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Take Your Direct Mail Back to School

Written by Leslie Nienaber Content Manager

Summer is coming to an end, lunchboxes are back on display, and supermarkets across America are suddenly flooded with frustrated-looking parents trying to find the exact three-ring binders requested for a school supplies list. Regardless of when you last did school shopping for yourself, August tends to feel like a time for new beginnings – a chance to organize our pencils, adjust our backpack straps, and have a fresh start. It’s also a great time to rethink your direct mail marketing campaigns – here’s how:

Do Some Data Homework

Just like doing homework can be a great way to prepare for a big test, clean data is one of the best ways to prepare for a revamped direct mail campaign. Businesses collect data on customers every day, and through multiple channels. In one way, this is great – there are more and more opportunities to learn as much as possible about customers, and that data can be used to give them more of what they want. On the other hand, these influxes of data can easily become just as bad (if not worse) as five towers of paper collecting dust on a desk. It becomes hard to keep the data organized, and formatting issues and duplicates are more likely to occur.

Before jumping into planning a new direct mail piece, dedicate time to ensuring your data is clean and accurate by using a data-cleaning service. A good data-cleaning service should include deduplication, address and field standardization, and cross-checking with the NCOA (National Change of Address). By doing so, you open up opportunities to properly target the right customers, as well as gain the peace of mind of knowing that any variable printing efforts are free of inaccuracies. You also will save money on print and postage by cutting down on the amount of returned mail you receive.

Lastly, look into how to better segment that shiny, clean list. One way to do this is through RFM segmentation, which uses your customers’ sales transactions and demographics to determine which ones will likely be the most valuable customers in the future. It’s done by looking at the recency, frequency and monetary values of each contact – three very important variables that are often sitting in your database, but perhaps not being used to their full extent.

Remember the Excitement of the 64 Pack of Crayons?

As kids, we’re rarely inhibited by our own ability to translate thoughts into perfect design. Most of us loved digging into a big box of crayons and laying our best thoughts down on a piece of paper. When thinking about the layout and design of your next direct mail piece, call up the kid inside. Color and fun copy usually get good results. And, if you a need a little help polishing it up, just let us know. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Try adding some color, whether it’s through text or imagery, to either the front, back, or even the back flap of your envelope. Since it’s hard to determine which side of a letter will be seen first, an envelope needs to be colorful, inviting and engaging on both sides. If you’re happy with your envelope design already, consider adding some color to the contents themselves, specifically in a way that can show through window envelopes.

If your mail piece includes a reply envelope, consider adding new design elements to that as well. This is especially effective for nonprofit organizations – it can really reinforce the company’s mission, as well as appeal to the prospective donor on an emotional level.

While the notion of adding more color, or switching up an envelope design, may seem simple, it’s not surprising that companies often hesitate to do it – it may require pulling in a graphic designer, or working with your marketing team, and it certainly will have the potential of delaying a mailing without proper planning. With that being said, the benefits are still incredibly worth it, and it’s something that can still be done in baby steps. You may want to start with an A/B test of sorts, where half of your recipients are sent the newly-designed mail piece, and monitor response rates before you decide to fully revamp. Depending on when you plan to execute your new mail piece, you may even be able to take advantage of USPS discounts for 2017. The Color Transpromo discount for First-Class mail, for example, ends December 31st.

Review Your Cheat Sheet

Don’t sit there acting all innocent – we know you’ve at least used a cheat sheet once in your life! This time, however, there’s no need to hide it. Put together a list of tips, or areas that you usually run into trouble with, when it comes to your print and direct mail projects. This may also be a great opportunity to have a discussion with your print vendor about how you can improve your project submissions, whether it’s through adjusting specs in your artwork files or taking a second look at crop marks and bleeds. Place your cheat sheet somewhere you’ll notice it, and adjust it accordingly. This is also a great resource to use for training others.

Need some help getting started? These five tips are a great place to start.

Bust Out the IT Textbook

If you haven’t heard about USPS Informed Delivery™ yet, you may want to read up. The mail preview service, which arrives as a digital digest every morning, is destined to change the way people view and interact with their mail.

The new ability to digitally preview direct mail brings with it the need for companies to rethink their direct mail designs. Instead of having one touch, Informed Delivery subscribers will now be interacting with a mail piece at least two times. This means that design elements are more important than ever, and it should serve as a great motivator for businesses to think hard about how they can improve an envelope or postcard design to really draw a customer in.

Mail previews are currently only provided in greyscale, but that doesn’t mean that color isn’t important. Businesses have the option of uploading their own colorful, interactive banners to appear below a greyscale preview of their mail piece as part of a Ridealong campaign. This is the perfect opportunity for companies to get creative, and to rethink how their mail pieces and online presence can best complement each other. It’s also a wonderful way to gain previously unattainable metrics for how engaging your direct mail is.

If you are ready to take your direct mail back to school, you need to start with a good counselor. Let’s brainstorm some new ways to turn your old design into one that deserves an A+, all while saving you money along the way. 

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