Over the course of a typical year, I create, produce and mail millions of pieces of direct mail for my clients. As someone who fervently believes that direct response marketing still has a viable place in a digitally focused world, I am often asked about the pros and cons of the various options that companies have today when they want to target their customers and prospects with physical mail. While traditional direct mail and shared mail (made popular by Red Plum’s ADVO product), have been around for many years, Every Door Direct (a service of the USPS) is relatively new. Additionally, door hangers, while not new, are often not thought of in the same context as direct mail. In fact, the tactic is technically classified as “alternative mail” and its delivery is protected under the 1st Amendment (even to homes that post a ‘no solicitation’ sign).
So, with all these choices, which tactic is most effective?
For those who may not be familiar with the four tactics mentioned above, here is a quick definition of each:
1. Direct Mail (DM) For the purposes of this post, Direct Mail will refer to mail that is sent via either 1st class or standard postage. This is the majority of the mail that you receive on a daily basis. As compared to “shared mailed, ” this tactic would be called “solo mail.”
2. Every Door Direct (EDD). Given the number of emails, text messages and other forms of digital communication that are sent each day, it is obvious that traditional direct mail is in decline. EDD is a class of direct mail that the US Postal Service launched a few years ago to incentivize companies to revisit direct marketing as an advertising and communications tactic.
3. Shared Mail. Whether it arrives in your weekly newspaper circular or bundled in a stack of 20+ cards with a plastic wrap, shared mail leverages the economy of multiple pieces being delivered to the same location at the same time to reduce the overall mailing costs.
4. Door Hangers. These are the die cut hang tags and other flyers that are usually found in, on, or around your front door. These pieces are delivered door to door by private service, not the USPS.
As with any product comparison, there are a variety of features that must be explored in order to understand when a particular tactic may be most appropriate. The four that I will use for this comparison are:
- Applicable Size Restrictions
- Delivery Timing
- Special Considerations
In the case of direct mail, size does matter. It is also true that as you make decisions about one variable, another variable will likely be impacted. For example, traditional direct mail is the most flexible in terms of size options. However, as you move from a letter to a flat and beyond, not only do the production cost of the mailer increases (i.e. printing costs) but also the postage costs (often substantially). For tactics like EDD and Shared Mail, there are specific size restraints that must be observed for pieces to qualify for those programs. See below for the specifics on EDD from the USPS.
Shared mail size restrictions can vary greatly by mailer. I normally use Red Plum and our preferred size is an 11″ x 6″ postcard. This will mail for the same price as something that is 8″ x 5″ or even smaller. In which case, it is better to maximize your size and impact.
Door hangers can also vary in size but are normally produced somewhere around 5″ x 12″. Similar to traditional direct mail, as the size and complexity of the door hanger increases, so do the associated production and distribution costs. These increases have to be weighed again the potential impact to ROI.
Aside from cost, there is no other variable that receives as much attention in direct response marketing as delivery timing. This is often because the reason for the mailing is to advertise a time specific event, sale, celebrity appearance, etc. Thus, marketers are always in a juggling act between the most efficient piece to produce and mail and the time it takes that piece to arrive. There is a clear reason why an overnight letter sent via UPS/FEDEX costs 25 times more than a letter mailed first class–timing.