Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Green Options: 9 Ways To Eliminate Direct Mail Waste

As part of Eco-Libris' ongoing content partnership with Green Options Media, we feature a post that was originally published by Jennifer Kaplan on November 17 on Ecopreneurist. Today's post brings you some great ideas how to eliminate your direct mail waste, which is especially important this time of the year.

Are you ready for the holiday mail season? Maybe this is the year to trim your DM waste. The fundamental problem is that direct mail marketing is inherently inefficient. 44% of all direct mail is thrown in the trash without ever being opened and that which is opened only yields an average of a 2.77% response. So, if you want to get 1,000 customers to respond to your direct mail piece, you have to mail, on average, 36,101 pieces of mail. Multiply that by millions of customers and millions of companies and you can see the problem. The good news is that a March 2008 Aberdeen Group study found that direct mail waste reduction is an area where "environmental concerns and shareholder interests coincide." But, you may already know this. They also found that 40% of companies said direct mail waste reduction was one of the top two areas being focused on for improving eco-friendly business practices.

The goal is to achieve the greatest precision with the lowest number of pieces mailed, but there a lot of other benefits. You can save money and enhance customer satisfaction which will in turn improves customer loyalty, purchase behavior and profitability. Here's 9 ways:

#1: Maintain good list hygiene. Updating your mailing list to remove unwanted, duplicate and undeliverable addresses regularly and thoroughly is a cheap, quick and effective way to reduce waste. There are several ways to verify mailing lists and all outside list mangers are able to perform this function or you can buy your own address verification software. You will mail fewer pieces and, under some circumstances, lower your mailing rates. Consider offering incentives (such as the offer of a discount on their next purchase) for notification of duplicate mailings and incorrect addresses.

#2. Don’t mail to weak prospects.
By not mailing to customers who have not responded in the past 6-12 months you can lower customer complaints and improve customer satisfaction. Go a step further and use segmentation and modeling to “select with care” customer names that should be mailed for differing promotions.

#3: Make it easy for customers to opt-out.
By making it easy for customers who do not want to receive future solicitations to opt out, you will save money and engender lots of goodwill. Label marketing materials with an email or website address where customers can opt-out and then make it easy and automatic for them to do so.

#4. Offer a choice to receive communications electronically (email, Web, blogs, mobile and intranets). E-billing, E-newsletter, etc.. are good examples.

#5. Test lists to improve response rates. Test purchased mailing lists before mailing to the entire list. Test different versions of advertising and marketing offers, in mail and other media, to select those offers and media mixes that yield the highest response.

#6. Consider environmentally preferable paper for every print project. Look into lightweight or PCW papers. Oriented Polypropylene paper (OPP) might be appropriate if visibly labeled as recyclable. Purchase materials made from recycled materials with post-consumer content when possible.

#7. Reduce waste in the design and production stages.
Direct design teams to reduce waste allowances and dimensions that require wasteful trimming when designing and printing materials. Test downsized pieces on different weights of paper. Lower acceptable print order overruns and require that overruns be recycled.

#8. Use pdfs to proof.

#9. Use environmentally preferable addressing and labeling techniques on envelopes and boxes
such as ink-jet technology and open address windows to eliminate the need for extra labels.

All these ideas and more can be found in The DMA's free web-based tool the
Environmental Planning Tool and Policy & Vision Statement Generator to complete a best-practice, online checklist that includes over one hundred strategies to make marketing practices more sustainable. Then watch the system generate an environmental vision statement in seconds. Its a very cool tool and free. If you use direct mail, there's no reason not to use it.

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