13 Tips to Get Your Mail Piece Read

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According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct marketing represents the biggest share of business-to-business advertising budgets this year. This is good. But taken to its logical conclusion, this means we have increased competition out there. Not so good.


Then add that BTB direct marketing brings its own set of challenges. Mail is screened by the mailroom. It's even more aggressively screened by secretaries and administrative assistants, people the pieces were never crafted for. And finally, BTB often requires multiple contacts to multiple people before any business gets done (The typical business executive gets 175 mail pieces a week).


Your BTB creative must be smart to get read and responded to. One of the first places you can inject smart thinking is in your formats. What your piece looks like can have a huge effect on whether it reaches your intended recipient and whether that recipient engages with it. Here are 13 smart-format options worth considering:


· Send something unexpected. Some companies send their messages attached to a spring bouquet, tubs of ice cream or even decorated onto a sheet cake. It makes an impact, and has the added value of reaching numerous prospects at once. Check out www.cakesacrossamerica.com for some edible options.


· Mail something unexpected. The idea here is to stand out, which can be done using paper and the U.S. Postal Service. Part of a campaign my agency did for computer storage company EMC involved a mailing in a brown paper lunchbag. Another mailing arrived in an envelope made of packaging material. Still another was a self-mailer that was closed with an adhesive bandage instead of fugitive glue or wafer seals. The campaign generated a 50 percent response rate.


· Raise your postcards to a higher level. If you want your postcard to pass the screening test, make it unusual. Marketing communications company Sullivan Creative sends wooden postcards. Temporary staffing agency Aquent has sent furry ones, with the non-address side covered in brightly colored fake fur. And I received a postcard from production company B. Moss that used a Venetian blind technique. The card showed one picture, but when you pulled a tab, another was revealed.


· Go oversized. Bigger pieces stand out in the mail. And they suggest importance. Try using the slightly larger #12 envelope instead of the standard business-sized #10. Or for real impact, custom design your oversized mailing. My agency recently created a mailing for Puritan Bennett targeting physicians, who receive an abundance of mail. Our envelope measured a foot and a half across and 10 inches down.


· Use a dimensional mailing. They're more expensive, but the object here is to get through. According to production firm Structural Graphics, dimensional mailings average 96 percent awareness ratings, 72 percent message retention ratings and pull up to three times the response of flat mail. They're also more likely to be delivered to the target because no mailroom employee or administrative assistant wants to discover they tossed out something important.


Test mailing a box or tube. Just remember to put something besides paper inside, or you'll disappoint your target. Try including half of something inside. In a mailing targeting high-level supermarket executives, S&H Greenpoints sent a box containing a walkie-talkie. If the exec agreed to meet a sales representative, he or she received the other walkie-talkie. A whopping 35 percent did.


· Send a box with a box. Capitalize on the power of box mailings by sending one addressed to your target, attached to another addressed to your target's administrative assistant. The first contains your sales message, the second contains a small gift for the assistant as thanks for delivering it.


· Include an involvement device. Try having a "yes, no, maybe" sticker show through your outer envelope. Or include a scratch-off. Though not right for every BTB target (C-level springs to mind), these involvement devices have proven to lift response.


· Look like you mean business. You can't deny that FedEx, Priority Mail and even Western Union all suggest important, time-sensitive communications worthy of your attention. Test them to see whether the added lift they provide pays for the extra expense. My agency used both Priority Mail and Western Union in a successful campaign for NeuLevel launching the .biz domain. Remember, you don't have to send everything next day. Two-day delivery is less expensive and still buys the impact of the format.


· Look like you mean business for less. Even less expensive than the above courier mailings are padded jiffy bags, kraft envelopes and 9-by-12-inch envelopes, all generally associated with business mailings. Definitely formats worth testing as you try to get through to your target.


· Make your cornercard work for you. People pay attention to the return address. So when you send a mailing, think about whose name and title should be in your cornercard. Dreyfuss Hunt, a publisher of employee health newsletters that targeted small to midsized companies, used the fact that its publisher also was a medical doctor. The acquisition control package had Arnon I. Dreyfuss, M.D. in the cornercard. This approach would work for an attorney or CPA.


Such mailings are less likely to be tossed by the mailroom or screened by the assistant. Consider sending your mailing from an important executive or department in your company or having a celebrity spokesperson sign your letters and lend his or her name to your cornercard.


· Skip the name and title. Sometimes no name and title can work to get your piece opened. Industry trade magazine Advertising Age mails its subscription control with only its street address, city, state and ZIP code in the cornercard. Since recipients can't be sure who the piece is from, they may not risk throwing it out without opening it.


· Make a business mailing appear personal. A personal-looking mailing in a business environment can stand out. Addressing in a font resembling handwriting or marking a piece "personal and confidential" will achieve this effect (Only use the personal and confidential line if the contents justify it). Another technique to test is to "type" the sender's name under the company logo and return address in the cornercard. This personalization has lifted opening rates in tests.


· Use an unusual envelope. Envelopes that stand out often are opened first, and this applies in BTB, too. An outer envelope with two windows, an envelope with a side-zip opening or an envelope with a rubber stamp or seal on it will make your mailing different from the rest. So, too, will envelopes made of translucent, textured or heavier stocks.


Your test results, along with your timing, budget and the competitive arena will lead you to your best BTB format options. Remember, with all the competition out there, you need to think about the format your mailing will use, because it will have an impact on recipients that could determine whether they even see the message inside.


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