What is Direct Mail?

Direct mail is any marketing mail piece sent to a precisely-targeted group of prospective customers. This is, of course, a very broad definition–one that encompasses countless types, shapes, and sizes of mailers. Its broadness is exactly what makes direct mail such a powerful tool for your business or institution.

Direct Mail Gives Your Creativity Free Reign

Chances are, you have received a wide variety of direct mail pieces in your own mailbox: everything from letters in envelopes, to colorful postcards, to self-mailers that have been folded down and glued for easy opening. While all of these pieces are effective marketing tools, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Because it is so versatile and adaptable, direct mail truly rewards creative design and innovative content delivery. Direct mail can be shaped in a way that both catches the recipient’s eye and captures the essence of your business. Direct mail also allows you to offer promotions in a creative and attention-grabbing way, whether that includes scratch-off incentives or detachable gift cards.

Both the design and content delivery have adapted to meet the needs and expectations of today’s digital-savvy consumer (if there is one thing direct mail is not, it’s “static”). For example, many current direct mail pieces feature Augmented Reality technology. With Augmented Reality (or AR, for short), users can hover their smart phones over the mail piece, superimposing a digital image over the physical graphic. The digital image can interact with the physical mail piece in several imaginative and eye-popping ways: it can pull up a video related to the content, create an animated effect, or zoom in on a portion of the mail piece, just to name a few. Direct mail pieces can even contain a small USB device, so that customers can access digital content on their computer, as they hold the physical mail piece in their hand. These high-tech elements of a mail-piece allow you to bridge your digital and physical marketing campaigns, reaching customers across multiple channels at once.

Direct Mail Is Precisely-Targeted to Ensure Optimal Response Rate

Not only does direct mail allow you to design creative marketing materials, it ensures that those materials go out to whatever demographic or market segment you choose. For example, address lists can comprise recipients of a certain age group, recipients who live within a specific neighborhood, recipients who have purchased a certain product of yours in the past, or even a combination of all three criteria. The fact that direct mail goes out to a finely-tuned list of ideal recipients is one of its greatest strengths. With the right message, the right design, and the right list, you can be sure of a strong return on your investment.

Make Direct Mail Work for You

If you would like more information on how you can reach new customers through direct mail, give us a call at 866-542-2107, or contact us today. We will be happy to answer any questions, and give you a quote for your next project.

The Fascinating Origins of Labor Day

To many, Labor Day signals the end of summer: one last chance to fire up the grill, take the boat out, or jump in the pool. It’s also one less Monday where we have to come into work, so that’s pretty sweet. What most people do not realize is that there is much more to this holiday than an excuse to crack open some beers and light meat on fire. Labor Day is a holiday with fascinating, even violent origins. In fact, if you look at the roots of the holiday, it even makes Black Friday look tame.

The Beginnings of Labor Day

The idea of Labor Day – a day set aside to honor the American worker – was first proposed in the late nineteenth century, and was a brainchild of the emerging labor unions. In fact, credit for the holiday is given to labor union leader Peter J. McGuire. The holiday was recognized by individual states starting in the late 1880s (the first state to celebrate Labor Day was Oregon, in 1887). Labor Day did not become a federal holiday until 1894, when President Grover Cleveland signed congressional legislation making Labor Day a national holiday. The timing of that legislation is where things get interesting.

The Pullman Strike

The Pullman Company was a major American railway. In 1894, it drastically cut wages for its tens of thousands of employees. When a delegation of workers tried to discuss grievances with the company, all members of the delegation were immediately fired. This set off one of the largest and most notorious strikes in American history. On June 27, 1894, some 30,000 workers walked off the job. By June 29, that number had climbed to nearly 130,000. Rail traffic was nearly shutdown throughout the Midwest.

On July 3rd, President Cleveland sent federal troops to break up the strike. The strikers reacted to the military presence by rioting. In Chicago, some 6,000 workers destroyed hundreds of railcars. The violence continued to escalate. On July 7th, National Guardsmen fired into the mob, killing dozens of strikers and wounding many more. After this eruption of violence, labor leaders urged the workers to call of the strike, and the number of strikers gradually declined. By August 2nd, the Pullman Company reopened, and agreed to rehire the striking workers, provided that they pledged never to join a union.

As a conciliatory gesture toward the Labor Movement, a bill recognizing Labor Day as a national holiday was signed into law, six days after the Pullman Strike ended.

