By Mike Porter; Print/Mail Consultants

Dimensional direct mail marketing, packages that have a third-dimensional aspect in addition to the length and width of a letter or postcard, enjoy outstanding conversion rates. These pieces stand out from everything else in the mailbox and arouse curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to open a well-designed piece of dimensional mail?

Besides attracting immediate attention, items delivered as dimensional mail also form a lasting impression. On my bookshelf sits a model mailbox I received, unexpectedly, as a promotional item from a local Postal Customer Council. It came at least five years ago in a small box, and I wasted no time in opening the package to see what was inside. I also still remember a small tube that came in the mail in 2005. Something was moving inside, and when I tilted the tube, the contents shifted and played steel drum music. The piece was advertising a sales contest for my employer where the prize was a Caribbean vacation. I kept that tube and showed it to people for years until the battery wore out!

You may have similar memories of dimensional mail delivered to you, but I’d be surprised if you can vividly recall a direct mail postcard from sixteen years ago. Traditional direct mail pieces are soon forgotten.

Of course, these memorable mail pieces come with a price. Items packaged in tubes, boxes, or other odd-shaped containers will cost a lot when compared to a flat, direct mail postcard. But it may be worth it. Some time ago, the Direct Marketing Association (now the AMA) reported that dimensional mail campaigns outperformed flat pieces by 200% or more.

The novelty of a dimensional mail piece obviously contributes to the success of such campaigns, but I suspect marketers are a lot more selective about the names on their dimensional mail lists, because of the extra expense. Super-fine targeting probably has something to do with the sky-high response rates.

Why Now?

So why am I writing about dimensional mail now? Well, it was fun to remember those pieces that made such an impression on me. The real reason, though, are stories I’ve been reading about digital fatigue and concern about the end of third-party cookie data for digital marketing. These factors seem to be encouraging some marketers to think about shifting parts of their campaigns back to postal mail.

While that’s good news for all the people who work in the mailing industry, it also presents some challenges. Marketers used to sending email or text messages out for next to nothing may balk at the cost of dimensional mail. This is where print/mail service providers and in-plant print operations can educate marketing people about steps you can take to help them keep direct mail costs reasonable. Focus on the results instead of the volume to take the sting out of what seems to be an extravagant expense.

  1. Trimming the mailing list is one place to start. Whether or not the campaign includes dimensional mail, eliminating wasted mail pieces is a positive step that always contributes to improved campaign ROI. Get rid of undeliverable addresses and filter out groups like deceased individuals and prison inmates. Enhance the data by appending information like income, age, and residence type which you can use to eliminate individuals unlikely to respond to the offer. Ask questions about the profile of the desired buyers and drop names from the mailing list that do not fit the criteria. Spend the money on only high-value prospects.
  2. Do the math for your client. If they are used to sending thousands of emails converting at a rate of a tenth of one percent, calculate how many dimensional mail pieces (that get opened by nearly everyone) are necessary to realize the same result. With the right offer and laser-focused targeting, such a campaign might easily convert in the five to ten percent range.
  3. Instead of a large batch mailing, suggest sending your dimensional mail pieces as a fulfillment process. Certain prospect actions, such as visiting your client’s pricing web page, downloading a white paper, or requesting a quote would trigger the fulfillment. The client would send you a list of qualified prospects periodically, and you can send the promotional materials to them.
  4. Be sure you understand USPS rates and rules that will affect the cost of postage for dimensional mail. Also consider piece manufacturing and packaging. A minor adjustment in size, weight, or orientation might allow you to use off-the-shelf packaging rather than investing in custom tubes or boxes. Product and packaging designs can also affect the cost to prepare the mail pieces in your shop, so think about how you can automate or streamline the process.
  5. Explore the idea of shipping promotional products unassembled to save on production and postage. Include instruction sheets featuring pURLs that lead to assembly instruction videos while simultaneously allow you to track the interaction with the client. Marketers will love that, as it allows for follow-up communications — some of which could be mailings (more work for you)!

Dimensional mail isn’t right for everyone, and you can’t use it all the time. Part of the reason dimensional mail works so well is the unusual and unexpected arrival in the home or office of your best prospects. But as direct mail volume increases, standing out will be important. Sending the same jumbo postcards as everyone else may not be enough. Now would be a good time to acquaint yourself with dimensional mail so you can be ready with answers and suggestions when you see an opportunity.