Kern says, "For direct sale, drive to the phone, I'm not a fan of [self-mailers]. I'm just an opinion of one, but having the responsibility to mail over 500 million pieces of mail and seeing hundreds of tests a year, I can't say I've seen self-mailers be a workhorse for any of my clients. Maybe it's because we have such scale [that] we can produce a letter kit cheaper than a self-mailer."
In fundraising, for example, one would expect to see a rise in self-mailer usage because of postal costs hitting that sector so hard. Accordingly, Save the Children sent out a successful triple postcard back in November 2007 (profiled in the February issue of Inside Direct Mail). But no shift has occurred in the sector, yet, with the percentage of efforts that are self-mailers actually sinking to its lowest level in the past five years in the Who's Mailing What! Archive to 4.1 percent this year.
4. What are the best ways to maximize this format?
Just as there are many new players in the self-mailer game, there are equally many new ways to play it. "Where self-mailers can seem to work with our clients (notably telecom[munications] and finance) is with retail-like offers, where the message is simple ('do this before X date' or 'go to this URL for a special offer') and the format underscores it," says Harhut.
For the B-to-B market, Bly agrees, partly because he says marketers are convinced that executives have no time to read. "Their self-mailers have minimal copy—typically a headline, three to five bullets and a Web site URL—with an emphasis on creative color graphics," he describes.
That design emphasis is key, of course, for self-mailer success. "It must have an arresting mail panel, a cover that makes you want to open it, then a clear presentation of the offer, which crescendos into the call to action. All easier said then done!" admits Kern.