‘Tis nearly the season to be jolly

Oh yes it is, like it or not! There’s a temptation to think that everyone will be too busy to bother with direct mail in the hectic run-up to Christmas, but who can resist opening a cheerful envelope containing a greetings card? It’s a golden opportunity for any company to nurture or develop personal connections with loyal customers, prospective clients, business associates, companies in the supply chain and local networks. Here are some top reasons why sending company Christmas cards is definitely worth doing—in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing you’ve brightened someone’s day.

Saying thanks

Do you know what people appreciate more than anything? Knowing that they’re appreciated. So, here’s your chance to make people feel special. Sending a card is a friendly way to thank customers for choosing your company over your competitors, or associates for helping to make your business a success by providing great products or service. When it’s time to buy again, or renew contracts, you’ll be remembered.

Making personal connections

Customers buy from people, not companies. The more personal you can make your card, the better. While it’s not always possible to sign every card by hand, we can reproduce your signatures and employ script that looks as though it’s hand-written. Even though, of course, people can tell the difference, it still has more impact than something printed in Times New Roman. It will let recipients know that you’re more than a faceless name on the end of a telephone—and someone who thinks of others, outside the realm of business and making sales.

Reminding people that you’re there

It’s not that easy to keep in touch with every client, or potential client, all the time. A bespoke card is the perfect way to say hello to someone you’ve not contacted in a while, and it won’t come across as salesy or pushy, because you’ve linked it to an occasion where it’s the done thing to exchange greetings. However, it does create dialogue, which could lead to something else in the future—a bonus for a kindly gesture of goodwill.

Sending more than just a card

If you’re sending a greetings card, you could include other material to make the season special for your customers.  How about a Christmas-related discount, reward or incentive or an invitation to an event you’re hosting? You could promote post-Christmas sales with a voucher. Or you could enclose a little gift. Everyone likes a lumpy envelope!

Here’s how Mailing Expert can help you

We have a range of stock designs which we can add your logo on the front and/or back, with your choice of message inside—and we can even print signatures for you and your colleagues, so you don’t get writer’s cramp!

Or maybe you have your own design or photo in mind to make your cards more personal? No problem! We can do this for you at no additional cost.

If you’re seriously short of time and need help getting your cards posted, at Mailing Expert we can name and address the envelopes, enclose the cards and post them for you in plenty of time for Christmas*

Give us a call on 01825 983 033 or send us an email to info@mailingexpert.co.uk to request a brochure or to discuss your 2017 Christmas Cards with us.

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*Subject to artwork being received and/or signed off by you in good time. Cost for the personalisation and posting service is taken from the price of a First-Class stamp + VAT.

Communication developments in the last 20 years

Twenty years ago, what was happening in the world? In no particular order:

  • Tony Blair won a landslide victory in the UK general election
  • Céline Dion was topping the charts with, ‘My Heart Will Go On.’
  • Hong Kong was handed over to China
  • Dolly the sheep was cloned
  • The first Harry Potter book was published

Quite a year, one way and another, and lots to be communicated. How DID we communicate news in those far off days—and how did we make contact with our clients and potential customers on a business level?

Not like that…

Well, for a start, there was no Facebook, which didn’t emerge until February 2004. Today, it’s almost mind-boggling to realise that there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, and a quarter of the world’s population engage with it. It’s a wonderful informal way of interacting with, and building, an audience, and great for encouraging people to visit your website.

We didn’t use Twitter, because it wasn’t created until March 2006. Unbelievably, just 11 years on, Twitter has more than 319 million monthly active users. For your business, it’s an instant way to build connections with a relevant audience, to strengthen your brand, promote new products and services, or simply develop relationships.

We didn’t use image-based Instagram either, to drive customer engagement and sales or impart information in a snappy way to a possible 600 million users. That’s because it wasn’t launched until October 2010. Pinterest was launched at the same time, which enables businesses to create a virtual shop front to promote their products online.

There wasn’t even LinkedIn until 2003, which, although its focus is on job opportunities, serves a valuable function for branding, marketing and sales too, with business pages. Neither were there smart phones—we had to wait for 2007 for those—so our electronic communications were very much desk-based.

…like this

Direct mail, using the postal service! There wasn’t much choice but to use this method in 1997, but it worked—and it still works today. Everyone loves to receive mail, especially if it’s personalised and looks good. You might think it’s an older generation preference, but Royal Mail has carried out a survey which shows that 15-34-year-olds are:

  • 42% more likely to find mail memorable than the UK population as a whole
  • 27% more likely to welcome it
  • 71% more likely to trust it
  • 21% more likely to switch suppliers because of mail

Not for nothing does the Royal Mail’s brochure The Private Life of Mail carry the strapline, Mail in the Home, Heart and Head. The power of Direct Mail must never be underestimated, despite the advancement of all the digital platforms of communication.

Then there was the telephone and face-to-face interaction, which of course will never go out of fashion.

