5 Eye-Catching (and Affordable) Direct-Mail Techniques
"A passion for paper” is one way to describe my obsession with direct mail (yes, I’ve said it for the record). And, yes, I find it challenging — dare I say, unbearable — to toss any unique piece of mail into the recycle bin because I’m always on the hunt for a nugget of inspiration to pass along to colleagues and co-workers. And who knows if that piece I toss is going to be the one I should have kept? Honestly, you should see my sample library … it’s quite impressive!
But, what about the performance of these pretty, clever or pretty darn clever mailings? It’s nearly impossible to discern which of the hundreds of pieces of mail that cross my desk on a weekly basis performed the best — especially when reviewing mail samples contributed by an industry colleague from his or her home mailbox. That’s when you rely on your gut and years of experience to identify techniques and formats that have that j’ai ne sais quoi (translated: that special something that stands out).
This month’s DM Deconstructed is on how some simple — or complex — features of affordable, attention-grabbing commercial direct-mail pieces might be an inspiration to direct-mail fundraisers with the goal of getting donors to open those envelopes.
The first example is a rather simple format. A letter-sized envelope, the color is used sparingly, and although the official markings are definitely eye-catching, the real attention getter is the bumpy texture (look closely for the embossed bubble effect). This special envelope can be machine-inserted, unlike the bubble-padded mailer it mimics. It’s also available as smaller No. 10 with a more standard window and with no additional die costs.
When to use this format: It’s suitable for a special appeal or report, a membership card, early renewal, or even a welcome kit. The ideal print quantity for the bubble-embossed texture is 150,000-plus. Appealing to multiple senses, this envelope will get the attention it deserves!
2. Urgent/official mail
In this selection of urgent and official mail, the impact is conveyed through key words and phrases, font choice, and select graphics. Surprisingly, none of the samples incorporate the traditional “urgent” colors of neon yellow and red with hatch mark design. In fact, it’s the simplicity and spare use of color that makes the designs more impactful. The bold phrase “DATED MATERIAL — CONTENTS REQUIRE YOUR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and the red-stamped “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS PLEASE REVIEW IMMEDIATELY” are simple but powerful teasers.
When to use this format: Emergency appeals, capital campaigns or calls to action that are time-sensitive. If you want to customize your next urgent mailing, try these simple impact techniques that won’t break the bank.
3. Recapture, renew and cultivate
The three little words “recapture, renew and cultivate” are more simply said than done — yet succinctly describe the focus of the current fundraising state of the union. The funnel of newly acquired direct-mail donors has slowed to a trickle for many groups for various reasons, be it lack of investment, competition and/or lackluster performance. The focus on retention is huge. This same focus is evident in “subscription” publications/mail as more and more readers consume their content digitally as opposed to print. The publications continue to mail renewal notices, usually small, monarch-sized envelopes but with standout teaser copy. They seldom say, “Please renew” on the envelope, but rather, “You’re missed,” “We want you back,” or “Thank you — we’re pleased to have you with us!” This kind of verbiage contains less of an intellectual stimulus and more of an emotional one.
How to use this format: The copy example on the envelope can easily apply to a renewal: “Valued Subscriber Since 2012.” What I found interesting is the incorporation of the word “Valued” to describe the subscriber — that’s special.
4. Make it easy to communicate
Providing the customer with multiple touchpoints for engagement may be easy to produce as in this USPS marketing example for Every Door Direct Mail. Providing multiple options for the customer to communicate his or her preferences is optimal, but it can be difficult to manage and capture the responses if you don’t have the right production partners to support the campaign. A postage-paid envelope, personalized Web page and QR code will cover all the bases. This university format (below left) takes it a step further and pre-fills the application for requesting additional information with the contact’s name and address. Also provided is a QR code insert as a quick mobile connect to additional alumni success stories.
When to use this format: This multichannel format might have some additional (albeit nominal) up-front costs to create the digital aspect of the campaign, but it is one of the most effective ways to capture email addresses, especially if you intend to grow your online communications in the future. It’s also a great multichannel format to showcase to a younger audience, who will likely appreciate it.
5. Check mark graphic
A check mark implies inclusiveness and a favorable response. In this Wells Fargo example, the bold check mark is used to convey “yes,” “verified” or “completed.” I’ve seen “presumptive” acquisition formats in which the inserts or benefits listed are pre-checked for your “convenience.” Try adding a check mark or arrow to emphasize a point. Handwritten/hand-drawn ones are especially noticeable.
When to use this format: This technique is perfect for subscription or donor renewals on the reply device. Or, why not use it for simply drawing attention to something important in the letter (think: in lieu of a P.S.)?
I hope you were inspired by my selection of commercial mail. Keep an eye out for an upcoming issue where I’ll discuss some really unexpected techniques that could work for your organization, as well.
Meanwhile, if you discover a nugget of inspiration in your mailbox (or if you created one for your organization), I’d love to see it! Please email me and tell me what it is (sending a photo is even better). Maybe your mailing will be highlighted in my next DM Deconstructed.
Cheryl Keedy is senior strategist of direct response and marketing formats at Production Solutions. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org