There’s nothing worse than creating a direct mail campaign, only to have the piece of direct mail go straight into the trash. It means that the campaign was a waste of your time and marketing dollars – because unopened mailers mean no chance of gaining a new customer.  This is more common than not: According to Target Marketing Magazine, 1 in 3 direct mailers end up in circular files without ever being read.

The first goal with a direct mailer must be for the consumer to open the envelope and read the contents. This means you have 8 seconds to catch the customer’s attention, the typical time it takes to glance at a piece of mail. 

Here are top tips to keep your mailer out of the garbage and to increase the effectiveness of a direct mail marketing campaign:

01. Use narrow targeting

If you send a postcard advertising a new daycare facility to a family with teenagers, the consumer has no need for the services and will most likely throw away the mailer. Instead of simply targeting families with children, focus your direct marketing on families with children under 5 years old and parents who work outside the home. Another effective target customer audience would be pregnant mothers.

It’s also important to consider where the consumer lives, in relation to the type of service you’re selling: Although a 15-minute drive is a reasonable distance to drive for a hospital, most people wouldn’t seek out a bank at that distance. They’d prefer one located close to their home or work. Because of this, a 15-mile radius would be appropriate for a medical provider, but a 5-mile radius would be a more effective target for a bank.

02. Use a clean mailing list

Purchased lists often have out-of-date addresses or incomplete information. Because 17 percent of Americans change addresses each year, lists quickly become filled with errors. When a mailer arrives for a previous owner or tenant, it’s likely not to be targeted to the current resident, and turns into a potential piece of junk mail. Similarly, if you combine two mailing lists, you may end up with duplicate addresses, which means at least one mailer is ending up in the trash. Before sending mailers, take the extra (low-cost) step of cleaning the list to reduce incorrect or duplicate addresses.  Use the resources suggested by the USPS to keep your mailing list clean. 

03. Use a postcard mailer

 In addition to be being less expensive to mail, postcards often catch customer attention easier. The DMA 2017 Response Report found postcards had a higher response rate than letter-sized envelopes: The consumer doesn’t have to take the extra step of opening the envelope to see your message. However, many companies try to put too much information, especially text, on postcards. This dilutes the main message. Think about your main message and communicate it clearly so someone glancing through a stack of mail knows your biggest selling point. For example, if your insurance agency’s differentiator is personal service, focus on communicating that message in a quick, high-quality way that is meaningful to your target audience. 

04. Use eye-catching graphics on the envelope or postcard

Because the brain notices and processes visuals more quickly than text, design the envelope or mail to visually catch the consumer’s attention. When selecting visuals, consider full color, and think about the target audience and what matters to them. Pictures of the outside of a bank don’t evoke the same emotional response as pictures of the affects of saving for retirement or college, such as a couple on the beach, or a young adult in a cap and gown.

05. Show value

Potential customers are less likely to throw away a valuable coupon or discount. But if the offer is only inside a sealed envelope, potential customers may toss it without realizing what they are throwing away. If you are using an envelope, “tease” the offer on the outside using a few words. Be very specific, such as “$100 off” or “no fees for 6 months.” Also mention any other enticing terms, such as free trial, money-back guarantee or free-consultation. Key words trigger consumers to pay attention and sort the mailer into their “keep pile.”

06. Make your envelope stand out

Most envelopes are white and one of two sizes. Consider using a different size envelope, such a larger or square shape. However, be sure to find out and factor in any additional mailing costs before heading in this direction. The 2017 DMA Response Report found that oversized (or flat) envelopes had higher response rates compared to postcards and letter-sized envelopes. Another option is a colorful envelope that stands out. If your envelope offers something valuable inside, such as a coupon, think about using an envelope with a cutout to show the value inside. Whereas some companies include something in the shape of a credit card to bait the consumer into thinking there’s a credit card inside, this strategy can backfire and cause resentment after the consumer realizes they were tricked.

07. Think about your return address

You only have so much real estate to use on an envelope to draw in the consumer. But every mailer must have a return mailing address. Think about how you can turn the return address from wasted space into real estate that entices the consumer to open your mail. Instead of just putting the address, be sure (at the very least) to put the name of the company. You can also personalize the message even more by adding a specific name or other information that gives the consumer a reason to open it. Instead of Family Physicians, write “Dr. Joe, your future doctor”. However, be sure to follow all U.S. Postal Service regulations for return addresses with direct mail. Otherwise, your mailer will end up in the trash from the start.

It’s easy to only focus on the content of your mailer. But it doesn’t matter if your mailer has the most creative messaging or the most generous discount, if it never gets opened. By taking the time to focus on your mailer making the first cut, you will improve the return on your marketing and, hopefully, gain a new customer.

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