For best mailer results, go dimensional

It's finally happened - telemarketing is tele-outtahere.

Well, not quite. But it's well on the way out, a stake driven into its heart by the national Do Not Call list established by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC registry, whose rolls have swelled to more than 58 million consumers, blocks those pesky, unwanted and sometimes abusively persistent sales calls by telemarketers. It was challenged by the Direct Marketing Association, and last September a district court in Oklahoma ruled in favor of the telemarketers, saying the list violated the free-speech rights of businesses. In February, however, that ruling was overturned by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The DMA has no plans to appeal.

And the latest reports indicate the use of telemarketing is still dropping sharply, continuing the downward spiral that began last year when the DNC list went into effect. Even before Consumer America's collective sigh of relief could subside following the latest court ruling, two bad things happened: a lot of telemarketing people became unemployed, and a lot of companies lost a major medium for communicating with their buyers.

Now the bright side: the benefactor in all this is direct mail and, in particular, three-dimensional direct mail. Companies that relied heavily on telemarketing are now turning to dimensional mail items, gifts or premiums to get the attention of potential customers.

And get attention they do. Most flat mailers we see are hard to remember just two days after we get them. Dimensional mailers are hard to forget even after two months. By virtue of the fact that they are dimensional, these mailers have always been very successful at making an impression.

Dimensionals work

Research at Baylor University shows that dimensional mail outperforms flat mail by huge numbers. It has 20 times the penetrating power of flat direct mail, boosts response rates by as much as 75% and scores 80% or better in generating positive opinions among recipients.

Dimensionals work because they cut through the clutter, especially if mailed in a non-standard business envelope or packaged in a box, tube, bubble pack envelope or hard plastic container. They almost always get opened. The "gatekeeper" in the business (usually an executive assistant) typically passes the package on without opening it, especially if the outside has the right words. Items like jigsaw puzzles or phone cards are actually interactive, getting recipients directly involved with the mail piece itself, an always sought-after goal.

If there is a downside, it's that dimensional mailers are more expensive. But because they're more effective in producing measurable results, the results should always be measured to make sure your company is getting its money's worth. You can use one of several quantifiers, depending on the goals of your program–number of callbacks or responses, benchmark and follow-up awareness survey, or even the number of resulting sales.

Ultimately, ROI is the standard a dimensional mailer should be held to, and metrics should be set up in advance to quantify its value in creating or closing sales.

Your list of to-do's for dimensionals

If you're planning or thinking about doing a dimensional mailer, we offer these guidelines to help you along the way:

  1. Check and double-check accuracy of the mailing list. Obvious but crucial when developing costly dimensional mailings, this step helps eliminate the expense of paying freight for misdirected packages.
  2. Do the fundamentals right: come up with creative concepts, an exciting theme, superlative design, great copy and headlines.
  3. Use your agency's knowledge to develop an integrated and targeted campaign, help to create a theme, an imprint, artwork and distribution method, and help you select the right products within your budget.
  4. Tailor the promotional product to the sales pitch. Gifts or premiums used in dimensionals are most effective if they relate directly to the product or service being promoted, or to the marketing or mailing theme.
  5. Construct an innovative, clever dimensional package.
  6. Present a fantastic offer. Remember, once the recipient opens the package, he or she has to see something of value in a purchase. Otherwise, there'll be no purchase–no matter how clever the packaging!
  7. Handle the meticulous U.S. Postal guidelines. Before making the initial investment, call and make sure that boxes, tubes or containers meet all height and weight restrictions.
  8. Deliver a quality dimensional mail project that will reflect positively on your company and you!
  9. Provide tenacious, personal telephone follow-up.



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