Emails started life in 1965, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They were a way of sharing files and messages for academics. In 1971, American computer programmer Ray Tomlinson, introduced the @ and in 1976, HM the Queen sent her first email. The process was still largely in the domain of academic institutes until 1988, which heralded the arrival of Microsoft Mail. The first commercial Internet Service Providers hit the scene in the early 1990s. Hotmail launched in 1996 and Yahoo Mail in 1997—twenty years ago. Smart marketers realized that email communications were the future and began to make the shift into using email to communicate with customers.

 And our conclusion is:

How lucky we are, in 2017, to have such an abundance of ways to communicate! Each method has its place: each will appeal more to a different demographic, or be more suitable for certain products and services. Things move on with exciting digital developments—but mail through the letterbox will never lose its appeal.

Mailing Expert

When is an envelope more than an envelope?

No, that’s not a riddle – it’s a serious question we’re going to answer in this blog. First, be thankful we’re not living in 3500 BC (although it may feel like it sometimes!) In that era, in the Middle East, envelopes were hollow clay spheres!

It wasn’t until the 2nd century BC that paper envelopes were introduced in China. In the UK, envelopes were always handmade but in 1850, Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue were granted a patent for an envelope-making machine. You still had to use your own glue until the 1900s, when pre-gummed envelopes were produced. You learn something new every day with Mailing Expert!

Envelopes for direct mailing today

Around 50% of people surveyed prefer to receive sales material through the post, according to ‘Reasons to love mail’ PRINT.IT, Spring 2015 – and unless you’re using postcards, that entails envelopes. Regular envelopes of all sizes, windowed envelopes, envelopes of every colour, padded envelopes…there’s a vast range of options at your disposal when you’re thinking about a direct mailing initiative. Which to choose? Does it matter? Our contention is – yes, it DOES matter, if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your campaign. Everyone spends a lot of time designing the letter, brochure or flyer that goes inside the envelope, but what’s the point of that if the envelope itself is so dull that people don’t bother to open it?

Size and Colour

If you receive lots of mail, then another A4 brown envelope or standard white DL envelope (A4 letter folded into 3 equal parts) will probably get lost in the crowd. A brightly coloured envelope, one with an attractive customised design or one that’s a non-standard size will help your mailing to stand out. Be wary, though, of sending zany mail when your message is about professional services or is B2B marketing. That may not reflect your intended first impression and may be considered unprofessional by some.

Bulk

If you’re anything like us, then something tangible inside an envelope, whether it’s a pen, coaster, bookmark or key-ring, is almost certain to pique our interest enough that we’ll definitely open it to see what’s inside. That’s worth considering, weighing up the cost of stuffing the envelope and possible additional postal charges against a greater likelihood of your message being read.

The extra personal touch

Hand-written names and addresses are more likely to attract interest as are envelopes which are stamped rather than franked. It suggests that the letter comes from a human being rather than a corporate machine. Of course, for a large-scale campaign it’s almost certainly too time-consuming, and therefore not cost-effective. We have the facility to print multiple names and addresses automatically and there is font that looks very like handwriting as a compromise measure.

Ease of opening

You may laugh but it has been shown to be a factor in the success of direct mailing campaigns. You know how annoying it is when you buy something and have to battle with packaging – well, to a lesser extent, the same applies to envelopes. Busy people simply won’t bother if it’s too much of a chore.

Any questions?

We think we’ve covered everything, but if you don’t agree, just ask. Every mailing initiative, every group of intended recipients is different, and careful thought needs to go into the best approach – including the envelope. We can help you with those choices at Mailing Expert.

 

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The wonderful world of variable data

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”

There’s that quote that we know so well, in its entirety – and a congratulatory pat on the back for anyone who knows who it’s by (without looking it up on Google!)[1] With any direct mailing you undertake, variable data can really increase the effectiveness of your campaign – add flavour to it, you could say.  Let Mailing Expert tell you how.

So what is variable data?

No, variable data is NOT the same as alternative facts, a phrase which is all too current at the moment.  In this context, we are talking about variable data printing, commonly abbreviated to VDP.   VDP makes use of digital technology to link print engines to databases which contain content for printed documents. It makes changes to pieces of print automatically – with no manual steps – as they are being printed, allowing you to personalise your communication with ease by varying text details, images, colour schemes, charts…you name it, if it can be printed, you can change it. It’s a technique that is closely related to mail merge, but VDP allows changes to text, graphics and layout.

Why use VDP?

Well, do you want more sales, higher returns and an exponential rise in customer loyalty? Would you like better targeted communications filled with relevant information? There are many marketing studies which show categorically that personalising communications really can boost their effectiveness.

By ‘personalising communications’ we don’t just mean putting ‘Dear Katie’ at the top instead of ‘Dear Valued Customer’.  In a 2014 survey,[2] it was revealed that 63% of people receive so many name-personalised messages that it has ceased to have any impact. Your intended audience needs something more and better now – like VDP.

How can VDP help?

