The Mother of Invention: How to Get The Most Out Of Your Direct Mailer

Credit: Pixabay by ColiN00B

Take a second, close your eyes, and picture your email inbox: Can you guess how many unread marketing emails are in there right now? Are they unread because the sender has simply outworn their digital welcome, or are they unopened because you don’t trust the source?

In either case, it’s not a stretch to say there is a great deal of stress on email as a marketing and communication channel. One possible theory for this increased level of stress is the number of marketers who rely on email marketing campaigns to engage customers and position new products or offers. The increase in the number of marketers using email as their primary communication channel means it’s more challenging for marketers to cut through the proverbial noise of this platform and reach their target audience.

However, the good news is another marketing channel has an open field on which marketers can make a run at reaching a more captive audience.

According to a recent study by the United States Postal Service, the average American household receives approximately two pieces of direct mail each day. Compare that number with the volume of emails audiences receive and it’s easy to see why direct mail possesses such potency in terms of delivering a message that can actually move the sales needle.

But the question becomes: How do you optimize your direct mailer to maximize this open field and create the greatest return on your investment? To put it another way, what are the hacks marketers can use to enhance their direct mail campaigns? The answers may be simpler than you anticipated.

Emphasize the Desired Action

An effective direct mail piece should be centered around a specific value proposition that has real-world meaning to the recipient: a solution to a problem, relief from a pain point, or a process of doing things that opens up new possibilities or potential. And creating such an environment for the recipient to explore these elements centers on creating an explicit call-to-action that’s easy or reasonable for a recipient to take.

Building your direct mail piece around a call-to-action will not only help you accurately measure the results of the direct mail campaign (did the recipient actually take the desired action?), but it also provides a next step the recipient can take to solve the problem or overcome a challenge you identify.

For example, creating a direct mail piece in the form of a coupon with a CTA to redeem a limited offer in a brick-and-mortar store gives the recipient a concrete action to take in order to receive something that has value to them (a discount) while making it easy to track the response the mail piece generated (the number of people who redeemed the coupon).

Integrating a digital component into your desired action is a powerful method of extending the experience of your direct mailer into the online space. For example, a CTA centered on an online offer code or promotion that can only be used in an e-commerce context can drive traffic to a URL or prompt the recipient to explore more about a company, product, or solution through a web or landing page. Additional digital integrations can be realized by incorporating QR codes to create an enhanced online experience and provide more detailed information than can be achieved with a standalone direct mail piece.

Such digital integrations can then be used to track overall effectiveness via metrics like visits, clicks, and other important metrics in order to help accurately determine ROI.

The moral of the story is: A direct mail piece that emphasizes the desired action through a clear CTA plays a key role in taking your mailer to the next level in terms of value for both the recipient and the sender.

Think in an Interactive Way

Piggybacking on the need to focus on function, thinking about direct mail in an interactive way is an important consideration to help your mailer perform a cut above the competition. Using augmented reality (AR) to supplement the mailer’s content and overall messaging not only creates a level of dynamism that entices and delights, but it also gives you an opportunity to deepen the customer experience or demonstrate the value proposition of a product or solution in a new or surprising way.

As with the integration of QR codes, an AR component helps weave together the print and digital world in a way that helps you track ROI by the number of views or engagements with your AR experience.

While the prospect of an AR experience might sound scary if you haven’t tried it, the good news is it’s easier than ever before to integrate AR with your direct mail piece. It was only a few years ago that an immersive AR component required development and use of an app, which required a technical developer.

However, a web-based AR environment does not require users to download an app or any additional platform to engage with the experience, which not only makes AR more attainable as a way of making your mailer interactive but also increases the number of people you can reach by removing the barrier to entry that is a specific app.

One of our clients, paper manufacturer Sylvamo (formerly International Paper), experienced the benefits of an interactive mailer with an AR component firsthand with a direct mail piece highlighting their commitment to sustainable paper production at their Ticonderoga Mill. Designed in the likeness of a storybook, the AR component brought the Ticonderoga Mill to life through an added video layer.

Let Design do the Heavy Lifting

Paper size. Color scheme. Font. Image placement. Logo integration. Letting these design elements lead the way and do much of the heavy lifting in conveying the message of your direct mail piece is an important step in leveling up your mail game. This is not to downplay the importance of copy in your direct mailer, but it is to say that arresting design elements are likely to be the hook that draws your recipient in and encourages them to engage further.

The old adage of we eat with our eyes in the culinary world very much applies to how the design elements of your mailer impress upon the mind of your recipient. When thinking of design concepts to make your direct mailer stand out, it’s important to consider the piece from all dimensions or perspectives. Incorporating 3D features or even leveraging a pop-up or “lumpy” concept can create some interesting avenues for incorporating copy and add an additional layer of complexity and intrigue for the recipient.

Plus, on a nuts and bolts level, a lumpy mailer concept helps your piece stand out amongst other flat mail pieces.

Tailor the messaging for a targeted audience
Thus far we’ve devoted a lot of discussion to function, interactivity, and design, but you can’t truly level up your direct mail piece without, of course, discussing the content and the need to craft specific, targeted messaging that is relevant to your audience.

The sheer amount of data-driven insights about consumer behavior, purchasing habits, and buyer profiles is the starting point for print companies in tailoring messaging for a specific audience set, but there are several ways to add personal touches to your direct mail piece that create a crucial sense of connection between you and the recipient.

A recent survey of millennials conducted by the United States Postal Service revealed that 75% of respondents said receiving a direct mail piece makes them feel special, and making sure your direct mailer is personalized with specific messaging only serves to enhance this feeling.

Variable data printing to create a connection and targeted offers — with content that demonstrates you understand the challenges and solutions your audience needs — will infuse your mailer with the sense that it was created by an individual for an individual, which is such a large reason for the renewed success of direct mail campaigns.

Having some skin in the direct mailer game is an important step in harnessing the value of this still very important communication and marketing channel — as we outlined at the beginning, there is success to be had with direct mail in 2022. But incorporating the steps we’ve laid out here is how marketers can take their direct mail campaigns from entry-level to next-level in terms of creative success and overall effectiveness.