Mail Design & Marketing
Marketing by Direct Mail
How Effective Is Direct Mail?
Research shows direct mail to be a cost-effective means of promoting a business and generating revenue. Direct mail strikes a balance between effectiveness and cost—it is significantly less expensive than methods such as direct-response television ads and telephone solicitation, while it generates more responses than e-mail, magazine, newspaper, and radio ads. It is also more effective than e-mail, newspaper, and radio ads when it comes to generating traffic at a business establishment or even a website.
Direct mail can be thought of as an alternative communication tool, but for real increases in effectiveness, direct mail should coordinate with and enhance your existing marketing strategies. Direct mail can point a recipient to your website, or it can introduce or reinforce a message the contact might see on your website or in an e-mail. Using a multi-channel approach increases the effectiveness of all your messages or marketing efforts.
What direct mail does best is offer a lot of return on your investment. It may be more expensive than e-mail, but when used efficiently, and especially when integrated with other communication strategies, it can bring a good return on your investment.If you're going to employ mailing services effectively, you need to make sure you're getting the maximum impact for a minimal cost. That means making sure your mailing goes to a specifically targeted audience and getting any available discounts to reduce your postage costs. It means finding a partner who can help produce and send your mailing, and it means learning what questions to ask your partner to make sure your relationship starts on the right foot.
The communications world is always evolving and new strategies are constantly being developed, and through all these changes direct mail has remained an important communications tool. Direct mail offers a better cost per response ratio than other forms of advertising and communication, and it can be a powerful way to help you enhance your brand. If you are considering integrating direct mail into your communications strategy, here are some of the questions you should consider in designing your mailing and finding the right mailing services partner. Answering these questions will give you the information you need to easily obtain an estimate of what you will pay for the mailing services you want.
What Can I Send Through Direct Mail?
While direct mail is an efficient advertising tool, it can serve purposes beyond that. Among other options, your business could employ direct mail to do the following:
- Send out a newsletter informing your customers, members, or constituents about your activities;
- Keep your members informed when new members join your organization;
- Mail invoices to large groups.
- Send bulletins or notices about changes at your organization, such as rate changes. A business’s first job is to decide what it wants to communicate. Maybe it’s the announcement of a new product or service, or news of a special promotional offer, or a calendar of upcoming events. It could be as brief as an image with a few sentences attached, or it could be a multi-page full color brochure with plenty of text.
Once you’ve decided on your message, you then need to select the right format for your mailing. Direct mail can take different forms:
- Postcards that can quickly deliver a concise amount of information;
- Envelopes containing letters, brochures, return envelopes, or any other content you feel is appropriate;
- Folded brochures in a variety of sizes with the recipient’s address printed directly on the brochure (“self-mailers”);
- Posters or other materials sent in tube mailers;
- Or whatever form fits your needs!
Your decision should be based on your strategy. A postcard (an option that can save you money) is good for making a quick impact and can be used to refer your contacts to places where they can get more information, like websites or business locations. Envelopes can contain a whole packet of information, with individual letters and brochures summarizing your message, addressing your contact in a personal, customized way, and offering more detail about the message you wish to communicate. Brochures more commonly known as self-mailers can be used for any number of approaches, from informational brochures to newsletters to calendars of events.
Why Would I Use Direct Mail?
Getting the right information into the hands of the right people is the key to a good communications strategy. Whether you are building your brand identity, attracting new clients, sharing a message with existing clients or members, or announcing new products or services, you want to make sure you provide decision-makers with the concrete information they need. That’s what direct mail can do for you.
What Makes Direct Mail Different?
Direct mail is the only form of business communication that puts your materials directly in the hands of the people you want to see it. By using a targeted mailing list, you can deliver information to the people most likely to put it to use and increase your business. They can hold it, mark it up, or pass it on to anyone else they think should see it. Direct mail has a physical presence no other form of advertising can match, and this contributes to its effectiveness.
No other form of communication offers such direct contact for such a small cost. A brief advertisement on television or radio might be heard by a large number of people, but can you get across all the information you need in a short amount of time? Are the people you want to hear your message all tuning in at the same time to the same station?
