If you are like most of our customers, you have a lot of questions about designing an effective direct mail marketing piece. Should you use a post card, a self-mailer, or an envelope? Use lots of copy or lots of white space? Announce who the mail is from or build the reader’s curiosity? With so many variables to consider, where does one begin to seek the right answers?
To help sort through the maze of interlocking decisions, remember that there are two ways to judge how well a direct mail piece has been designed. One set of standards comes from the discipline of good graphic design; the other comes from what makes mail move efficiently through the mail stream. We believe both are important, and that a good strategy is to thoroughly understand each set.
As we’ve mentioned before, the success of any direct mail marketing campaign depends primarily on the mail list. Studies have shown that at least 60% of the response rate can be attributed to the mail list, while only about 20% each is attributable to the offer and the appearance of the mail piece. Given the importance of a mailing list, we recommend that all our customers understand the basics in order to make the best use of any list – internally-generated or purchased.
If you’ve been reading our most recent newsletters, you’ll notice a theme – that traditional direct mail, email, and social media work best together. All have their places in a marketer’s tool kit, they do not cancel the need for the others, and they may even work symbiotically as when a post card is sent offering a premium if the recipient provides an e-mail address or likes a social media site.
Some Audiences Prefer Traditional Direct Mail
While we acknowledge the growing importance of email and web-based communication to reach customers and prospects, computers and mobile wireless devices like smartphones cannot by themselves reach everyone in a business or organization’s target market. That could change as the use of mobile wireless devices spreads (which is happening rapidly), but until that time, traditional direct mail still has a valuable place as a marketing tool.
Traditional direct mail is a good choice for some audiences (such as an older demographic whose adoption of web-based communications may be lagging younger audiences) and for anyone who clearly states a preference for direct mail.
Traditional direct mail is also a good choice for businesses and organizations whose target audience is local. Sustaining membership campaigns, fundraisers, and financial support appeals by community-based non-profits are good examples where outreach by traditional direct mail to the homes of donors is likely to outperform email or web-based appeal.
Anticipating the addition of, or even the switch to web-based communication, businesses and organizations are collecting e-mail addresses and starting permission-based newsletters and blogs. But until that task is complete, traditional direct mail could be the only way to reach a customer or prospect.
In the past, all sales and marketing materials were printed. Later, the Internet added new ways to reach customers and prospects, and later still provided a way to interact with them, sometimes in real time. Over time, Internet-based marketing replaced some printed materials, enhanced others, and also provided new marketing tools.
Despite the popularity and success of these new marketing techniques, there remain some basic printed items that all businesses need:
• The corporate identity package consisting of 1) business cards, 2) letterheads & envelopes, 3) note paper, 4) mailing labels, and
• Sales material consisting of 5) a company brochure, 6) note pads, and 7) a direct mail piece.
“Postcards are the simplest, most cost-effective format available. They’re an excellent choice for making an announcement or driving customers to a store, website, or event.”
United States Postal Service
A postcard is one of the most versatile, inexpensive, and effective tools you can have in your marketing tool kit. Compared to the effort and cost of a brochure or a traditional direct mail package mailed in an envelope, a postcard is quick, easy, and a great way to stretch your marketing budget. In addition, some kinds of postcards will help you keep your mailing list updated.
In an effort to help businesses reach new prospects, the United States Postal Service (USPS) launched their Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program in March 2011, and it has grown steadily over the years. The service allows you to focus on your surrounding neighborhoods as a way to expand your customer base. According to the April 2010 BizReport, average consumers spend 85% of their disposable income within five miles of their homes — which means your best customers may be very nearby.
Direct mail is a valuable tool for businesses and organizations to keep in touch with active customers or members, re-establish a relationship with inactive customers or lapsed members, and introduce the business or organization to prospects. Direct mail can be combined with social media outreach for greater effectiveness together than either used alone.
A direct mail campaign requires an attractively designed mail piece, content, and a mail list. If asked which of these three things – the design of the mail piece, its content, or who it is sent to – is the most important in generating response, what would you say? You may be surprised to learn that who it is sent to (the mailing list) is three times as important as either design or content in generating response.
When you are writing a marketing communication piece – print ad, sales letter, direct mail piece, brochure, blog entry, press release, newsletter, webinar – where do you start? You may be surprised to learn that experts advise starting at the top by writing the headline.
The headline is your promise to readers, a statement of what they can expect if they continue reading. Promises are first made, and then fulfilled. So make the promise to readers through the headline, and fulfill it in the content.
The importance of headlines is not a new concept. Writing in 1923 in his book Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins said, “We pick out what we wish to read by headlines.” Forty years later, in his 1963 book Confessions of an Advertising Man, advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents of your dollar.” Continuing today, busy people decide what to read on web pages, e-mail or blogs based the strength of the headline.
A postcard mailing campaign, properly planned and carried out, is an efficient and cost effective way to market to customers and prospects. Less time-consuming and costly to produce than a brochure or folded self-mailer, a postcard is more affordable, yet no less effective. Whether your objective is business promotion, product or service advertising, brand identity, donation solicitation, or a service or event reminder, a postcard gets the job done efficiently and cost-effectively.
Because postcards don’t require opening for the message to be seen, they have an impact even on those who don’t actively engage with them. A well-designed postcard has the main message in plain view and catches the reader’s eye with a strong headline or graphic, resulting in a high read rate. Although a postcard typically — though not always — has less space to deliver the message than a self-mailer, the postcard’s reach can be extended by referring to a website for more details. Postcards have a longer “shelf life” than e-mail, and are easy to file for future reference.
An active direct mail program is more than the offer, the printed piece, and the mailing list. It is also the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivering the mail piece to the intended target. We admit that it can sometimes be hard to understand and follow the rules set down by the USPS to qualify for postage discounts. But we also recognize that without the USPS, direct mail campaigns would be more expensive and possibly less effective.