. . . And The Envelope, Please!
If the envelope could be nominated for an Academy Award, the category would be Lifetime Achievement Award. Certainly the envelope has had its cinematic moments. Two that come to mind are Forrest Gump and the Harry Potter movies. Some of them can be viewed using the QR Code below, but the envelope's real star power lies in its value as a mysterious marketing package, and trusted method of delivering secure and private information. Does the envelope deserve our devotion because it's been with us so long? Can it hold its own with the new kids on the block?
In today's fast-paced world, we believe standing still for too long is going to be our demise. In many ways that's true. Imagine the world without e-mail. I can't, but every once in a while I wish I could. We constantly look for tools and ways to engage customers. New media choices are being invented, refined and used with success by marketers everywhere. If we dally too long on the old, we will miss out on the new. Some of the new include: social media, mobile marketing, SEM, SEO, Webcasts, RSS Feeds and Google Alerts. E-mail has been around for a while, but do we consider it old?
There are new hybrid versions of older media choices like direct mail (TransPromo, pURLs, variable content, and disc.) The aforementioned QR Code uses a web-enabled mobile device in conjunction with almost every other kind of printed document. Variable and relevant content is being packaged by marketers to reach customers in every medium. We are bound only by the limits of imagination and science.
None of us want to be left in the dust when it comes to bringing our customers the keys to everything new and wonderful.
One of my favorite industry studies from Target Marketing, a sister publication of Print Professional, comes out every year about this time. For the last four years Target Marketing has published an annual Media Usage Forecast. I immediately check on the pulse and overall health of that old media stalwart, direct mail. I like what I see. Compared to 2009, 32 percent of survey respondents plan to increase their direct mail budget in 2010. The new media choices like those mentioned above are garnering increased budget dollars in order to keep marketers on the digital edge, but not at the expense of direct mail according to the survey. In fact, direct mail has continued to play a major role in marketing strategies.
Of the 14 methods surveyed for customer acquisition and retention, direct mail ranked number two in both categories behind e-mail. This is the same ranking as 2009. What keeps direct mail prominently in the mix is its improving ability to target an audience. That is the science part. When it comes to avoiding waste of paper, print and postage, direct mail pros are getting leaner and meaner. Delivering an interesting offer to your mailbox that you at least scan or read is the equivalent of a click through an Internet ad.
The 2008 United States Postal Service (USPS) Household Diary Study showed 79 percent of mail is scanned or read by recipients. Internet ad click rates were .28 percent, according to Wikipedia. E-mail click rates were 5.9 percent in 2009 reported by Epsilon in its 2009 Q2 E-mail Trend Results. How much e-mail does not make it to your inbox? If it is permission-based, and not spam, 21 percent of e-mails do not make it according to Return Path, a leader in e-mail reputation services. Isn't the mailbox looking a little better?
Your mailbox is only accessible by you and the USPS. First Class Mail is only to be opened by the recipient. More than custom or protocol, it is law. Despite all of the unique ways to communicate today, nobody I know wants to get rid of their mailboxes. With the reverential value of mail and the mailbox established, it comes down to a mystery, a package and a promise.
The contents of an envelope can be mysterious and enticing. That is the way a marketer wants it. It already has an aura of class, style, vibrancy or cleverness. The outside exudes the message, whether subtle or screaming its call-to-action. It says: "Open me and see what I've got."
The package is important. The package is important. The package is important. Hey, if realtors can say, "location, location, location," the envelope should be allowed a three-peat, too! I don't mind a postcard from my dentist reminding me to come in before I lose my teeth, but having all of the loose hyper-tabbed self-mailers is giving mail a bad name. If you have something worth selling, or something you want to announce, put it in a package worthy of its value, an envelope. If you do, it will be valued more, and probably a lot more. (Just a side note, the USPS likes the envelope better.)
The promise is the fun part. What the envelope says, how it feels and piques our curiosity, is a promise made to what is inside. In this magic moment (aka "Mail Moment") of anticipation, you will either build trust and a relationship, or not. You want the connection between what the envelope promises, and what the contents deliver. Mail marketing pros test different copy looking for a winner. After all, it is about delivering results.
As a matter of fact, you can even put a QR Code on the envelope and deliver Oscar-winning performances of envelopes, if you are so inclined. Tweet that!
About the Author:
Steve Brocker is vice president of sales and marketing at Western States Envelope & Label, headquartered in Milwaukee.