Direct Mail Strategy: Show Them How Much You Care
I have a confession: I am a saver. I save price tags. I save trade publication articles. I save greeting cards. And I save direct mail pieces.
These last two combine quite well, as I have plenty of samples of greeting cards used as direct mail.
Consider using greeting cards as a viable format in your direct mail marketing. A growing number of companies are using greeting cards to build loyalty and increase sales. With the holiday greeting card season just around the corner, now might be a good time to test the idea.
But don’t jump on the bandwagon and start mailing greeting cards to all your customers just because it’s Halloween, Christmas or their birthdays. As with all your direct mail efforts, start by developing a strategy, then test the format and measure the back-end results.
One of my favorite samples is a 4-1⁄2˝ x 6-1⁄4˝ card from Southwest Airlines. The mailing panel of the outer envelope is unremarkable. The return address and address block are in a semi-believable script type. The postage is a preprinted, presort indicia.
The intrigue of this mailing begins on the back flap, where just below the Southwest logo is the teaser, “MY HOW TIME FLIES.”
I’m not big on clever copy for the sake of being clever, but I admit this adroit juxtaposition of copy, the Southwest Airlines logo and the choice of format piqued my curiosity.
Inside is a simple card with the front-panel sentiment, “We can remember when you first walked down the aisle just like it was yesterday.”
Inside the card is an illustration of two flight attendants, a pilot and a couple of ground crew members standing at the end of a plane’s aisle with this message: “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! From Your Friends at Rapid Rewards. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.” My how time flies!
This greeting card succeeds because of the strategic use of customer data—in this case, the date I signed up for the rewards program—combined with the creative execution. It’s appropriate and strategically well done.
Based on what I’ve been receiving in my own mail, the greeting card format is being used by an increasing variety of marketers. This includes retailers, who sell everything from jewelry to sunglasses to tires, as well as financial service providers.
Some are custom creations, while others are stock designs from major card manufacturers. And while the majority of the greeting cards I’ve received have been consumer mailings, B-to-B marketers also can use them.
The “triggers” for sending a greeting card can be anything from a birthday or customer anniversary to a special holiday, “thank you” or unique sales event.
Here are the key elements that work together to make the format compelling and effective:
Objective: Is your goal goodwill and loyalty, or are you trying to generate a sale from the greeting card message? Either way, make sure you can track, measure and analyze the results from your mailing. Otherwise, you won’t know whether or not you’ve met your objective.
Size: The format size (approx. 5-1⁄4˝ x 7-1⁄4˝) is 90 percent of the reason the envelope gets opened. We’ve all been conditioned to look forward to receiving and opening this size envelope since we received our first birthday cards as children.
Postage: Although a “live” postage stamp (presort or otherwise) is the best fit for the highly personal nature of the format, weigh your postage options and the savings they offer. A preprinted indicia doesn’t necessarily have to work against you. When in doubt, test live vs. preprinted postage. You may see little or no difference in response.
Addressing: Depending on how the return address is shown in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope, the type face (serif, sans serif, script, irregular handwriting, etc.) used to address the envelope may or may not be critical. If the goal is to make the envelope look extremely personal, a handwritten font is more appropriate. If the return address includes a company name or logo, you probably won’t sacrifice response using a serif or sans-serif type face. But it’s worth testing. Remember, it’s all about verisimilitude and how the format size, addressing, return address and postage work together to delight your reader.
Coding: If you’re mailing greeting cards, make sure you understand what coding will appear above and below the address. The U.S. Postal Service requires bar coding below the address block. Whether it’s applied by your mailing house or the post office, a bar code will be there. In addition to USPS requirements, there are a variety of marketing reasons why mailers may choose to include a numeric code above the address block. Make sure you know your company’s plans for using this type of coding so you’re not surprised by its appearance. Always review an exact mock-up of how your greeting card mailing will appear as it arrives in your customer’s mailbox. In looking at my samples, I noticed the more personal the mailing appearance (live stamp, postmark, the appearance of handwritten addressing), the less likely a numeric code was used above the address.
Copy & Creative: Because greeting cards are perceived as personal, your copy, design, paper stock and other creative elements should work together to retain this personal quality. Do what is appropriate for your objective, audience, offer and the format.
1. Weigh the pros and cons of using outer envelope teaser copy (Thank you. We’re glad you found us ... Surprise! Happy Birthday. Gift Certificate Enclosed.). Decide whether or not a teaser appears too promotional.
2. If using teaser copy, make a conscious decision regarding its placement (front panel, back flap, corner card).
3. Consider the value of investing in paper stock (texture, color, weight) rather than photography or four-color printing.
4. Does your offer require an insert to be activated and tracked? How can you create an insert that looks appropriate and doesn’t dilute the personal nature of the greeting card?
Used appropriately, the greeting card can be a powerful direct mail format. And no, I’m not saying this just because I live in Kansas City, the greeting card capital of the world!