Advertising over the internet presents similar challenges. A banner ad on a website may be seen by many people, but can you present enough persuasive information in such a small space to ensure that people click through to your website? Are the decision-makers you want to look at your information seeing the banners? E-mail can be even more problematic—with the threat of viruses and the common use of e-mail filters, there’s a strong possibility that your communication could be blocked and deleted before your target reads any part of it— they might not even read the subject line.
Mail always gets into people’s hands, making them more likely to at least look it over. Your job is to make it stand out, to get your message the attention it deserves. When you communicate your message well and put it directly in the hands of your target audience, you stand a better chance having your message heard and generating positive responses.
What Options Do I Have When Designing My Mailing?
You can tailor your mailing to exactly match your needs, whether you are looking for a very specific visual impact or trying to deliver a concise message within a specific budget. Some of these options include:
- Using black and white or four-color printing, or, if you are inserting multiple items into a single envelope, using a mix of color and black-and-white items;
- Enclosing a letter personalized with the recipient’s name and other variables from your contact database;
- Imaging a bar code on the envelope or self-mailer to allow for more efficient postal sorting and deeper discounts on postage rates;
- Using a postage meter or applying a stamp for a more personal look.
Whatever contents you decide to enclose, a mailing service will be able to help advise, assemble, and send your mailing to conform with the ever-changing postal regulations. From printing letters and envelopes to folding and inserting materials to applying postage, a mailing service can put your materials together in whatever way you choose.
Who Should Receive My Mailing?
To be as effective as possible, your mailing should be targeted to the people most likely to be looking for the information you are providing. The best list to start with is your own customer list. A mailing service can simply take your list and send your mailing to those individuals.
However, you may not have a list of everyone who might be interested in your information. In fact, the lack of a good list of contacts may be one of the things that has been preventing you from moving ahead with direct mailing. A full-line mailing service can help you there, too, as they can procure for you all type of business or consumer lists and tailor those lists to meet your needs. For consumer lists, they can select people in specific geographical areas, within a specific income age and gender ranges, including homeowners or renters with buying habits, putting your information where it can do the most good for your business.
What Kind of Businesses Can Benefit From Direct Mail?
Any business that needs to increase its sales and communicate with existing customers and new customers can find a use for direct mail. That covers just about every business there is! The list below shows some of the ways direct mail has been used and provides a sample of the many purposes for which this tool can be employed:
- Announcements of a performing arts group’s upcoming season for potential subscribers or for people planning to attend individual events;
- Announcements of sales;
- Offers of new products or services;
- Newsletters detailing a not-for-profit organization’s activities;
- Letters announcing a fund-raising campaign and seeking individual donations;
- Businesses-to-business communications, including invoices;
- Postcards directing contacts to a website or store location;
- Newsletters keeping customers informed of issues in a company’s particular area of work, such as health news from a doctor’s office.
This is just a small number of ideas, but it shows that just about any business can find a use for direct mail. If you want to give people—whether they’re business contacts, existing customers, or potential customers—tangible information, direct mail is a great way to put that information right in their hands.
When Should I Involve a Mailing Service in Planning My Mailing?
The short answer to this is, as soon as you have any questions! We know the territory and can help you navigate it as smoothly as possible. From helping you think through your design options to working with you to determine your final postage rate, a mailing service can help make sure your mailing works for you and brings you the results you want.
What Kind of Post Office Services and Discounts Are Available?
One of the keys to getting the most out of any direct mailing is making sure you take advantage of the discounts and other efficiencies that are available. The United States Post Office is doing all it can to encourage automated mailings and gives substantial postage discounts to mail conforming to those regulations and specifications. This can save a business a considerable amount of money, but only if the mail meets the USPS’ very specific requirements. Experienced direct mail services know these requirements and have the right equipment to image and sort mail to obtain available discounts.
A direct mail service also knows the different class categories for mailings and can take advantage of the one that best fits your needs, desired costs, and time frame. The options include:
- First-Class Mail: The most common postage class. Using pre-sorted first-class mail can save you up to 7 cents for the first ounce off the normal retail postage rate. Depending on the level of automation used and the weight of a letter, these savings can go up significantly, all the way to more than 15 cents per letter less than retail postage rates.