We Appreciate Our Team

In the spirit of Labor Day, United Mail recognizes all of its hard-working employees, who get the job done year-round. United Mail is proud of the dedication of our staff—a dedication which is evident in the long tenure of our team members’ service. We are extremely proud that almost half of our employees have been with us for 5 years or longer, and more than a quarter have been with us for at least 10 years.

The Direct Mail Evolution

Direct mail is constantly evolving. While there is still a place for traditional letters and postcards, new technologies, designs, and materials are constantly being conceived and executed. These innovations allow marketers such as you to reach a wider target audience, and to impact that audience more deeply. If you are curious about some of the amazing ways that direct mail has evolved in recent years, read below.

Profile/Variable Mapping

Variable mapping uses GPS technology to enhance your mail piece. Using this technology, you can print a map on the mail piece that would show the route between each recipient’s address and a location of your choosing. For example, if you are opening a new store, or holding an event in a certain city or neighborhood, you can show each of your targeted recipients the route from their particular address to your location. This is a great way to not only increase brand-awareness, but to get people through your doors as well.

QR Codes

You may have seen a QR (Quick Response) code before. It is a small box, usually placed on advertising material, filled with what appear to be random pixels. The pixels are not random though. Rather, they serve as a link to specific digital content. If you place a QR code on your mail piece, recipients can scan that code using an app on their phones, which in turn can pull up a webpage, video, photograph, digital coupon, promotional announcement, or nearly any other type of digital message. Essentially, any type of content that you can relay through an email blast or banner ad can be relayed through a QR code. By using a QR code on a physical mail piece, you are able to bridge the gap between digital and print marketing, reaching the recipient through two channels simultaneously. Not only that, you are also providing an immediate call to action, which is sure to increase response rates.

Augmented Reality

If QR codes allow you to bridge the gap between print and digital marketing, Augmented Reality (AR) closes that gap completely. As with a QR code, mail pieces featuring AR technology are viewed through an app on a smart phone or tablet. The difference is, while a QR code allows the mail piece to serve as a link to digital content, AR transforms the mail piece itself.

Sound like something out of science fiction? Well… maybe it should! Using this amazing technology, the mail recipient would view your mail piece through their phone, as if they were going to take a picture of it. That static image is instantly transformed – before their eyes – through the power of digital animation. For example, a travel agency might mail a postcard with a picture of an airplane on it. When that postcard is viewed through an AR app, the plane appears to shoot off into the sky, leaving a promotion for discounted airfare in its wake.

Such technology is more than mere bells and whistles: it conveys cutting-edge content that awes and inspires. And when people are awed and inspired, they tend to respond. If you are wondering how likely customers are to respond, consider this: in a recent USPS study, consumer were 135% more likely to purchase a product they viewed through AR than a product they viewed through traditional print advertising.

NFC Technology

“NFC” stands for Near Field Communication. This is one of the most recent evolutions in direct mail, taking QR and AR technologies a step further. In this case, an actual microchip is embedded into the mail piece. This microchip emits a radiofrequency that allows recipients to pull up multimedia digital content, simply by tapping the mail piece with their smartphones—no need for recipients to download an app to view your content! What’s more, content on the microchip is connected to the web, and can be updated even after the mailing has gone out. This allows you to deliver several messages with one piece of direct mail. This technology is brand new, so its impact on response rates is still being measured. That said, current studies indicate substantial consumer interest in this emerging technology. In fact, a recent USPS study indicated that 88% of smartphone users would consider using NFC to interact with a poster that interested them.

Let’s Work Together

If you would like to learn how you can apply these innovative approaches to your next direct mail campaign, give us a call at 866-542-2107, or contact us today. Here at United Mail, we will not only keep you informed of the latest trends in direct mail—we will help you set them.

Where Does Mobile Fit in Your Direct Mail Campaign?

As of late 2016, 80% of internet users owned smartphones – and more than 50% of those reached for their phones immediately upon waking in the morning.

Mobile devices have become a regular part of daily life for many consumers, so it’s important to keep that in mind during the planning of any marketing push. But how can you effectively reach those mobile users in a direct mail campaign?

Adding Tech to Print

Let’s talk tech first. Adding technical elements to your direct mail piece is one of the simplest ways to engage mobile users. These technical elements can include:

  • Augmented Reality: AR can be used to help a customer visualize a product in their home using a smartphone or tablet – or you can use it to deliver an animated message, increasing the power of your direct mail campaign.
  • QR Codes: These codes, when scanned with a QR reader app on a smartphone, can deliver information or open the user’s internet browser to take them to a specific landing page.
  • Near Field Communication: NFC technology uses a chip imbedded in the direct mail piece to tell the user’s phone to perform a specific action. You can use it to deliver a coupon, send the user to a landing page, give directions to a physical store, and more.

