Amid tighter budgets and higher postal rates, more direct mailers are pondering whether or not to test the self-mailer format. "I think direct mail budgets (and client requests) have been trending toward smaller, more cost-efficient formats for some time, well over a year," states Steve Penn, CEO and executive creative director of Penn Garritano Direct Response Marketing in Minneapolis.
Yet not all marketers have witnessed a significant move to self-mailers, especially among sectors traditionally unfriendly to the format. "I really question the validity of this trend," comments Russell Kern, founder and CEO of The Kern Organization, a direct marketing company based in Woodland Hills, Calif. "I have not seen large-scale, highly successful direct mailers use a self-mailer. And I've never seen a self-mailer beat a traditional letter kit for any length of time. The [recent] DMA study of mailers also shows the same thing."
However, in some markets, employing the self-mailer makes plenty of sense. Here are some key questions to ask before going forward.
1. Where exactly are self-mailers trending upward?
"Retail and consumer direct mailers have been using postcards and self-mailers to drive retail traffic and online activity for the past several years, but where I've noticed the biggest trend is in lead generation for business-to-business marketers and not just in any particular industry, but really across the board," says Penn, whose company last year downsized a 9˝ x 12˝ control package for a B-to-B client to a 6˝ x 9˝, and this year is testing trifold self-mailers.
Although new postal regulations concerning flats have made it difficult for magalog and tabloid mailings, they remain the standard format in some markets, says Bob Bly, a copywriter based in Dumont, N.J. and author of "The Copywriter's Handbook." "For financial newsletters, magalogs are the most popular DM format. For business opportunity, digests are working. For nutritional supplements, tabloids have worked well. For B-to-B lead generation, postcards have become very popular—much more so than trifold self-mailers with tear-off BRCs," he explains.