Beat the Clock
What is your competition in the mailbox? Personal letters? Bills? Other direct mail advertising? Whatever the answer, you need to make your mailing stand out from the rest—leveraging your chances of getting your mail pieces opened and read. Here are some strategies on how to do it.
Do Your Homework
You've got to know what you're up against, so you must do your homework.
• What is your targeted audience? Don't commit to a format or creative without knowing as much as possible about your targeted audience.
• In which country are you mailing? If you're mailing outside the United States, your targeted recipients probably receive much less mail than U.S. consumers which, theoretically, makes your job easier. Try to get samples of the type and quantity of mail your targeted audience receives to help you develop your stand-out mailing. The more mail people receive, the less time they are likely to spend with any one piece.
• How often is their mail screened? Remember, mail gets screened at home as well as at work, and the screener is normally female.
• What type of mail do these individuals receive? Is it mostly #10 white envelopes? Catalogs? Or, do they receive a mix of postcards, self-mailers and envelopes of all sizes? It was a true education for me to see the huge stacks of mail—boxes, letters, self-mailers, you name it—my college roommate-now-surgeon receives at home. What about your targeted audience?
• If you don't know what type or how much mail your targeted audience receives, you need to talk to a sampling of these folks. Ask if you can see what they get in the mail. Ask how many times their mail is screened before it's given to them. Talk to the mail screeners and find out what influences their decisions. Then use this information to help create mailings that stand out from the rest.
The Three-Minute and 33-Second Rule
Assuming your mail piece reaches the right individual, that doesn't automatically mean it gets opened and read. Keep in mind the "Three Minute and 33 Second Rule:"
The average person spends three seconds or less deciding whether to keep or toss a non-catalog mailing (solo, self-mailer, postcard, etc.), 30 seconds or less deciding whether or not to open and look at its contents, and three minutes or less reading it.
If your solo mailing includes a brochure, four-page letter, two or three inserts, a lift letter and an order form, it's very unlikely every component will get read.
Tips & Techniques
Here are some tricks, tips and techniques worth testing to make your mailings stand out in even the most crowded mailbox.
• If you're doing a solo mailing inserted in an outer envelope, vary the size, color or paper stock of the outer envelope. Tests show that simply changing the color of the envelope can significantly increase response. Going from a #10 envelope to a 6˝ x 9˝ or 9˝ x 12˝ can also increase response.
• If your audience mainly receives flat formats (envelopes, self-mailers, postcards, catalogs), test mailing a box or tube. If the additional expense seems prohibitive, test the new format by mailing it to your most valuable customers or hottest prospects. If it's successful with these segments, continue testing deeper into your list with each test.
• Teaser copy with or without graphics can be powerful. Teasers are also easy and inexpensive to test.
• Start selling on the outside of your package. Sell a product or promote your offer on one or both sides of the carrier.
• Make you mailing odd-sized or over-sized. You may have to pay additional postage, but it could be the best investment you make all year.
• Test postage, especially live postage stamps. Many mailers don't realize there are design choices for even discounted presort and non-profit stamps.
• If your mailing is designed to look extremely personal and confidential, use more than one stamp so it appears that someone cleaned out a desk drawer to mail the letter.
• When you're mailing postcards or self-mailers, make the most of the format by carefully selecting size, color and paper stock to meet your objectives of getting past the screener and read by the right individual.
• Add intrigue and involvement. Include a coin (foreign or U.S.) glue-tipped to the top of your letter so the coin can be felt through the envelope. Or, include an audio cassette, product sample or some other intriguing element that entices people to open the envelope. This past election year I saw a political mailing in a clear plastic envelope with a dollar bill visibly paper clipped to the letter. The envelope was sealed with a formidable, official-looking, bright orange seal with WARNING copy regarding tampering with delivery. How many of these envelopes do you think didn't get opened?
• Other ideas include using a brown paper bag as the outer envelope, sending a postcard with a bite taken out of it, or using a die-cut of the product to gain immediate attention and create reader involvement.
As you can probably tell, some of these ideas may increase the cost of your mail piece. When the idea is strategically sound, however, the added cost becomes a good investment that more than pays for itself with increased response and back-end sales.