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Jun 28, 2006
Case Study

Can Cool (Expensive) Direct Mail Campaigns Get a Decent ROI for Lead Gen?

SUMMARY: Have you ever wanted to test a really creative direct postal mail package to see if it will pull harder than the same-old/same-old stuff?

Sure, die-cuts and dimensionals could drain your budget in a heartbeat. But, perhaps, like online video, they'll stand out enough to garner higher response rates.

Here's the real-life story of one B-to-B marketer who decided to test something different for lead gen:
"We wanted to do something different," explains Katherine Van Diepen, Anritsu Director Marketing Communications.

Van Diepen's team had been aggressively marketing Anritsu's $40,000 handheld spectrum analyzers for quite some time to engineers.

Her immediate past lead generation campaign had a twist. Although it was a classic self mailer with a business reply card, it also included a personal URL for each named recipient to encourage them to register online. Between mailed-back BRCs and online registrants, response rocketed to 10%, with 17.5% of responders requesting sales demos. (See past MarketingSherpa Case Study below.)

While that's a dance-around-the-boardroom high response rate; it raises the bar of expectations for your next campaign.

The marketing team decided to take everything they'd done right with the last campaign -- self mailer, personal URL, iPod giveaway lead gen offer -- and make the creative more creative.

"I wanted to do a 3D dimensional," where you open it and a cardboard replica of the product springs out in actual size. However, the cost for this kind of printed pop-up can be very high, especially for lower quantities.

Instead, Van Diepen decided to test the Customized MarketMail format.

Although the USPS launched MarketMail in August 2003, few B-to-B marketers had tested it yet. The format allows marketers to send a die-cut self-mailer without placing it in an envelope or polybag first. In other words, you can send out a crazily-shaped, oversized postcard. (For examples and info, see link to USPS microsite below.)

In Anritsu's case, the sizzle of their steak was the handy size of their devices. So, Van Diepen decided her mailer would be a cut-out life-size replica (albeit flat) of the actual product, with the offer copy, mailing address and BRC on the back side.

The creative, mocked up by the art department looked marvelous (see below for creative sample link.) Now the team had to get it into the mail

but then came Production Hell.

The production team were careful to take mock-ups to their post office prior to the full print run to make sure the new format met specs and would be mailable. Answers were confusing. First the team were told that if the BRC was glued on it would be fine.

But, then that OKd piece was rejected.

It seems the postal service had changed their minds and now wanted the BRC to be placed in a polybag (clear plastic envelope) that would be glued onto the card.

However, that piece was in turn rejected as well. Now, the postal service said the BRC had to be placed on stiffer backing within the polybag, which them in turn was glued onto the card.

After these production contortions, the campaign finally mailed.


According to Van Diepen the campaign pulled awfully well -- a 15% total response rate in fact, with 9% coming from mailed in BRCs and 6% from recipients going to their personalized URL landing pages.

On the other hand, this 50% higher overall response rate from her past self-mailer was offset by per piece costs that were at least 150% higher. (These types of packages tend to start at the low end around $1.60 per piece and go up from there. Standard postage alone is at least 60.5 cents per piece.)

And, the higher response rate was matched by a co-responding drop in lead quality. Only 6.67% of respondents requested a product demo appointment with a sales rep.

However, Van Diepen was still happy with results because "when customers buy this product, they buy 20 or 40 of them, so it's worth it to spend more on this campaign." In other words, her ROI was wonderful.

Our advice? If you are in a broad market, send the cheapest direct mail package you can and maximize your responses with best practices in list selection, offer and appealing response devices such as personal landing pages.

However, if you are in a tight niche market (especially a highly competitive one) and are afraid the excitement has been tapped out of current DM formats, consider testing a MarketMail format.

Just be sure to build extra padding in your budget and time-schedule for unexpected costs and delays.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from the Anritsu mailer:

Past MarketingSherpa Case Study on Anritsu's other lead gen campaigns

Past MarketingSherpa Case Study: 'How to Make Really Expensive Direct Mail Campaigns Pay Off -- 5 Tips on Dimensional Mailings'

USPS info site for marketers on Customized MarketMail campaigns:

Beasley Direct Marketing -- the lead generation agency Anritsu relies on

Name of printing & fulfillment vendor -- withheld by request ("It was so painful I wouldn't heartily recommend them.")


See Also:

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