By pairing any of these technologies with a pURL (a landing page personalized for each recipient), you can create a powerful print-to-digital funnel that makes responding to your direct mail piece convenient for your customers.

Harness the Power of Text

No, I’m not talking about the text on your mail piece. I mean texting – today’s cell phone users are as likely to send a text as they are to make a voice call. By keeping this behavior in mind, you can enhance your direct mail piece with text-friendly features.

One example is to direct recipients to text a specific word to an easily-remembered number in order to sign up for discounts and text notifications of new sales. Or, you can text recipients a day after the direct mail piece lands in mailboxes to offer an extra incentive to open it.

One big benefit of adding texting to your direct mail campaign: Since you can use a unique number for users to text, you can easily track your response rate.

Be More Social

According to statistics gathered by Hootsuite, more than 2.8 billion people were using social media by the end of 2016. 83% of Americans had at least one social media account. These numbers make social a crucial element in your marketing campaigns.

You can make your direct mail more social by including your social media handles so they can “follow” you online. Or, you can go an extra step and turn that QR code we discussed earlier into a “share” code – automatically generating a message the user can share to their social media accounts. By pairing this with a discount code, you’ll give them an incentive to share your message with their online friends.

All of these methods help you harness consumers’ love affair with technology to improve your direct mail ROI. Get creative with mobile integration, and you’ll likely see your response rates soar.

Contact United Mail

If you have any questions about how your next direct mail campaign can work with mobile advertising give us a call at 866-542-2107.

Variable Data Print Can Make Your Audience Comfortable

Imagine this scenario:

You run into two separate colleagues at an industry event. You chat for a few minutes with each, then go your separate ways. A year later, you run into the same two colleagues at another event. Mary remembers your name and that you have a kid in high school, and asks how you’re settling in a year after you got promoted.

Running into Joe is like meeting a stranger again.

Which one will leave a more positive impression with you? If both sent you a marketing message, which would you be more receptive to?

Variable Data Print: Meeting a Colleage vs Meeting a Stranger

Much of the information you gather about your customers can work in the same way. Think about it: If you receive two direct mail pieces, which are you more likely to read – the one addressed to you by name, or the one addressed to “Current Resident”?

Variable data goes a lot further than just addresses, of course. But the principle holds: customers are far more likely to respond to messaging that feels personal to them, rather than generic messaging blasted out to everyone in their city.

And here’s where that comfort factor comes in: People want to do businesses with people and companies they know and trust. Variable data personalizes their experience with you and your marketing message, creating a feeling that you know them.

Beyond *FIRSTNAME*: Using Variable Data to Customize Imaging

Creating that feeling of trust takes more than just putting the customer’s name and a few details on a printed mail piece. Variable data can do so much more. You can use different triggers to customize your campaign’s images, colors, and backgrounds to appeal on a more personal level to each customer.

One example is to send a birthday message to every customer. An even more powerful example is sending an individualized coupon based on the length of time a customer has been with you, or based on their purchase history.

Using variable data printing (VDP) to address a customer by name is a great first start. But this technology can do much more for you – especially if you use your creativity to come up with other ways to use the data you have on your customers to deliver highly personalized and relevant messages to them.

Let’s Talk Variable Data Printing

Give United Mail a call today to incorporate variable data printing in your next direct mail campaign. We’re here to help and look forward to hearing from you. Call 866-542-2107 today.

Augmented Reality Can Bring Your Direct Mail to Life

Augmented Reality (AR) has become a bigger buzzword in the last few years, with some creative marketing campaigns using it to great success.

If you’ve been wondering how you can make your direct mail messaging more compelling and effective, AR might be the answer. Here are some things you should know:

Consumers Love Their Smartphones

According to the most recent data by Pew Research, 77% of Americans now own smartphones. And, as we mentioned in a previous post, 61% of email users now read email on mobile apps.

What’s this mean for you? Finding ways to engage smartphone users can have a huge effect on your marketing ROI.

Consumers Love Digital Media (Especially Video)

YouTube boasts over a billion users – and those users watch hundreds of millions of hours of video every day. Google’s video service also claims to reach more 18-34 and 18-49 year olds than any cable network.

All of that media consumption presents a great opportunity for marketers – especially if they can find creative ways to tie that digital media to their larger marketing efforts (including direct mail).

