The Self-mailer Challenge
One piece of paper, a thousand ways to get it wrong.
By Gayl Curtiss and Paul Ford
How can something that feels so easy be so complex? Depending on your timelines, production limitations and sales strategy, the suggestion of using a "simple" self-mailer for a campaign could be a mirage that drags you into quite a few production, timing and strategy problems.
The situation typically starts with a job that requires great response on a fast turn. Someone invariably suggests the self-mailer, because it's "just one piece of paper." The creative, printing, bindery and lettershop processes should take at least half the time of a conventional package. What can go wrong?
A good self-mailer is more difficult to create than many think. Why? It has to be the letter, reply, brochure, outer envelope and lift note—all in one. You'll note we said "good," because many self-mailers are not given the creative consideration needed to produce the best results.
When to Use This Format
Carolyn Hansen, creative director of The Hacker Group (THG), points out that self-mailers generally deliver a lower response rate than a traditional package that makes the same offer.
Having said that, Hansen explains that there are a few situations in which a self-mailer could be appropriate:
• Your offer has quick visual appeal.
• Your offer leaps off the page, and your call to action is easy—a simple phone call or Web address.
• Your message is easy to understand. For instance, if you want your prospect to "hold the date" for an event, a postcard or other self-mailer will do.
• Your mailing doesn't need to make a sale. A self-mailer can be the right choice if you're driving traffic to a retail location where a sales associate can close the deal.