Do you remember the excitement you experienced as a child when you’d receive a letter or package in the mail? The thrill of a letter carrier rolling up with something showcasing your name on it was magical, and some of that magic continues into adulthood. Who doesn’t love receiving a mailed greeting card or gift from a friend or family member? Interestingly, in the age of digital marketing, it’s that old love of mail that is helping to fuel new interest in direct mail.
Hyper-connected Millennials, amongst others, report looking forward to their ritual trip to the mailbox each day. Real mail, the kind you hold in your hands, is a quaint counterpoint that provides a tangible touchstone to a less complicated time. For most people, perusing the daily mail is an enjoyable routine that contains an occasional pleasant surprise. Though receiving direct mail does not necessarily equate with the joy you felt as a kid receiving a surprise letter or package, a well-crafted, imaginative direct mail piece can still bring a smile to a recipient’s face and activate their imagination.
In the Blink of an Eye
Scientists have found that it takes three-tenths to four-tenths of a second for a human being to blink their eyes. Now consider this. In the same amount of time it takes to blink, most people have already made the decision whether they are interested enough to open a piece of direct mail or discard it in the trash. One study detailed the average progression of eye movement across a direct mail piece:
• Check the envelope to see if it’s properly addressed with the name correctly spelled, noticing whether it is handwritten or printed.
• Check the return address. Is it a recognizable brand or a non-descript P.O. box?
• Notice if there’s an interesting headline or printed tagline.
• Decide if the piece of direct mail merits more attention and is worth opening — or not.
What Makes a Successful Direct Mail Piece?
Did you ever wonder why some direct mail campaigns work like gangbusters and others fall flat? There are certain characteristics that are proven not to work and will doom a piece to the trash. The number one direct mail offence committed all over America is lack of imagination. Don’t be B-O-R-I-N-G. Plain #10 envelopes with obscure post office box return addresses and zero indication of what’s inside screams “Junk mail – throw me out!”
Your direct mail piece needs to communicate something of value from the first glance. In order to stand out from the clutter, you have to think differently. But how can you accomplish that? Here are basic principles that can provide a solid foundation for all your direct mail efforts.
#1 Be Creative
If there’s one thing Steve Jobs understood as a marketer and innovator, it was Apple’s destiny to be a creative force in the world. Sure, Apple’s mainly in the business of selling iPhones, computers, and mobile devices. However, most people consider Apple one of the most creative companies that has ever existed. Of course, we can’t all be Steve Jobs and we’re not all selling fascinating, high-tech products, but we can all learn from Apple’s founder. Be creative. Take chances. Make your direct mail piece fascinating. If it doesn’t grab your imagination, it’s not worth mailing. As the old adage goes, creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. As with any marketing tool, you have to put considerable thought, energy, experimentation, and design into a direct mail piece for it to be successful. Consider using a direct mail piece as a platform to inform, educate, entertain and inspire customers. Make creativity your secret weapon. People will appreciate your efforts, and as a result, sales will increase and so will your bottom line.
#2 Make It Personal
The reason letters will often outperform generic postcards, in terms of response rate, is simple. The more personal the communication appears to be, the more likely someone is to take an interest in it. The more effort that went into creating a direct mail piece, the more the receiver will notice and appreciate it. People understand that it takes more time and energy to produce a personalized letter than a mass-produced postcard. When people perceive something as more personal, their interest will increase. It’s the difference between yelling, “Hey you,” versus calling out to you by name. The human mind is an analytical supercomputer and makes split-second judgments all day long. Find ways to make your direct mail pieces more personal, and you’ll increase your open rates.
#3 Connect with Your Clients
It might be an oversimplification, however, in marketing the challenge is to find ways to encourage the simple act of “making a connection” with the people who wish to purchase your goods or services. Ask yourself, what can you do to connect with your customers? People felt a connection with Steve Jobs because of his lifelong commitment to creating useful products that have had a positive impact on our lives. In terms of connecting through direct mail, you can provide interesting pieces with valuable offers presented in a creative and professional way. You want to truly build a relationship with your customers? Promise that you’ll only contact them when you have something worthwhile to offer. No one wants to sort through junk in their mailbox. If you focus on sending out thoughtful, creative mailers, over time, people will appreciate your efforts and look forward to receiving direct mail pieces from you. And when designing your direct mail pieces, make sure you include multiple ways for your customers to connect by letting them know how they can contact you by phone, text, via website, chat, social media, and of course, good old-fashioned “snail” mail.
#4 Wow Your Customers
Direct mail provides one of the few marketing opportunities where you have the undivided attention of your potential customer holding your offer in their hands. Why not hand them something that captures both their attention and imagination?
• You Hold the Key in Your Hand
Who can resist the idea they may already be holding a key that opens a treasure chest, vault, or a secret door to an amazing prize? When you make your mailing piece tactile by including an unexpected item, such as a key, it immediately becomes more fascinating to the recipient. Treasure chest themes especially appeal to kids. Car dealerships do a variation on this one giving away a new automobile or truck if your key starts the car.
• Envelopes with Peekaboo Windows
See-through envelopes enable your customers to preview what’s inside. This type of direct mail piece stands out from other mail and immediately engages the customer’s imagination. With a bold and colorful printed card, catalog, or mailer inside and an attention-grabbing photo or headline, the customer can’t help but be curious. Peekaboo windows hint at special contents inside. This type of mailer is irresistible and gets style points for originality.
• Mystery Amount Gift Certificate to be Redeemed at the Store
People are intrigued by a good mystery. Create a coupon or gift certificate that can only be redeemed at the store. The mystery they’re going to solve is how much their gift certificate is worth and someone is going to win big. Guarantee that everyone wins something and the gift certificate they are holding in their hands is worth anywhere between $5 and $500 or $5,000 or more. This direct mail promotion is fun and can drive traffic to physical locations.
• Puzzle Onboard
Mailers that contain a clever challenge and engage the brain get noticed. If you incorporate your slogan or logo into a puzzle or brainteaser, it can increase your brand awareness. Upon solving the puzzle correctly or finding the right answers, you can be entered to win a prize.
• Die Cut and Folded Pop-up 3D Cards
3D cards are a huge hit and can be used for a wide variety of campaigns. Designers have created amazing pops-ups which can fascinate and inform. The advantage of utilizing die cut or pop-up formats is they lay flat in the envelope but jump up when opened and really get noticed.
#5 Find the Right Resources
Direct mail is one of the older, more traditional channels in your marketing mix. The competition to impress and stand out from the mailbox clutter is fierce. Take the time to find the right resources needed to implement your ingenious direct mail ideas. Choosing the right tools will pay dividends in terms of response rates and ROI. Remember, you have one brief moment to make a lasting impression. If you take the time to do it right, people appreciate your imaginative mailers and will reward your brand with increased recognition, sales, and profits.