Direct mail campaigns require planning and organisation, and often involve a significant investment of both time and budget. Making small changes and tweaks to different campaign decisions throughout the process can help keep your costs down, and producing a more cost effective campaign can lead to improved return on investment. If you want to help your marketing budget work harder it’s well worth considering how you can make your direct mail projects as cost effective as possible.
There are various elements of a direct marketing budget that can be broken down to help you assess the areas you could reduce your spending. Although there may be differences between specific projects, your direct mail campaign budget will usually include the following as a minimum:
- Paper costs
- Printing costs
- Design costs
- Photography costs
- Postage costs
- Mailing list cost
- Data cleansing cost
There are multiple decisions to be made throughout the project that can impact on these cost areas.
We’re going to analyse these over a 2 part post to help you consider the direct mail decisions you are making and work towards the most cost effective solution that provides you with the best results.
Direct Mail Advertising Formats
Choosing the most effective format to communicate your message could be one of the most important decisions you make when it comes to making your budget go further. However, it often tends to be a decision that’s made by creatives rather than strategic thinkers.
Once you have defined the aims and goals of your direct mail campaign, take some time to consider exactly how much space you’ll need to convey your message. The format you choose needs to be powerful, but minimising the format can result in big cost reductions, so don’t opt for size or pages you don’t really need.
The paper for your mailing costs money, so if you reduce the number of pages in one publication even by a little, this can multiply out to a big saving across a whole mail campaign. Smaller, lighter items are easier to post too so may result in cheaper mailing rates. All this adds up, so it’s a good idea to assess your options in detail before you begin design work for a campaign. Here’s a run-down of the most popular formats:
Standard letter sizes are quite cost effective to print and to post, so as long as the weight doesn’t creep up too much you can add plenty of information into one envelope.
Postcards are a popular tool for getting one simple and powerful message across.
They don’t come in an envelope which makes your message visible immediately. It also makes them one of the cheapest mailing formats due to their simplicity.
However, a postcard may not be enough to communicate a more complex message or a range of products. As it’s a popular format, your postcard mailing may also fail to stand out.
Booklet or leaflet mailings can be valuable when you have a more complex message to deliver, or you want to showcase a small new range of products. If you’re considering a leaflet, it’s worth getting some varied quotes from your printers before you begin.
Depending on the printing process, certain sizes or numbers of pages might be more cost effective than others. You might find you get more for your money by being smart about the number of pages you plan.
A catalogue is perhaps the biggest undertaking when it comes to direct mail formats. Multiple pages of multiple products are required. Once again it’s a good idea to consider size, pagination and paper weight from the outset to ensure your creative doesn’t ramp up the cost unnecessarily.
Innovative Direct Mail Formats
There are plenty of more innovative and creative direct mail formats you could choose, and these can pay dividends when executed well. However it’s likely that these will also require a higher investment in the direct mail project. If you’re looking to be as cost effective as you can with your direct mail campaign budget it’s probably best to stick to a standard format. However, once you’ve got the targeting and messaging right you might want to transfer your learning to a new direct mail format in future.
Direct Mail Design
Once you’ve chosen the right direct mail format for your message and budget requirements it’s time to think about design. Making sure your key messages are communicated in an engaging way is vital to the success of your direct mail project. Even if you’ve produced a piece on a shoestring budget, ineffective design will minimise sales or conversions which means your efforts won’t be cost effective at all.
Direct Mail Design Tips
It’s useful to understand what makes a good mailing design so you can try to guide a creative team or a designer on the approach you’d like them to take. Take a look at these tips of effective postcard design for a handy checklist.
Choosing who will design your direct mail creative is also a big decision that could make or break your project. A truly cost effective solution balances cost and quality, achieving a great creative for an affordable price. There are different ways to go about this, so it’s wise to think long and hard about your approach.
In House Direct Mail Design
Let’s face it, design agencies can be costly. If you’re really trying to stretch your budget you might already be thinking about how to avoid such costs. One way to do this is to design your direct mailer in house. You might have an existing design team, a graphic designer or simply a budding creative who you feel is up to the job. In some cases, in house expertise might provide exactly what you need to make your budget work.
It’s probably best to tackle simpler projects like postcard and letters if you’re designing for print for the first time. If you’re thinking of taking the design in house but your design team is new to print, try brushing up on these tips on print design.
Using An Agency
A design agency can play a crucial part in your direct mail campaign when it comes to determining catalogue design layout and detail. However, design agencies don’t just bring creative skills to the table. They can offer insight and knowledge into printing processes and options, help you to manage your schedule and assist with the overall workload.
Sometimes getting the experts in is the right thing to do, and an upfront investment can really pay off.
Once you have a design brief ready, select a few agencies that you feel would be up to the job. Most will be happy to prepare a pitch including a sample of how they’d approach your brief. Seeing their work helps you to get a feel for how they interpret your ideas and your brand, allowing you to choose the right fit for you. Making the right call on the creative agency you choose can ease the process as well as leading to better results, all of which could end up helping you achieve your cost effectiveness goals.
Creating a cost effective direct mail campaign isn’t just about selecting the cheapest options. It’s about assessing what’s really important about your strategy and making smart decisions with this in mind. At times a bigger investment might be a smarter decision if it leads to a more effective campaign.
Look out for our next blog post in this series, which covers making cost effective choices on paper, pages, and postage methods to get the most from your budget.