by Kent Moon, President, The Addressers
It is very important when engaging on a direct mail campaign to have a good idea of all the options available to you, in terms of the types of direct mail you can print and send.
Although there are many different types of direct mail packages, they all fall into five basic categories. In this article we'll talk about each type, what it contains, and the best uses for each type.
The most important type of direct mail package is called a "classic package", which is sent inside an envelope, and includes a letter and a response device such as a business reply card, or an order form and envelope. It often contains other items too, such as a brochure or flier. The classic package is considered the most effective type of direct mail piece, but it is also the most expensive because of having to print the several items included. It is a good idea when designing the package to make mockups of all the various pieces and then weigh them on a postal scale to ensure they weigh less than one ounce, so you can get the lowest postage rate.
The letter is the most important part of the classic package, and is generally the first thing people read when they open your package. The letter is often personalized with the recipient's name and address printed on it.
The most important thing in writing a direct mail letter is to hit your public's buttons, i.e. the things they want that you can satisfy, or the things they dislike that you can solve. To find out these of course, you have to survey your public.
Postcards are the most affordable type of direct mail. If your postcard is at least 3-1/2 x 5” and no bigger than 4-1/4 x 6”, you can get the basic postcard first class postage rate which is 28 cents. But you can design many other sizes of oversized postcards which are cheap to print (although you move up to higher postage) and have excellent impact when arriving in someone’s mailbox. My favorite is 6 x 11” oversized postcards.
A self-mailer is defined as a direct mail piece that mails by itself, without being put inside an envelope. These can be anything from an 8-1/2 X 11 sheet folded down to the size of a standard envelope, to larger size sheets folded down to various sizes, to a brochure, etc. There are many options.
One of the advantages of self-mailers is that they are usually cheap to produce, as they are usually made out of one printed sheet of paper.
Newsletters are a very effective vehicle to sell your products and services. Usually these are used for maintaining current customers and keeping them buying more, although newsletters can also be used effectively for selling to raw public. Newsletters are usually inexpensive to print and mail, although they require a lot of man-hours to put together and regularly maintain.
A newsletter has to contain a mix between news-type or helpful information and sales-oriented information. The news or helpful information is the draw that gets people in and gets them to then read your sales copy. Conventional wisdom is that sales copy should not exceed 40%.
Catalogs are excellent for companies that offer multiple products. This category also includes the circulars that are put out by grocery stores, drug stores, department stores, etc.
Bob Stone, in the book Successful Direct Marketing Methods, states in his "30 Timeless Direct Marketing Principles" that with catalogs you should put your proven winners in the front pages. He also says that a new catalog to a catalog customer list will outpull cold lists (i.e. new lists of people who have not bought anything from you) by 400% to 800%.