Thursday, February 25, 2010

Green printing tip no. 35: Is Direct Mail Dead?

We are back today with a new tip on our weekly series of green printing tips, where we bring you information on green printing in collaboration with Greg Barber, an experienced eco-friendly printer.

Today Greg is presenting us with a column he found while researching research the internet for new Green Tips. This column is dealing with direct mail and how to make it more efficient and successful, and it's written by Leslie Tane. Now, if you're asking what's so green about making direct mail more efficient, the answer is that greater efficiency will reduce the waste involved in it.

If after reading Tane's tips, you're still looking for further green guidance on direct mail, you're welcome to check out our tip no. 26 about this issue, as well as Jennifer Kaplan's excellent column "9 Ways to Eliminate Direct Mail Waste". We hope all of these resources will get you a better idea on how to make your next direct mail campaign more eco-friendly.

Is Direct Mail Dead?

Tip #35

It's the age of the Internet - e-mail marketing, social networking and blogs. So why would you do printed, direct mail marketing? No one reads that they?

Well, you might be surprised. According to the USPS, advertising mail represented 63% of all mail received by households in 2008. Of that, 79% of households either read or scan advertising mail sent to their household and 11% respond and take action.

Compare this to e-mail marketing: Mail Chimp's research indicates the average open-rate for marketing e-mail is about 25% and the click-through/take-action rate is only 4.28%. I'm not a numbers person (is there a graphic designer who is?), but it's pretty clear that direct mail is
far from finished.

There are some things to keep in mind when designing direct mail to increase the chances of your potential customer following through:

1. Take advantage of variable data printing. When I started out, there was one main option for printing in color: offset printing. How times have changed. Not only is it affordable to digitally print short-runs of your printing projects, it's possible to customize your projects using variable data printing (VDP).

For example, say you're designing for an organization's annual fundraiser. If the organization has a database of past donors, including their names, and the years and amounts they've previously donated, it's easy to print that information right in the body of your piece. It personalizes the experience and can make a call for cash less of an intrusion and more of an appeal.

2. Have a clear call to action. A few years ago, I got a letter asking me to support the Fourth of July fireworks display in my town. I take my kids to that event every year and was ready, pen in hand, to write a check. I scoured the letter only to find that there was no return address, no phone number and no way to easily send the money. Sure, I could have looked up the number and contacted them, but expecting your recipients to do that is expecting too much. I never sent the check.

Make sure you provide a clear way to respond to your direct mail. Is there a number to call? A Web site to visit? Make it obvious.

3. Speaking of Web sites, use yours to track the results of your direct mail campaign. Personalized URLs or Web addresses that incorporate the recipient's name are becoming more and more widely used. At the very least, each direct mail piece that goes out should have a dedicated phone extension or Web landing page, so that you can track your results.

4. Design something different. I often save a few weeks worth of direct mail I receive, so that I can have a base of real-world samples. I'll spread them out on my desk to look at them. Then, I'll design something that looks different. If I'm seeing a lot of close crops of faces, I'll pick and image with a person far away, or, even more likely, avoid a picture of a face at all.

Lots of primary colors? I'll go for an off-shade of green. Not many large fields of color? Maybe, that would work for my design. You can't steer clear of all existing designs, but you want to make your direct mailing stand out. The best way to get a feel for what's out there is to look at some of it with a critical eye.

One of the best things about direct mail is that even on a smaller budget, you can get great results.

For additional information on greening your next direct mail campaign, please call Greg Barber at (973) 224-1132, or email

Also, if you have any questions you would like us to address in future tips please email us to .

Latest tips:

Green Printing Tip #34 - What should we look for in buying copier paper?

Green Printing Tip #33 - Do I have a Green Marketing Give Away for Trade Shows?

Green Printing Tip #32 - Is Tree Free Hemp Paper still available?

You can find links to all the tips we published so far on our green printing tips page, which is part of our green printing tools & resources.

You can also find further valuable information on Greg Barber Company's website -


Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting green printing!