Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

Stay Close to Home With Mailing Format

With many formats to choose from, how can circulators know which one to test in their next direct mail campaign? I’ll examine some popular and successful formats, discuss their advantages and disadvantages and hopefully help you whittle the list to just a few choices that are best for your publication.

Naturally, not every format is right for every offer and every magazine. If you’re new to direct mail, the first place to look is in your category. In the literary category, self-mailers have had some success. Financial newsletters traditionally lean heavily on magalogs. Business and finance magazines have had notable success with the statement of benefits and voucher package, while art magazines favor the double postcard.

Look at what your competitors are mailing, find out whether your category has a dominant format and test it. Then test other formats against the preferred format.

Current data. According to ParadyszMatera’s MarketTrends fourth-quarter 2004 report, packages are by far the most-used format for magazines (76 percent of all mailings tracked by ParadyszMatera in 2004) and have gained favor since 2002. Polywraps, poster postcards, self-mailers and double postcards dropped in popularity in the past three years.

In 2004, double postcards accounted for 9 percent of pieces tracked, other self-mailers were 5 percent, polywrap pieces were 3 percent and poster postcards (a double postcard attached with a clear poly patch to a magazine cover-size backer piece) were 2 percent. Magalogs have realized a slight gain since 2003, accounting for 3 percent of consumer subscription offers tracked by ParadyszMatera.

ParadyszMatera generates its MarketTrends reports quarterly through its proprietary MarketRelevance direct mail promotion-tracking tool.

After you ascertain which formats are used often in your magazine category, consider other factors:

Cash with order. If you want readers to “show you the money,” a double postcard is not your best choice. In that case, you need a package with a business reply envelope. A statement of benefits, which resembles a bill and could generate up to 80 percent cash with order, would be a good choice. The statement of benefits package usually works best as a hard offer.

New or established title. If you are launching a title, you might want a format with enough real estate inside to give potential subscribers a good feel for your product. A 6-by-9-inch package is frequently the format of choice for launches.

This format usually includes a four-page letter, order form, color brochure, lift note and a BRE. This format can work well as a soft offer (“Send me a free issue, if I like it I’ll pay the bill, otherwise I’ll write cancel,” etc.) or a hard offer.

What’s your budget? Naturally, smaller, simpler formats like double postcards or voucher packages come with smaller price tags than bigger, more elaborate formats. They are cheaper to write and design, and cheaper to produce. What about results? Two of the most successful formats in the history of magazine consumer marketing are the double postcard and now the statement of benefits package, so clearly size doesn’t always matter.

More is more. However, I also have found that adding to a package with a more expensive brochure, adding stickers, “freemiums” (a little premium inserted into the package), more color printing, additional inserts, a larger outer envelope, etc., often gives a better response and that these enhancements usually improve results enough to cover the extra costs.

Go jumbo. Consider testing a big flat-size package. I have had a lot of good luck with oversized envelope packages. They really stand out in the mailbox, and they give you a lot of room inside to sell.

The magalog format has had modest success in subscription direct mail and proved that it can be viable as well. Magalogs can look much like the actual magazine and usually run 12 pages or so. They let you showcase your cover and have lots of room for sale copy and for samples of the editorial inside.

But remember that once you exceed

6 1/8-by-11 1/2 inches (max letter size), you have to pay flat-rate postage, which can add 20 percent or 30 percent to your postage cost. Printing costs for these larger formats probably will be higher as well. But I think these “jumbo” formats are worth considering and often improve response more than enough to cover those extra costs.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about is that a relatively limited number of formats work well for magazines. Once you go outside these boundaries, your chances for success are very small. So unless you have a huge testing budget to burn, I’d stick close to what is working in the marketplace.

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