AR Can Harness That Digital Attraction

One of those creative ways to bring digital media and direct mail together is through augmented reality. In another of our recent posts, we discussed how AR shouldn’t just be used as a gimmick. It should entertain, yes, but it also needs to be useful or helpful to your customers in order to be a successful addition to your direct mail.

What’s that look like in practice? One example could be an AR smartphone game in which customers can earn coupons or discounts. Or, you can provide virtual product demonstrations overlaid on their real environment. You can even deliver 3D views of the product that the customer can rotate and see from all angles.

Bringing your direct mail to live through augmented reality can be a great way to increase customer engagement with your brand. Create a memorable experience by delivering fun and/or education, and you’ll see a big improvement in your direct mail ROI.

Email Marketing Best Practices for Retail Stores

Are you taking full advantage of email to keep your products in front of customers?

Are you using email effectively?

Today’s consumers want email messaging that’s highly personalized. As VentureBeat reported in January 2016, 50% of the people who unsubscribe from email lists do so because they don’t feel the content is relevant to them, the emails are too frequent, or both.

That’s why it’s important to do more than just add a first name field in your email campaigns. Here are a few best practices to better personalize your email marketing and get better results:

1. Harness the Power of Data

Going beyond name and location in your emails is crucial…but where does that extra information come from? You need highly segmented lists to be most effective, but how do you separate customers into those segments?

There are a few ways you can go about this. The first, and most effective, is to incorporate information you gather about your customers as they interact with your brand. For example, you can use things like purchase behavior, what pages they visit on your website (and how long they spend on each), and engagement with email (such as which links they click on and which subject lines they open) to start sorting customers into targeted segments.

You can also work with third party data to get more detailed demographic information. This may be a customer’s marital status, income, interests, and number of children, just to name a few. Using this information, you can create email campaigns that speak directly to a customer’s needs.

2. Mobile Is No Longer Optional

According to data gathered by email marketing firm Adestra, 61% of email users access their email via mobile mail clients. As more people latch on to the smartphone trend, they find it much easier and more convenient to check and respond to email on the go.

That means that if you’re not optimizing your email campaigns for mobile, you may be turning off quite a few of your customers. (And don’t forget to also optimize the landing pages linked from those mobile-optimized emails!)

3. Grab Attention in the First Few Words

One downside to consumers reading more email on their mobile devices is that they tend to be busier – so they may be choosier about what they actually open and read. You need to find ways to grab a piece of their attention and encourage those click-throughs.

This starts with your email subject line. Make it short, to the point, and compelling. Use personalization and specific, descriptive language to get your point across. It’s also crucial to do A/B testing on your subject lines to see what works best for your customers.

Your first line of text is another major area of focus. Many mobile email clients create a message snippet based on that first line of text, so it needs to be as compelling as your subject line. This isn’t the time to bury the lede – many mobile email readers will decided whether to open or delete your message based on that first line, so put the most important information there.

These are just a few tips for getting more out of your retail email marketing campaigns. In future posts, we’ll discuss other tricks like using dynamic content to personalize the same email for different segments, and automation to send emails based on specific triggers. Stay tuned!

How to Tie Digital Banner Ads Together with Your Direct Mail Campaign

It might seem sometimes that direct mail and digital channels live in different silos. But these channels are merging closer together all the time – and connecting them properly can create a powerful, cohesive branding image across all of your messaging.

But there’s one area of digital marketing that you may not think of when connecting your direct mail to other channel promotions: digital banner ads.

The IP Address: A Target for Your Banner Ad Campaign

Before we get into tying your digital banners to your direct mail campaigns, let’s talk a little about how the most effective digital ads work.

It all starts with your customer’s IP address – the unique address of their computer on the wider online network. Using the IP address, you can display your ad only to people in your targeted list. These can be prospects whose IPs you have collected from email signups or web forms, or current or previous customers.

Targeting your digital ads this way ensures that you’re not wasting ad dollars on banners shown to consumers who aren’t in your target market and aren’t likely to buy from you.

Using IP Addresses to Enhance Direct Mail/Digital Banner Ad Integration

Now back to your direct mail campaign. Let’s say you’ve got a new direct mail push coming up. How do you increase the chances that your prospects will read the piece instead of tossing it?

One effective method is to use the IP addresses of your direct mail list to display related banner ads to your customers a few days ahead of your mailing. Use the same look and feel in your banner ad and direct mail design, and that mail piece is likely to stand out for the customer.

