How to Deliver Direct Mail Results
Suppliers offer product suggestions and production advice for better returns on direct mail investments.
Except for commercial printing, direct mail probably takes more of distributors' time and energy than any other type of sell. Linc Spaulding, president of Sheppard Envelope, Auburn, Mass., and Mike Weinzierl, president of Sewickley, Pennsylvania-based Professional Graphic Communications, shared tips to help make it all worthwhile for everyone along the value chain.
Return to Sender
For instance, Spaudling discussed his company's two-way Boomerang mailing system—a low-cost, environmentally friendly product that dramatically reduces paper usage while stimulating high recipient response rates. Spaudling pointed out that "most successful direct mail campaigns consist of not just one, but a series of mailings, and Boomerang's exceptionally low cost allows for more mail to be sent."
Originally designed for billing applications, it was evident that Boomerang products held tremendous potential in the direct mail and not-for-profit arenas. "The products are extremely effective for memberships, donor mailings and surveys," noted Spaudling. "A unique, patented design allows a single piece of paper to serve as the outgoing envelope, the reply envelope and what's known as the 'ask' or the covering letter," he explained. "The ready-to-mail package can be in the mail within a few days of receiving all necessary approvals."
For applications requiring a separate covering letter of one or more pages, Boomerang products can adapt to that need. "They can be inserted automatically like conventional #10 envelopes," Spaulding continued.
Design options include flexographic printing and high-end, four-color printing on the face, as well as the addition of cost-effective donor recognition products with practical, everyday usefulness.
The newest Boomerang design, the Affinity Mailer, features five integral perforated coupons for targeting recipients' special interests. Again, a single piece of paper generates it all—the outgoing envelope, the reply envelope, the offer and the coupons.
For Weinzierl, Customized MarketMail (CMM), a standard mail option recently introduced by the United States Postal Service, capitalizes on the critical initial moments when recipients first pick up and go through their mail. The product allows mailers to send creative, dimensional mail pieces in any shape or design, such as a car, shoe, pizza, computer or pharmaceutical product. The unique formats empower marketing messages and immediately demonstrate products.
CMM pieces must weigh 3.3 oz. or less, and be between 31⁄2˝ and 12˝ in height, 5˝ and 15˝ in length, and .007˝ and .75˝ in thickness.
In addition to manufacturing CMM products for his distributor customers, Weinzierl has designed pieces as self promotions showcasing Professional Graphic Communications' capabilities. "Any customer with a message to communicate will definitely get a good return on investment with a unique CMM format," he advised.
Weinzierl said that CMMs are good choices for high-end real estate sales, luxury car advertisements, pharmaceutical roll-outs, sports team schedules, fast-food and carry-out restaurant promotions, and high-dollar product launches.
Tips from the Trade
Of course, Spaudling and Weinzierl both stressed that even the best-designed mailers in the world are useless if the mailing list(s) involved are not in order.
"Great care needs to be taken with list selection," cautioned Spaudling. "There is a world of difference between mailing to warm or hot lists, and mailing to cold lists, meaning that there is no prior connection with the mailer. We are strong proponents of testing, testing and more testing. Numbers don't lie, but wishful thinking can."
Said Weinzierl, "Mailing lists can be created to target recipients for just about anything, such as their age, income, hobbies, birthdays, gender, profession and credit rating. The only exception is religion."
He added that Professional Graphic Communications seeks out the services of AccuData America (www.accudata), a list broker located in Fort Myers, Fla., for 90 percent of the lists it uses. However, when the goal is to target very specific professional groups, such as human resources managers, Weinzierl utilizes Pearl River, New York-based Edith Roman Associates (www.edithroman.com).
The quality of the copywriting is another factor that determines the success of a direct mail campaign. "It is a learned art, " observed Spaulding. "Not everyone is good at it—although, strangely, almost everyone thinks that they are. We do offer dealers assistance in creating or editing copy."
According to Weinzierl, "The two most effective words in direct mail copy are 'free' and 'new.' Also, it is statistically proven that adding a premium, such as a pen, adds dimension and creates interest that will double response rates."
He also reminded distributors that using the colors red, blue and yellow will help direct the eye to key areas on a mailer, and that an 800 number should be mentioned at least three times for maximum reinforcement.
Spaulding pointed out that problems arise when customers have unrealistic expectations regarding responses or fail to understand that most successful direct mail campaigns require multiple mailings. Other snafus include miscalculating cash flow, not having a back-up plan if the first mailing fails to measure up, neglecting to assign responsibility for the various facets of the campaign itself, and failure to allow sufficient time for planning, execution and mail delivery.
Weinzierl emphasized that timing is particularly critical for retail customers dealing with sale dates. "If it is a dated project, always go first-class," he recommended. "Otherwise, the standard rate is fine."
Weinzierl also said that the national average is that for every dollar spent, customers should see a $15 return on direct mail. To help ensure that this is the case, distributors are always well advised to partner with knowledgeable, competent suppliers.
By Maggie DeWitt