Imagine you were launching a new range of clothing for children.  With VDP, each DM flyer you send out can be customised to appeal directly to the intended recipient.  It goes without saying that names and addresses will be different for each one (as in mail merge).  The brilliant thing about VDP is that with a diligently-populated database which has captured the ages, sex and ethnicity of children, in just one print run, you could produce flyers that target parents of 10 year-old girls…or baby boys…or families with Chinese heritage…or any other attribute you have researched and stored.  Of course, this all relies on the content of the database… In the example we’re using, you’ll need a whole portfolio of images showing all sorts of children wearing your clothes range.

What about populating databases?

That’s the tedious bit, isn’t it? If you’re using variable data, then it must be stored in the database in the first place.  In most cases, this has to be inserted manually, though some computer programs can gather bulk information from different sources and transfer it directly.  Your data can come from many areas of customer contact – from call centre enquiries, your website and from sales activity.  Nevertheless, at each point, someone has to put in the information and all the colour choices, fonts and images to appeal to different demographics.  And once done, of course, it has to be kept up to date.  There’s nothing worse for your company image than sending a DM with incorrect or irrelevant information.

So is it all worth it in the end?

Here at Mailing Expert, we would say a resounding YES! More statistics, if you’re not convinced:

  • 74% of marketers report that personalisation increases customer engagement leading to improving conversions[3]
  • 84% report better customer loyalty and retention[4]

SO…start filling in that database – or better still, give us a call and we’ll tell you how we can help you.

 

Mailing Expert

 

[1] William Cowper. From his 1785 poem, ‘The Task’

[2] Conducted by digital messaging platform, Lyris

[3] Econsultancy research

[4] ExactTarget

How To Run A Successful Direct Mail Campaign

Long live Direct Mail!

No – Direct Mail hasn’t been superseded by email and telephone campaigns or posting on social media. A range of approaches widens your scope ; Direct Mail may reach the audience that other campaigns cannot reach. Sending out personalised mail to your customers or prospective customers and followed up with digital marketing can be a match made in marketing heaven.

Yes – Direct Marketing obviously costs something for design, print and distribution at the very least, so in order for it to be cost-effective it is crucial, absolutely crucial, that each campaign is carefully thought out to gain the maximum benefit for your company.

The 40/40/20 rule?

That old chestnut… it dates back to the 1960s, doesn’t it? Out of date, surely? But stop your inward groaning and take a look. It’s been shown, over time, that it makes sense. It still makes sense. Almost.

The rule says that 40% of the success of your campaign depends on your list selection, 40% on the offer that you communicate and only 20% on the creative aspect, the design of your flyer, postcard or letter. But surely, somewhere in those figures should be timing – it’s vital to send out your mailing at the optimum time. Let’s change those percentages to 30/30/20/20.

30% list selection – we can help

If you’re approaching current customers then, of course, you’ll already have a list – but make sure it’s up-to-date with the correct addresses and names of contact people. It really makes your company look slapdash if you get that wrong.

If you’re looking beyond your regular audience then constructing a database is extraordinarily time-consuming and buying lists online can be dodgy. At Mailing Expert, tell us the profile you have determined for your new prospects and we’ll be able to provide you with a carefully tailored, clean list so you won’t waste time or money approaching the wrong people – or people who don’t even exist!

30% offer – it’s up to you

Quite honestly, once your mailing is opened, your customer or prospect will be thinking, ‘So how does this benefit ME?’ Blabbing on about how great your company is simply won’t do (even though your company IS great!) You could offer a discount, a free gift or service, an ebook to download… It’s up to you to decide a) what you want your prospect to do, having read your communication, so you need a clear call to action, and b) what reward will they get for doing it?

20% creative – we can help

It IS important to get this right. It has to be compelling to engage attention – so we could help with size, design, copywriting, colours, images and top-class printing services. Choose the right medium for your message – should it be a postcard, a flyer, a greetings card or a letter? You don’t want your material to be mistaken for a piece of junk mail so make it look unique and classy.

20% timing – and follow-up

For time-sensitive campaigns, it goes without saying that your recipients must have enough time to receive the mail, make a decision and take advantage of your offer.

In general, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the very best days for your mail to arrive. Monday there is always a pile of stuff. On Friday, most people are winding down for the weekend ahead.

There are other aspects of time to consider too:

  • Industry peak times – people will be too busy to bother with mail so get it there beforehand
  • Seasons – does your product or service appeal to a certain sector at a specific time?
  • Theme weeks – if it’s not ‘Jam Doughnut Week’ it’s ‘Let’s Go To Work In Pyjamas Day’ – so could you target one of these?
  • Exhibitions – every sector has events and exhibitions – so find out when!
  • Current Affairs – what’s happening in the world? Could it be relevant?

The importance of follow-up is never to be underestimated. What’s the point of piquing someone’s interest with a carefully constructed communication then not doing anything else? A wasted opportunity and destruction of the initial interest you spent time and money trying to build.

So there’s the Mailing Expert Rule, hot off the press: 30/30/20/20

 

Mailing Expert