Column: We're Already Mainstream

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As countless catalogers, continuity clubs, publishers and Internet marketers have realized, insert media is a logical, necessary component of any multichannel marketing campaign. With rising postal and paper costs, more mailers than ever are entering the marketplace.

By allowing image-compatible, noncompetitive inserts to ride inside their outbound packages, catalogs, continuity club offerings and statements, list owners benefit from the sizable incremental revenue that insert media programs provide.

Program owners have control over each advertiser that would be in their packages, catalogs and statements. And outside inserts can enhance the value of their packages, increase exchange opportunities and offset postage and printing costs. For package insert programs in particular, pieces may be hand inserted or collated into a custom-designed envelope.

One new form of insert media is Web inserts, whereby ads may be sold on clients' "thank you" or "confirmation" page, providing revenue and creating a value-added relationship with their customers.

For mailers, insert programs offer a cost-effective way to reach true hotline buyers, virtually at the point of purchase. Though response rates are lower than with solo direct mail, riding with a company's outbound packages, catalogs or statements represents an implied endorsement.

Inserts may be used to sell one-shot or multiple products, sell memberships and continuity products, drive Web site traffic, provide greater exposure as part of a product launch and supplement a solo direct mail campaign. Plus, if a mailer finds a particular list to be successful and that company offers another means of reaching that proven market, such as through a package insert or a catalog blow-in, mailers would benefit from testing. From apparel, cosmetics, health and collectibles to housewares, publishing, food and finance, both mass market and niche mailers are reaching their target market through insert media.

We encourage mailers to be promotional and test, test, test. Offering dollar per percentage discounts and premiums, free or flat shipping and handling, multiple formats for acceptance into all vehicles and multiple ways to order (including an 800 number and Web site address) helps maximize response.

Today, the opportunities to target prospects via insert media are becoming better defined. In addition to package insert, statement insert, ride-along and blow-in programs, mailers can choose from programs including freestanding insert, co-op and shared mail programs, many of which offer rollout potential and category exclusivity. The number of program owners opening their packages to outside inserts is continuing to grow, as is the number of mailers. With increased postage and paper costs and response rates continually held to a higher margin, insert media offers a cost-effective way to offset expenses, reach a targeted, hotline buyer and increase the bottom line.

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