While marketers still consider direct mail to be one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers, it is not considered the most eco-friendly way to do so. However, there are some simple steps that marketers can take to make their direct mail efforts much more sustainable – and effective – according to Brian Euclide, president of list processing and mailing management solutions at agency TEC Mailing Solutions.
His company works with printers, publishers, catalogers and direct mailers to run direct mail campaigns from start to finish. Euclide has found that greening a mailing list can be done in a few simple steps.
Ensure address hygiene. Euclide finds one of the biggest causes of waste in direct mail is an old list that has not been recently updated. “You see marketers that haven’t made any attempt to follow through on the address hygiene functionality, whether it is a change of address, or a variety of other things,” he says. To improve the quality of the list, Euclide recommends that marketers vet it at least quarterly. “That’s a hard thing for especially small businesses to swallow,” he says. “Even if you aren’t mailing to them on a regular basis, at least once or twice a year you should definitely be running that list through some address hygiene product.” TEC offers an online program where marketers upload their list and examine it to find outdated addresses. Other mailing list solutions providers are offering a range of products with similar services.
Eliminate duplicates. “People forget often that you have inputs to your list from a variety of different environments,” says Euclide. “Maybe it’s from point-of-sale, people coming in through your website, so now they are in there two or three times and you might have duplicates.”
Use eco-friendly material. Seeking out recyclable or biodegradable materials for mailers helps to improve the sustainability of direct mail campaigns. “It has become somewhat mainstream in the sense that some percentage of the paper is being recycled, and the quality of the paper seems to be good enough as a direct mail piece,” he says. “All the eco-friendly players out there will demand either 100% recycled, and more specifically how that recycled element is really being incorporated into the mailer.”
Improve opt out options. Making it easy for recipients to opt-out is an important way to ensure mail is sent to those who have an interest in receiving it. “If I don’t want to receive your mail pieces any more, you don’t want to send me a whole bunch of direct mail pieces throughout the year,” says Euclide, emphasizing that the opt-out process should be painless. He adds that the best option is to provide a URL on the mailer where the recipient can go online to be removed from the mailing list. He recommends this rather than offering phone numbers or e-mail addresses, which consumers might feel is too much of an effort and too much involvement with a marketer.
“We’re strong proponents of direct mail, obviously, because it still gets some of the best results,” says Euclide. “But you need to be responsible on a whole number of layers.”