4 Direct Mail Ideas to Try in 2015
So, maybe your direct mail isn't working as well as you'd like. You might be tempted to take it in an entirely new direction, or even stop it altogether. However, both courses could prove costly to your bottom line, when all you need to do is try one thing that is different.
As the Research and Content Director of Who's Mailing What!, I read A LOT of direct mail. Seriously, it's hundreds of pieces each month. I could easily be jaded. But over the past year, I've seen several new twists or approaches that make me sit up and take notice. In the right hands, they can have the same effect on prospects and donors, leading to sales. Here are four ideas you might want to try if you think your direct mail needs a shot in the arm.
1. Make the Journey Personal
Maps are a pretty common element in direct mail. Whether it's an insurance agent looking for leads, or a retail store announcing a grand opening, they're used to show the consumer a location or an end point. But a postcard mailed by Patient First, a chain of urgent care centers, goes one step further. It uses variable data to create a detailed map with a "You are here" start point: the prospect's home. (See the first image in the mediaplayer)
It's a bigger map than you'll see in almost any direct mail package, measuring 2-3/4" x 4-3/4" on a 5-3/4" x 11" surface. Combined with its position above the postal indicia, it really dominates the postcard. When you think of all the kinds of businesses that would love traffic driven to their doors — retail, insurance, financial institutions, automotive, museums and zoos, travel offices, restaurants — the power of the individualized map becomes even more apparent.
2. Call Out Your Competition
Comparing your product or service to someone else's is a standard practice for some marketers. Car insurance companies spar over prices, and credit card providers showcase their benefits versus those offered by others. It's done in a pretty low-key, even genteel way.
Earlier this year, though, two of the nation's biggest telecom operators broke out the big type with identical pitches. "HAS YOUR FiOS BILL GONE UP RECENTLY? Do something about it." screamed Comcast's envelope. "Has your cable bill GONE UP RECENTLY? Do something about it." shouted Verizon's outer. (See the second image in the mediaplayer)
I don't know who was first with this idea. It doesn't matter, really. Knowing your potential customers may be facing a price increase - and naming who is responsible for it - is a terrific way to appeal to anger. Then, you can move on to describe how your product or service is better, and make an offer.
3. Make Your Testimonials Real
Testimonials from satisfied customers are a staple of all marketing. Often, though, they're little more than a vague quote and customer ID. And often they're shunted off to a sidebar, a brochure, or some other insert.
In recent years, LifeLock, an identity security provider, has made testimonials the center of its sales letter. It shows three case studies of "actual victims ... people just like you." Each has a photo of a customer and their particular tale of woe, an "incident" that led them to become a LifeLock member. (See the third image in the mediaplayer)
Using a photo of a real person, an authentic (or authentic-sounding) story, and a specific problem or issue addressed by one or more of the selling points helps bolster a company's claims.
4. Be Iconic
If you look back at direct mail from even just a few years ago, the near-absence of any icons is pretty surprising. In our digital age, these symbols have become powerful ways to communicate, to create a link between a memory and a thing or action that it represents. Calls to action — to visit a URL, call a number, mail to an address, follow on Twitter — are becoming more common. However, marketers have to be careful not to go overboard on how and where they're used.
In a promotion for its Simplicity MasterCard (See the fourth image in the mediaplayer), Citi strikes the right balance by placing a block with its call-to-action — to apply for the card — near the end of the letter. For a busy consumer reading their mail over the recycling basket, it's easily found by scanning down the page. At the same time, it's not so distracting that it takes away from the rest of the letter.
Paul Bobnak is the research and content director at Who's Mailing What!, which houses the most complete, searchable (and fully online) library of direct mail and mail in the world. To learn more about joining, go to www.whosmailingwhat.com. Reach him at email@example.com.