Speaking as a panel member on “Maximizing Customer Engagement in Direct Mail” at the recent DMA conference, Carlton Shufflebarger, brand manager of direct mail for the USPS, shared tips to help mailers increase impact and response. Brittany Brouse reports on his latest mail tips, including “the best kept secret in the direct mail industry.”

1. Create mail and online synergy.
Send catalogs and mailings to online shoppers who might enjoy receiving product information this way. “In sending someone a catalog, you create a stronger online prospect. They are more likely to visit the site, spend more time on the site, and more likely to make purchases,” Shufflebarger said. Catalogs also discourage comparison shopping because when shoppers visit your site, they are primed to make a purchase. For good follow-through on online sales, provide shipping cost options. Shufflebarger stresses that the biggest reason for cancelled orders is the shipping cost. He says, “If people leave your Web site because of no delivery options, or because charges are too high, you put a lot of money at risk.”

2. Take advantage of shaped mail.
Shufflebarger also suggests using Customized Market Mail (CMM), which includes die-cut mailers, cutouts, magnets, and other odd-shaped mailing formats. These mailers jump out of the mailbox, producing about a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in response rates–and they are standardized by the Postal Service™. Rates are 46 cents for Standard MailĀ® and 33.4 cents for Standard Nonprofit Mail. Shufflebarger reports the USPS is working to automate CMM processing within the next year. “[CMM] is like a win-win. It’s more efficient for us and less expensive for advertisers,” he says.
3. Use stickies and ride-alongs.
Repositionable notes and ride-along packages are two more USPS-endorsed mail features that can drive up response without breaking the bank. A sticky note on the outside of an envelope delivers an actionable message and outlives the life of the original mailer. The notes cost .05 cents for First-Class MailĀ® and 1.5 cents for periodicals and Standard Mail. Used wisely, they will increase open, read, and response rates.
Ride-alongs for periodicals are “the best kept secret in the direct mail industry,” according to Shufflebarger. For only 15.5 cents per piece, you can piggyback up to 3.3 ounces of a product sample, catalog, CD or insert, on an established periodical. With polywrapping and postage together, marketers can expect to pay a total of 26 cents per piece. Ride-alongs are a great opportunity to target the universe and leverage the brand of an established publication, he says.

—Source: Reprinted from Target Marketing Magazine October 24, 2007 (www.targetmarketingmag.com) as reported by Brittany Brouse, associate editor.