The Advantages of Self-Mailers in Direct Mail Campaigns
You probably find self-mailers in your mailbox almost every day, but you may not realize what a powerful and cost-effective marketing tool they can be.
A self-mailer is promotional material that’s mailed without an envelope. It can be anything from a simple postcard to an elaborate brochure or catalog. You might think of self-mailers as “junk mail,” but with their simple design and eye-catching presence, self-mailers can command attention and ensure that your message is read and shared.
In this article we’ll explain how direct mail self-mailers can boost your small business marketing.
The Benefits of Direct Mail Marketing
Direct mail is a marketing campaign that uses the U.S. Mail to deliver promotional materials directly to potential customers. Most of us regularly receive all sorts of direct mail: folded flyers that advertise sales at big box stores, postcards offering discounts on home repair services, letters from insurance companies, fundraising letters, catalogs, brochures and pamphlets.
In an age of Google AdWords and social media, direct mail may sound old fashioned. It may seem more expensive than email marketing.
But now more than ever, direct mail can help you stand out and attract new prospects. And over time, it can be more cost effective than either traditional advertising or email marketing.
Direct Mail Gets Noticed More than Email
As business has moved online, more and more companies are using email to market their goods and services. While this can be an effective way to engage with loyal customers, the sheer volume of emails that the average person receives guarantees that many of them will be deleted without ever being opened.
At the same time our email inboxes are overflowing, our physical mailboxes are looking emptier. That means that a well-designed direct mail piece may attract more attention than an email. This is particularly true with new customers who aren’t familiar with your company and have little reason to open your emails.
Direct Mail is a Cost Effective Way to Target New Prospects
One of the great things about direct mail is its ability to target a particular group of customers. If you own a local restaurant, store or service business, you can easily send direct mail to all households within a particular zip code.
Or you might target a specific demographic that is likely to need the products or services you offer. For example, hardware stores, lawn care services and home repair businesses might target people who recently purchased homes. By pinpointing the people who are most likely to do business with you, you can use direct mail to begin building a relationship. Over the life of the relationship, the money you invest in direct mail may reap more rewards than money spent on email solicitations.
Research supports the effectiveness of direct mail. When targeted, direct mail has a higher response rate (3.7 percent with a house list and 1 percent with a prospect list) than email (.1 percent response rate), or even all digital channels combined (.62 percent), according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 DMA Response Rate Report. And the DMA report found that direct mail had about the same cost per acquisition as other marketing channels.
For the greatest cost savings, consider sending postcards using the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail service. The service delivers postcards to every address in a zip code or carrier route, with no mailing lists or postage permits needed, at a savings of up to 70 percent off regular direct mail postage rates.
Direct Mail is More Personal and Targeted than Traditional Advertising
Traditional advertising through radio, TV, signs, billboards or newspapers sends a marketing message to a large group of people. But many of those people will have no interest in your product or service. Direct mail allows you to personally target people who are more likely to become customers. For example, you can send direct mail to every household in a given mail route or zip code, to prospects who fit a particular demographic, or to people who have done business with your before or signed up for a mailing list.
Types of Direct Mail: Self-Mailers and Letters
Most of what’s sent as direct mail falls into one of two categories. The first is the classic sales letter. It’s addressed directly to the recipient, and it may include additional information like brochures, catalogs or response cards. As you’d expect, the letters are placed into envelopes for mailing.
The other type of direct mail (and the focus of this article) is the self-mailer. A self-mailer is any sort of direct mail marketing material that is mailed without an envelope. A self-mailer can be any of the following:
- A postcard
- A sheet of paper or cardstock that is folded and sealed at the edge
- A booklet
- A catalog
Self-mailers can be folded in a variety of ways, and they can be sealed with glue or wafer seals. They can be printed on paper or cardstock, and cardstock self-mailers can include a tear-off response card.