Another great thing about IP targeting is that you can keep your brand top of mind for your customers year-round – not just when you’re delivering a direct mail campaign. Your digital banner ads, with your company’s distinctive graphics and style, reinforce brand awareness. This can make customers more receptive to all of your marketing efforts and smooth the way for your next direct mail push.

Are you using digital banner ads to support your direct mail campaigns? Now’s a great time to try it – and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results. Contact United Mail today to learn more about this marketing service.

Simplifying and Perfecting Your Digital Storefront

A digital storefront is all but a requirement in our increasingly online world. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and it can be daunting to figure out how to design your storefront to maximize its effectiveness for your customers and its ROI for you.

If you’re not sure how to design the perfect online store for your customers, we have a few tips for you.

1. Look at it from a new customer’s perspective

The most beautiful and modern-looking storefront in the world isn’t doing anyone any good if your customers can’t find anything on it. Think about what your customers will want to know when they land on your page, and then design with those elements in mind. Key elements to consider include:

  • Clean, clear navigation. Are all of your navigation menu items labeled so that a new visitor can tell at a glance what’s on each of those pages? If you have product/service categories, are they clearly laid out and organized to minimize the number of clicks needed to get to a specific service?
  • Help/FAQs/contact information. If someone has a question about ordering from you, how easy is it to find an answer or find an email address/phone number for your support staff? This information shouldn’t be hidden away in a footer – put it near the top or in a sidebar so it’s close at hand.
  • A well-designed search function. How well does your on-site search work? Are your pages optimized so that common keywords bring up the expected results when a customer searches for them? Or is it more frustrating to use the search than to just hunt through category listings?

2. Simplify the ordering process wherever you can

Have you gone through the ordering process on your own site to see what a customer’s experience is like? How many clicks does it take to get to any given product/service? How long does it take to enter the information required to generate an order? How well is your payment gateway integrated – is it a smooth transition from locating a product to entering customization info to making a payment and getting to a “thank you” page?

It can be very helpful to have someone else go through the ordering process on your site for you and provide feedback (or ask your customers for their comments). It’s sometimes hard to see stumbling blocks on your site, since you’re so familiar with it. Getting feedback from other people can help you spot trouble areas you never even thought about.

3. Always keep security in mind

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’re pretty big on data security at United Mail. That’s why we strongly urge you to keep your customers’ security in mind throughout the ordering process. You can check out our data security posts for more information.

Simplifying your digital storefront can have a huge impact on your customer experience – and that, of course, has a huge impact on your bottom line. Going beyond the “pretty factor” and considering the actual user experience will keep your customers happy and ensure they keep coming back to your site.

Request a Demo

If you’re interested in a digital storefront demo, contact us and we’ll set up a time to go over this solution.

How Can Variable Mapping Print Improve Your Direct Mail Campaign?

Let’s start with a quick definition: variable mapping print uses geo-location software to pinpoint your customer’s address and generate a customized map from there to a location you choose. The obvious choice is your store, but you could also use variable mapping to direct customers to an event or other location.

This technology can be a powerful way to bring new customers to you (or remind previous customers that you’re still there).
Here are a few scenarios in which variable mapping print can help bring you more business:

1. New Neighbor Packages

Customers who move into your market territory will need to start new relationships with local businesses. Make sure one of the businesses they choose is yours with a new neighbor campaign. You can send a welcome message to families who are new to your area, complete with a map from their door to yours.

Any time you can save your customer some time, you’ll create a favorable impression. Saving them the trouble of entering an address into Google Maps is a great way to bring them to your door instead of your competitor’s.

2. Customer Appreciation Events

Planning an event to say “thank you” to your previous and existing customers? If you’re a B2B business, this might mean an off-site venue that some of your customers won’t be familiar with.

Using the combined power of variable data and variable mapping, you can send your customers a package that includes information from their purchase history, an appreciation letter/discount, and a map from their home to the event.

3. Opening a New Branch Closer to Home

Are you opening a new location in town? Using variable mapping, you can select the customers closest to the new branch and send them a map that shows how close (and convenient) you are to them now. This is a great way to encourage previous customers to come back to you, and to entice new customers that want to do business close to home.

Incorporating variable mapping into your direct mail campaigns can make a huge difference in your open rate, response rate, and overall ROI. Go beyond first-name personalization and see what a colorful, door-to-door map can do for your next campaign.

Get Started

If you would like more information on variable mapping print give us a call at 866-542-2107, or contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions, and get you a quote on this service.

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