Self-Mailer Boosts Returns From Investors

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Consumers, it appears, do judge a book by its cover.

DAL Investment Co. had been mailing a 9-by-12-inch envelope stuffed with a newsletter about its mutual funds and other information from the company for several years with a respectable response - its funds and newsletter subscription rates both were growing. But this spring, in an attempt to take the program to the next level, the company tested a self-mailer that brought all the materials for each mailing together in one package.

"We're trying to focus people into the newsletter as a brand, and the envelope didn't do that," said Jeffrey Smith, DAL publications department head.

The newsletter, called The Upgrader, mails quarterly to DAL mutual fund investors and prospects. The 18-page spring issue, the first to test the magalog format, mailed April 28 to more than 50,000 names. Content consisted of a 12-page newsletter with material on each fund and a six-page inserted questionnaire intended to guide potential investors to the right fund. Direct mail marketing firm The Ballantine Corp., Wayne, NJ, helped develop the magalog.

DAL, San Francisco, was concerned that having to open an envelope was discouraging people from reading the contents inside. Also, because the items inside were separate, the company thought people might not be looking at all of them.

"We wanted to make sure all of the items had equal importance," Mr. Smith said.

The company's tests indicated that people didn't remember the cover of an envelope nor read more than the first printed piece of a mailing. By including all of the important components in one mail piece, DAL thought it would get better brand identity and recognition.

The spring issue also contained a direct response card, a first for The Upgrader. The card aimed to "segment the list a little bit and get interest from the extremely interested people so we can follow up with some other pieces we are developing," Mr. Smith said. "A few hundred cards" were returned from the spring mailing.

Other results suggest recipients are responding better to the self-mailer format, Mr. Smith said, such as a 46 percent rise in the number of returned questionnaires compared with the previous quarter.

The company also will test a 6-by-9-inch package against a similar self-mailer format for its No Load FundX newsletter and is developing individual tri-fold newsletters for each of its groups of funds. The latter will be lower-volume pieces geared toward hotter prospects.

"We've had a really good response from everything that we've done, so we want to see how much we can increase that," Mr. Smith said.


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