Remember when you were a kid and you received a parcel in the mail? You couldn't wait to find out what was inside. With your eyes wide with anticipation, you eagerly peeled away the wrapping paper and opened the box.
That feeling of anticipation never leaves us as grownups. We still get excited when we receive a box in the mail. Even when we're fairly certain it's a promotion of some kind, we open it up anyway. It's irresistible.
And that's the reason why dimensional mailers — boxes, tubes, and even tin cans! — work so well in direct-mail marketing. Unlike an envelope, a dimensional mailing can achieve nearly a 100 percent open rate. And that's not all. According to a 1993 study by Baylor University, dimensional mailers can significantly improve direct-mail response rates.
Dimensional mailers can certainly generate a lot of buzz and excitement. If you open a box and a cutout picture of a hammer jumps out like a jack-in-the-box with the message, “Let's hammer out a better deal for your corporate cell phones!” it gets your attention.
The Same Rules Apply
Just because a dimensional mailer may have a lot of pop-ups, gimmicks, and other bells and whistles doesn't mean that the established rules of copy-writing go out the window. A box may indeed gain attention, but the message you craft for the inside components still must sell the prospect. Most dimensional mailers include standard elements found in most envelope mailings: a sales letter and a reply form.
If they work so well, why aren't dimensional mailers used more often?
In a word: costs. A direct-mail package sent in a box or other 3-D carrier is very expensive to create and mail. Imagine the costs of putting together a box that pops up when it is opened! That's why dimensional mailers are used only for very small lists, or when the value of the sales generated is large enough to justify the cost of the mailing.
Postcards and Other Self-Mailers
As the name implies, self-mailers mail themselves. No envelope is required. They come in a variety of standard formats:
Double postcard. Contains a second card, usually acting as the reply form, which can be perfed off and mailed back.
Card deck. This is a stack of postcards bundled together in a single mailing.
Self-mailer. This is often a single page, folded twice and sealed at one end. However, there are many variations.
Snap-pak. This is a mailing with the outer component sealed at the edges, doing double-duty as the envelope. The customer perfs off the edges to open the package and get at the inside components.
Unlike an envelope mailing, there is no chance of fooling the prospect into thinking your correspondence is personal or general business mail. The instant he sees a self-mailer he knows it's promotional. So it is more important than ever to make sure your copy tantalizes and persuades.
Space is limited when writing copy for a self-mailer. A postcard can only hold the equivalent of a half page of copy at the very most. So every word has to count. That's why the best self-mailers start strong and stay strong. As songwriter and singer Sting says about writing rock music, “You have to burn from the very first bar.”
How to Write It
When crafting a self-mailer, one of the most effective techniques is the problem-solution model. You simply state the problem that the prospect might be having, and then quickly follow that up with the solution. Then you immediately instruct the reader how to respond. Here are a few examples:
Got the winter blahs? Win a free holiday vacation in the sun!
Struggling to get clients? Enroll now in the marketing coaching program.
Want to save on your spring wardrobe? Get 50% off this weekend.
Here are some other proven tips for crafting a winning self-mailer.
Don't cram in too much information. Stay focused on one clear sales message.
In a folded self-mailer, consider writing the inside panels like a sales letter.
If appropriate, use photos or other visuals to illustrate or dramatize your message.
Take the time to create a powerful headline. It's your best means of gaining attention.
Make the copy scannable. Use plenty of headers, bolds, underlines, and text boxes.
One of the most challenging aspects of writing a self-mailer is keeping the copy short enough to fit the requirements of the piece yet still convey enough information to persuade the prospect to act. In this respect a self-mailer is a lot like a print advertisement. You have to make optimum use of limited space.