How We Design Direct Mailers

Creative packaging is just the beginning.

Direct mail campaigns can be a powerful promotional tool – but only if you abandon the ordinary. “If you just put a letter together in an envelope, that’s not going to do well,” says Seth Weiner, president of Sonic Promos (asi/329865). “Direct mailers work, but you have to have something substantial to go with it. The product has to fit the message, and follow-up is key.”

Read Weiner’s tips to create direct mailers that are more inviting and motivating.

Q: How do you figure out which clients to pitch direct mailers to?
A: If your message is good and your hook is correct then anybody could be a good client for a direct mail campaign. Usually, we’re going to ask people what their end goal is before we pitch.

Q: What does every good direct mail program have?
A: It should have multiple parts – our clients want to hit people at least three times. Automotive mailers tend to be themed. We did one direct mail campaign that was themed with multiple mailings around the five senses and that worked well. We also do mailers to commemorate a specific day.

Q: How do you make the design of a mailer attractive?
A: For some clients, we’ll do all-over printed boxes that can be one-color or full-color. If clients aren’t able to spend the kind of money they want on a custom box, we’ll do a colored box or a plain white craft-style box and we’ll get a full-color label that’s maybe an inch smaller than the overall surface of the top of the box. We’ll put the tracking info on the bottom of the box. The first thing a recipient will see is the branded decal, so you’ll still get the wow factor.

Q: Do your direct mail pieces always include calls to action?
A: They always do – otherwise you have no way of tracking if you’re getting a good response. You can actually have dedicated 1-800 numbers that people can call. If you want to offer an incentive, really good ones are those where you get people to log into a website. We did a direct mailer, got people to log in and they answered some questions to get five free music downloads.

Q: What’s a respectable response rate for a direct mail campaign?
A: Most people will tell you the average response rate is 2%, but when you add something tangible it goes up exponentially. On average we see 10%-15%. We’ve done some unique direct marketing pieces for clients which cost a lot of money, but the accounts that they can land will more than pay for the mailer ten times over. If you say we did a mailer and we got a 1% response, but it resulted in $150,000 in business on a $40,000 investment, you’re going to take that.

Q: What’s the best direct mail campaign you’ve done?
A: Our most successful was probably the one with the five senses. The collateral was really good and it was one of my favorite campaigns. We did another one for May 4th last year that was Star Wars themed and the slogan was: May the fourth be with you. We used flashlights with a laser pointer, so it was like having a lightsaber in your hand.

Q: What’s your advice for using prospect lists for mailers?
A: I’d call through the list to build an actual viable list of people I want to send something to. The other thing I’d strongly suggest is to taper when you’re sending those pieces. The key element is in the follow-up. If you send out a mass mailing and if 50 people call you with quote requests and you can’t fulfil them, you’re going to lose the opportunity for sales.

Q: What types of promo products work best to complement a mailer?
A: Tech is very popular now. I love mobile chargers. I really like housewares, too, because people make decisions in the kitchen. If you want something flat that’ll stick around, then jar grippers are good – they have a large imprint area. My mother-in-law has at least eight of them in her drawer.