3 Often Untapped Direct Mail Format Advantages
Your mailing format also contributes to your success or failure. If your experience is primarily digital — creating emails or digital content — it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the subtle and not-so-subtle advantages of direct mail.
But before we look at three of the most intriguing advantages, here are four direct mail facts — from a 2016 consumer study conducted on behalf of the United States Postal Service — that may surprise you:
- 86 percent of consumers report they pick up their mail at the first opportunity. How often do people say this about their email?
- 63 percent look forward to receiving mail. How can you tap into this positive anticipation?
- 79 percent of consumers sort their mail at the first opportunity — on the same day. Keep in mind, sorting mail involves more than glancing at a FROM and SUBJECT line. The USPS study also found sorters have a strong attachment to the mail.
- The average consumer spends 8.4 minutes a day sorting and reading mail. That’s an average of about an hour a week.
Another study found that while digital ads gain attention faster, physical advertising (e.g., direct mail) holds the reader’s attention longer and elicits greater emotional involvement. This engagement ties directly to making a buying decision.
And don’t assume Millennials are uninterested and unresponsive to direct mail. Research shows that, while Millennials receive less mail overall, they spend more time sorting it and are more active consumers of what they receive.
So what can you do to encourage immediate consumer engagement with your direct mail?
Keep in mind these subtle and not-so-subtle direct mail advantages as you write and design.
All Direct Mail is 3D
I know it’s obvious, but consider the significance of your marketing message being 3D. Even the simplest postcard has length, width and thickness — not just pixels presented on a screen. Don’t take these dimensions for granted. They affect how your direct mail package is sorted, screened and perceived by the consumer. They also affect postal rates.
- Test shapes and sizes of postcards, outer envelopes (OEs) and self-mailers to know what’s working now with your targeted audience. Keep testing, because preferences change.
- When you have a strategically sound reason for doing so, don’t be afraid to test non-standard sizes that require more postage. The extra cost may be a good investment in higher response rates and better bottom-line results.
- Want to know more about USPS rates for different shapes and sizes? Check out the resources at the end of this article.
Direct Mail Is Hefty
Its sheer weight or bulk can be a branding tool that creates the perception of importance and value. This may explain why there’s been a recent trend in the mail to use heavier/thicker paper stock for post cards, outer envelopes and components inserted into OEs.
While credit card companies have been one of the most visible users of this tactic, mailing heavier weight OEs, other marketers are creating heft in other ways. Here are a couple examples:
- #10 OE with four card stock inserts — no letter; no reply card; all the inserts drive phone, website and
- 5” x 8 1/2” inline format with CARD ENCLOSED teaser and a 3 1/2” x 6” laminated card — promoting a free gift.
Each mailing stands out during the sorting process because of its heft and, in some cases, unique size.
Direct Mail Is Tactile
Tactility (yes, that’s a word) may be the most subtle, untapped and intriguing advantage of direct mail. The touch and feel of your mail piece in the sorter’s hands could be a tie-breaker — the difference between your mailing getting retained and read or tossed in the trash. Tests done by mailers in conjunction with the USPS show specialty inks, varnishes, papers and printing processes (e.g., embossing) not only enhance tactility, but also response.
One of my favorite examples is a 6” x 9” OE from Discover. It has a soft, velvety coating (front and back) on one half and a roughly varnished texture on the other. As you hold the piece in your hands, your right and left fingertips are simultaneously engaged in touching two very different textures. This smooth-rough contrast grabs your attention.
I don’t know if it was coincidence or a flash of creative brilliance, but the most compelling copy details are on the texturally more disturbing varnished half: $100, $100 BONUS, NO MONTHLY FEE, 0.95% APY.
What are you doing to assure your direct mail piece earns its share of those critical 8.4 minutes spent sorting and reading mail? I encourage you to brainstorm creative ideas that tap into direct mail’s advantages. Use these free USPS resources to get started:
- Visit IrresistibleMail.com to get a free guide with creative ideas for modernizing your direct mail.
- Talk to a USPS Direct Mail Analyst at ribbs.usps.gov. Go to MDA Customer Service Help Desk.
- Email my resource for this column: Jim Richard, USPS Senior Direct Marketing Executive, email@example.com.
Studies mentioned in this article:
- USPS OIG RARC report, “Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response,” 2015.
- “USPS Customer and Market Insights,” conducted by Summit Research, March 2016.