How Self-Mailers Can Improve a Direct Mail Campaign
Direct mail marketing usually means making a choice between sending an envelope and sending a self-mailer. Self-mailers have several advantages over envelope mailings:
- Self-mailers cost less. Cost is often the number one reason businesses choose self-mailers. Self-mailers can be less expensive to print because there’s just one sheet of paper – not multiple items and envelopes. Self-mailers also require less handling (no envelopes to stuff), and there’s no need to match the address on a letter with the address on an envelope. Postage may also be cheaper for a self-mailer than for a direct mail piece inserted in an envelope – particularly if you send postcards to everyone in a service area using the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service. However, because self-mailers rely heavily on images and graphics, design costs for a self-mailer may be higher than for a letter in an envelope.
- Self-mailers lend themselves to bold, eye-catching designs. Because a self-mailer doesn’t use an envelope, you can pick a splashy design and really go for it. Self-mailers are good for displaying photos and graphics. And you don’t have to worry about carrying your design theme through to multiple sheets of paper and envelopes.
- Self-mailers are likely to be seen and shared. If you send a self-mailer to a household, the person who takes the mail out of the mailbox will instantly see your message. That person may pass it along to another household member, or may leave it on the kitchen counter, where family members will see it as they sort through the mail. One self-mailer may be seen and shared by several people. Compare this to an envelope, which is more likely to be opened and read by only one person.
- Self-mailers help people remember events, sales and coupons. If you’ve ever stuck a coupon, a notice of a sale, or an event invitation on the refrigerator or left it out as a reminder, then you understand how the bold graphics of a self-mailer can help people remember a message long after it’s been sent. Self-mailer postcards work especially well if you want your recipients to call a toll-free number or visit a website.
- Self-mailers are a good way to send special offers and event and product notifications to your loyal customers. By targeting people who have done business with you before, you increase your response rate because you are sending your self-mailer only to people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
The DMA study showed that self-mailers had nearly as good a response rate as oversized envelopes, and a better rate than traditional letter-sized envelopes. But there are certain times when self-mailers aren’t the best choice. Some things to consider:
- Self-mailers are perceived as less personal and more “salesy” than communications that arrive in an envelope. This is good for sharing among household members, but it’s a drawback if you are trying to establish a personal relationship with a new prospect. Imagine a solicitation to donate money or to purchase professional services. People may be more likely to respond if they think you are writing to them personally.
- If your mailing is going to businesses (as opposed to consumers), self-mailers are frequently screened out and thrown away in mailrooms or by receptionists. If you are targeting business executives or professionals, you’re much more likely to reach your audience if your marketing materials are in an envelope.
- Self-mailers work best if you can convey your message with graphics, images and short blocks of text. If you have a longer story to tell – say you want to explain how your investment strategy has helped ordinary people accumulate wealth – then a letter format is almost always more effective. And you’ll need to use an envelope if you must send several pieces of information at the same time.
Self-mailers can be amazingly effective. But to have maximum impact, a self-mailer needs a strong design.
How a Great Design Makes a Self-Mailer Stand Out
Imagine the people who will pull your self-mailer from their mailboxes. They may be busy or distracted, but you want them to give your self-mailer a second look. And that’s more likely to happen if you have an eye-catching design they can’t resist.
What makes for an eye-catching design? Here are some things that can make customers take notice:
- A bold color combination
- High quality, interesting photos.
- Interesting folds, such as a gate fold.
- High quality paper or cardstock
- Printing for Less’s special printing effects like foil stamping, embossing or metallic inks.
- Text that tempts people to read further
- Perforations: rip cards and tear-off postcards
Often, with self-mailers, “less is more.” Simple bold text and clear photos can look compelling and professional. A self-mailer jammed with photos, headlines and information may start to look like junk.
These principles are easy enough to understand, but actually designing a self-mailer can be complicated. Many small business owners simply don’t have the time or the skills to create their own eye-catching self-mailers. The good news is, you don’t need to design your own self-mailer from scratch. If you’re a DIY type, Printing for Less has templates that you can modify to suit your needs. Or, we have a team of designers who will work one on one with you to create a self-mailer of any type that will truly stand out from the crowd.
How to Get Started
Self-mailers are an effective but often overlooked element of a successful multi-channel marketing campaign. Printing for Less offers design and printing services for all types of self-mailers – from a simple postcard to a folded brochure or promotional piece to a multi-page catalog. We can handle just about any design, color, fold or paper that you can imagine, and our talented designers are committed to seeing your project through – from start to finish.