What You Need to Know Before Your Next Direct Mail Campaign
With the variety of digital communication channels available to marketers today, you might be wondering if direct mail is worth the cost and effort. I believe it is, provided you approach it with a clear strategy for engaging customers and getting a response. This blog is the first in a three part series to help you create a dynamic direct mail campaign. We will cover design and copywriting tips later, but I’m beginning this series with postage and mailing requirements. I have learned from experience that you must start a direct mail campaign with a clear understanding of postal service regulations in order to avoid unpleasant surprises later in the process.
Postage and Mailing
A direct mail campaign is going to be an investment, and in many cases postage and mailing services will be the most expensive part. The U.S. Postal Service is currently offering two discount programs that may help you reduce costs on your campaign. Depending on your needs and goals, the Every Door Direct Mail® program or the 2012 USPS Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion could help you save on postage. Following is a quick synopsis of both programs, but I highly recommend working with a qualified mail professional to make sure your promotion, packaging, and design fit within the Postal Service’s requirements.
Every Door Direct Mail
With Every Door Direct Mail®, you identify the neighborhood you want to target, and the mail carrier for that neighborhood delivers a printed piece to every home and business on his or her route. Since you do not need to know the names and addresses of the recipients, you don’t need to purchase a list or pay a mail house to address and sort your materials. However, this program is best for small campaigns since you can deliver only 5,000 pieces per day, and mail pieces must be delivered to the designated Post Office for the neighborhood you want to target.
2012 USPS Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion
The mobile commerce discount is a short-term promotion, so you will need to act quickly if you want to take advantage of this one. By adding a 2-D barcode that can be scanned by a mobile device (such as a QR code) to the outside of your direct mail piece, you can save two percent on postage during July and August. The code must take users to a mobile optimized webpage that allows them to make a purchase. The other option is to have the code direct a user to a mobile optimized site that is individualized and uniquely tailored to each mail recipient.
If your campaign does not qualify for one of these promotions, you will most likely be using a bulk mailing process or first class mail to distribute your marketing materials. Again, it is a good idea to work with a knowledgeable mail professional from the beginning to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Within the last six years, the Postal Service has greatly reduced restrictions on what you can mail. They now allow sizes, unusual shapes, and colored envelopes that were prohibited in the past. Take advantage of the opportunity and create something that really stands out, but be aware that there may be additional costs.
The Postal Services uses an Intelligent Mail Barcode or a POSTNET barcode to sort and track letters and flats. These barcodes provide logistical information such as where the mail piece is going and forwarding information if that service has been requested. The barcode will be printed on the address panel, and you will need to leave an open space for the barcode that is 4 inches wide and ½-inch high.
The barcode must be printed on an area of uniform color that is light enough for a strong contrast between the black barcode and the background. The postal service determines if your package meets their color requirements by measuring the background reflectance and print reflectance difference. It is fairly difficult for an average person to determine the reflectance, so it is usually best to use a very light background color in your barcode area. If you want to know more about the technical aspects, you can download a pdf of the requirements here.
If your direct mail piece does not meet the requirements for printing a barcode directly on the piece, your bulk mail service provider will print the barcode on white tape and attach it to the mailer. This will be an added expense, and it detracts from the design of your piece. Plan ahead to incorporate the bar code for best results.
Clear, colored, and fully designed and printed envelopes will increase open rates and the success of your direct mail campaign, but there are additional cost factors to take into consideration. Some mailings will need to be hand stuffed due to items that are included in the mailing or the type of envelope you choose. A couple examples are transparent plastic envelopes and invitations that include a reply card with separate envelope. Most mail service providers will add an additional charge for hand stuffing.
If your mail piece is unenveloped and folded, you will want to think about how the piece will be sealed. Tabs or wafer seals are frequently used, but you can also opt to have the edge glued or spot glued. Postal Service requirements for tabbing are based on paper weight and the location of the folded or bound edge. You will need to know how many tabs your piece requires and where they will be placed to ensure that no important information is covered.
With the Postal Service’s mailing requirements in mind and a solid understanding of mail service fees, you have the information necessary to design an eye-catching direct mail campaign that fits your budget and your brand.