Direct Mail Strategy: What’s in Your Wallet?
What do you carry in your wallet? If it’s like mine, it’s filled with discount devices—gift cards, savings certificates, coupons, and other ink-on-paper reminders of money-saving offers you have good intentions of using.
If you’re a direct marketer who sends these incentives to customers and prospects by direct mail, your challenge is three-fold.
First, you’ve got to get your mailing opened and read. Next, you’ve got to communicate your offer in such a way that it’s retained and used. And finally, your discount device has got to be as durable as it is memorable, so it doesn’t disintegrate or get lost in the growing stack of stuff that’s filling your customer’s or prospect’s wallet.
Assuming your discount offer is based on a sound marketing strategy, the key elements of an effective discount device include 1) the name you give it, 2) the manner in which you promote it, and (3) its physical qualities such as size, shape and fabrication.
As with any component in a direct mail piece, the name you give your discount device establishes its importance and value in the eyes of the recipient. Is it a savings certificate, gift card, reward card, coupon, special offer card, or premium savings certificate? Which has the greatest perceived value? The answer depends, in part, on your target audience and the savings percentage or dollar amount you offer.
A $500 gift card (good on purchases of $2,000 or more) from a furniture store I’ve never frequented may or may not be as valuable to me as the $10 savings certificate (good on any purchase) that I received from my favorite store, Chico’s, tucked inside a birthday card. In most cases, a certificate or gift card generally has a higher perceived value than a coupon that’s commonly associated with supermarket packaged goods. For B-to-B offers, it may be more appropriate to send a savings voucher or credit voucher.
Takeaway Tip: Put some thought into what you name your discount device. Then, consistently refer to it as such in your copy and on the actual device to build perceived value.
The obvious place to start promoting your gift card, savings certificate or money-saving coupon normally hidden inside your mail piece is on the outside, in the teaser. Promote it on both outside panels, since you can’t control which panel will be viewed first. Remember, in less than three seconds, your targeted reader will decide whether or not to keep or trash your mailpiece. And ordinarily, this decision is made without opening it.
Bassett’s front panel teaser announces, “Special Savings with Enclosed $500 Gift Card” on the non-addressing outside panel. This is a strong benefit statement. However, the gift card isn’t mentioned on the other outside panel. Oops! Also keep in mind that if your mailing has multiple components or pages, you need to promote your gift card throughout. You never know which piece or page will be seen first.
The design of your mail piece provides yet another promotinal opportunity. Instead of merely surrounding a rectangular coupon with a dotted line, Gap’s Holiday Gift Guide includes a detachable 15 percent gift tag, and uses the same design elements and colors featured throughout the 24-page guide. Bassett’s $500 gift card features the same four-color sofa image you see under the card after detaching it from the mailer. By layering the image, you create a pop-out effect.
Takeaway Tip: Make your discount device the visual hero of your mailing, instead of a utilitarian afterthought.
Make it Memorable
What’s your ultimate sales objective? Do you want to generate an in-store, phone or Web site purchase? While the samples I reviewed for this column were all delivered by mail, none of them were redeemable by mail. They either were redeemable in-store only or in some combination of in-store, by phone and/or online.
Why is this important?
It means your discount device has to be both memorable and durable since it’s not going to be used immediately. That doesn’t mean it has be expensive four-color printing on plastic, like the Bassett gift card, or die-cut cardstock, like the piece from Gap. But it does need to stand up to some wear-and-tear, and stand out in the stash that’s in your customer’s wallet.
Chico’s $10 savings certificate is a budget-conscious alternative. Measuring 2˝ x 5½˝, it was designed to be printed then trimmed as part of the birthday card into which it’s inserted. The unique size, color and heavy paper stock make it memorable, durable and easy to tuck inside a wallet without adding additional costs to the mail piece.
Takeaway Tip: Don’t confuse expensive with effective creative.
Think it Through
Strategically speaking, one of the most perplexing samples I came across is from Eastbay catalog, “The Athletic SportSource.” It’s been more than six years since I ordered from Eastbay, and then it was always by mail or phone. So, it intrigues me that as an inactive “Preferred Customer,” I received an unimportant-looking trifold mailer offering me a choice of the following if I ordered online: (1) free shipping with a $75 order, (2) $15 off a $99 order (3) $50 off a $200 order, or (4) 20 percent-off gift card with a $50-plus order.
I wonder why Eastbay believes it can reactivate me to order online by giving me four offers that apply to fairly hefty-size orders. Not only have I never made an online purchase from this catalog, but four offers are too many choices. Strategically, this one doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m open to an explanation.
Takeaway Tip: Start by defining your objectives. Then make sure your offers/discount devices are a realistic fit for reaching those objectives.