to help keep them invested.

Since PostNet has franchises it can be a challenge to get buy-in from each of them. Rachel says that “Most of our franchise owners are excited about the campaign. Our HTML emails are performing very well, tripling open rates and doubling CTR from our previous campaign, so that spurs their excitement during the beginning of our campaign. Some franchisees feel the concept is too edgy, but overall we’ve gotten a very good response from our franchisees.” So it looks like they are off to a great start.

What is the most unique campaign you have seen lately? What have you done? Could you take an ordinary idea, turn it on its head and create something fun with it? Of course you can!

5 Direct Mail Messaging Tips

Direct mail marketing has many areas of focus, so sometimes not enough time is spent on messaging. Too many times marketers are quick to try something while not thinking it all the way through. Just as the designer took time to lay out the art, you need to take time to lay out the message.

Direct mail marketing has many areas of focus, so sometimes not enough time is spent on messaging. Too many times marketers are quick to try something while not thinking it all the way through. Just as the designer took time to lay out the art, you need to take time to lay out the message. Thoroughly vetting WHAT you say and HOW you say it, is essential. In order to have your direct mail messaging be effective there are some things you should consider.

Here are five tips for better direct mail messages:

  1. Not Too Wordy: The easiest way to get your mail piece thrown in the trash is to put too many words on it. Think of ways to convey your message using less words. Bullets, color text, bolding and italics can all help to highlight the most important words. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) method is best.
  2. Repeat the Message: The more times a recipient sees the same message the better it is remembered. They are then more likely to respond. Another benefit of repeating the message is that the more often they hear or see it, the more they trust the message.
  3. Focused Theme: In direct mail it is very important to coordinate your message, your artwork, your design and your audience together to form your theme. When any of these is out of alignment it detracts from your message, confuses the recipient and your direct mail ends up in the trash.
  4. Rhyme: People enjoy rhyme. It’s easy to remember and fun to read. When your message rhymes it resonates more with recipients. Have some fun with your messaging. The best part about rhyme is that you can subliminally coax people with your message.
  5. Brand: Your brand is how people identify you. If your message conflicts with your brand people will not believe it. They will not trust your message and may even get angry about it. Take the time to craft your message to your brand.

Think about the last direct mail piece you received and really looked at. What about that messaging was intriguing for you? Usually you can pin point a few key words that stuck out to you. Using that information, how can you tailor your message to do the same thing? What words will grab attention and stand out to them?

All the words you place on the mail piece need to work together toward your goal. Is your goal for them to visit your website? Come to your store? Call you? Or something else? When you have a clearly defined goal it makes it easier to craft your message. Not every mailing will have the same goal, so make sure that when you carry messaging over from other campaigns that you carefully edit it to fit your new goal.

Remember that recycling the message from previous campaigns is good for recognition, so you want to do it. Just make sure that when you do, you are integrating it into the new campaign well. Some wording will need to change and you may need to highlight different key words. Crafting your messaging can be really fun, so take some time and get inspired to be creative.