- Standard Mail: Standard mail offers deeper discounts to customers sending more than 200 pieces of a single mailing. Unlike first-class mail that has a price increase for each ounce, standard mail offers you the same rate for up to three ounces. Standard mail may be slightly slower than first-class mail; the post office does not guarantee delivery times, but first-class mail generally arrives at its destination in one to five days, while standard mail usually takes between three and ten days. The discounts offered by standard mail, however, may offset the slower delivery time. The exact size of the discount depends on the size and weight of the material being sent, the status of the organization sending the mail, and how the mail is prepared for and delivered to the post office.
- General standard mail can cost less than half as much as retail first-class rates for regular letters.
- Not-for-profit organizations can take advantage of standard mail nonprofit, which offers even further discounts beyond normal standard mail rates. Many of the available options can make standard nonprofit postage less than ten cents per letter for regular-sized envelopes.
The exact postage rate a business pays is dependent on a number of variables, such as: How much does the mailing weigh? How much mail is going into a single area or zip code? Is the mail a post card, letter, or a flat? Is a bar code included on the envelope or mailer? Can the mailings be shipped to their destination state (BMC or SCF Entry) before the destination post office receives them?
A mailing service can work with a business to review all these options and deliver a product that makes sense for you
As nonprofit mailing specialists, we know how to save you money ... using sophisticated software to clean/update your mailing list, ZIP+4, carrier route, barcoded/destination entry and other tools to get the absolute lowest rates from the U.S. Postal Service.
And if you’ve ever had a mailing piece rejected by the postmaster, you’ll appreciate our expertise with nonprofit mailing regulations. We’ll review your mailing designs and show them to the USPS for approval to make sure they comply with all postal standards, and sail smoothly through the post office.
This methodical planning and attention to the tiniest detail earns us high marks from our clients -- many of whom are nonprofits. Hall Letter Shop, Inc. understands your special needs and budget limitations.
Do you qualify for Non-Profit status?
An organization must have a primary nonprofit purpose, must not be organized for profit, and none of its net income can accrue to the benefit of any individual or private stockholder.
How to Apply for Non-Profit Mail Status?
Typical types of organizations that qualify:
- Some political committees
Typical organizations that DO NOT qualify:
- Automobile clubs
- Business leagues
- Chambers of commerce
- Citizens' and civic improvement associations
- Mutual insurance associations
- Political organizations
- Service clubs (Civitan, Kiwanis, Lions, Optimist and Rotary)
- Social and hobby clubs
- Rural electric cooperatives and their associations
- Trade associations
Individuals are NOT eligible for nonprofit rates.
How to Apply for Non-Profit Mail Status.
You will find step by step instructions below...
- Get a copy of Form 3624, Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Rates, from your postmaster or local business mail entry unit.
- Fill out from 3624.
- Submit documentation with your application to verify your nonprofit status:
Additional supporting documentation:
- Submit the completed form and supporting documentation to your postmaster or at the business mail entry unit.
- Your application will be reviewed by the Postal Service.
If there are any questions, or if additional supporting documentation is needed, a postal specialist will contact you directly. It usually takes about two to three weeks for your application to be approved.
Non-Profit Mail Restrictions
Once you have been approved to mail at nonprofit rates, you must make a mailing at nonprofit rates at least once during a two-year period at each office where you are authorized, in order to keep your authorization. Otherwise, your authorization could be revoked. You must also renew your permit every year at each of these offices.
Your organization may apply for and receive nonprofit authorization, but not all your mailings may qualify for the nonprofit rate.
For example, if your mailing includes an offer for a product/service from a for-profit company, it is not eligible for Nonprofit Standard (Bulk) Mail rates.
Advertisements for credit, debit or charge cards are never eligible for nonprofit rates.
Nonprofit mailings containing ads for commercial businesses (such as an airline) may not be eligible for nonprofit rates. On the other hand, if an airline is credited as the official sponsor of the organization, the mailing may be eligible for nonprofit rates.
Please contact your Hall Letter Shop, Inc representative at 661-327-3228 for more information.