Marketing Bootcamp

9 Promotional Items to Consider Using in Your Next Direct Mail Campaign

9 Promotional Items to Consider Using in Your Next Direct Mail Campaign
Image credit: Rupert Ganzer | Getty Images
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If you feel like your mailing results are on a downhill slide, you may need mix things up a little bit. Now is the time to send out a mailing that is really different.

One of the most critical aspects of your direct mail campaign is getting prospects to open and read your message. Unlike email campaigns, where you can actually track the number of people who open your message, it’s impossible to determine exactly how many times your direct mail piece is opened. However, there are proven ways to make your letter or package more attractive. Using a creative piece that stands out and attracts your prospects is one of them.

It’s surprising what the post office will let you to mail. Really, you can mail things like coconuts and bottles without putting them in a box! Just slap a mailing label and stamps on them. And when it comes to things that you do put in a box or envelope, the sky’s the limit. (I’m not kidding, you can even mail bees!) Use the right messaging on the outside of the package, and people will eagerly open it to get what’s inside.

Of course, there are postal restrictions on things like harmful materials, firearms, tobacco products, and alcohol. But if you’re just mailing some fun items you shouldn’t have a problem. Still, it’s always a good idea to check with the post office while you’re still in the planning stages of your direct mail campaign to avoid any nasty (and expensive) surprises.

There are companies that specialize in producing imprinted promotional products that you can easily incorporate into your direct mail campaigns. If they are useful and clever, people will keep them long after they toss the original letter, and will be reminded of you every time they use the product. If you can somehow tie in the gift item with your business or the theme of your campaign, all the better.

Consider using promotional items in your next direct mail campaign.

1. Imprinted objects. You can imprint your logo and contact information on a variety of everyday objects. For example, you can send printed magnet cards with some kind of useful reference information(like measurement converters). And people can always use bookmarks. You can make the bookmark even more valuable by putting a ruler on the edge, and making the whole thing a magnifier. Imprinted pens are another very popular promotional item. Even with all of today’s technology, people always use pens and like getting them free. If you’re a dentist you can send a toothbrush. A dry cleaner can send a lint brush. You can use copy like “make customers stick to you,” or “measure your success,” or “make your mark,” or “clean up your act” to tie in the gift with your business.

2. Microfiber products. Microfiber cleaning cloths for electronics make a highly valued gift. Imprint your name on the item tag, and use copy about “clean up your competition.” Or what about a microfiber sunglass pouch? This is something your prospects will really use.

3. Seasonal items. Take advantage of the season. For example, in the spring send imprinted seed cards or sunflower-shaped jar openers. Near the holidays send collapsible bows or other gift packaging. Is football season coming up? Sports schedules make great gifts to the right group of prospects.

4. Calendars. Did you know that the average home has four calendars? Or that most business people have two to three calendars within easy reach of their work area? According to research people refer to calendars four or five times a day. That means they could potentially be reminded of your name and your contact information four times a day, for an entire year! And people will appreciate receiving them since otherwise they’d have to go out and pay money to buy calendars. Your imprinted calendar provides continuous, ongoing advertising for many times less than you’d pay for a daily newspaper ad (that your prospect might not even see).

5. USB Flash Drives. These are surprisingly inexpensive, and they are very impressive. Put your sales message on a flash drive, and just out of curiosity prospects will plug them in to see what you have to say. Or send a blank drive they can put whatever they want on, and if they send it to someone else, you’ll get double the mileage on your mailing.

6. CDs or DVDs. Even cheaper, but just as effective as a flash drive is a CD or DVD where you present your message.

7. Food gifts. A fun idea is to send some kind of food item, like a fortune cookie, some home made chocolate chip cookies, some jam, and so on. Make sure the item is professionally wrapped and labeled, and that you don’t send anything perishable.

8. Product Samples. Do you sell artificial turf? Send a sample. Do you do custom cabinetry? Send a sample of your high quality materials. Use your imagination.

9. 3-Dimensionals. If you’re willing to try something really new, you can follow marketers who mail out fun pieces that recipients have to assemble themselves, or can fold into a toy. How about a message card that changes color in the light? Or one where the message magically appears when you hold it under running water? You may have to do some research to find a vendor who can create something like this for you, but it will certainly get noticed.

Making sure your envelope gets opened. 

If you’re going to the expense of putting something appealing inside your direct mail package, make sure your prospect knows there’s something exciting inside. That means putting that message on the envelope:

  • The most obvious thing is to clearly state "Gift Inside!" or "Labor Saving Device Inside!" or "DVD Inside!"
  • Make sure the envelope feels bulky. Just that can make it irresistible to some people.
  • Use interesting, eye-catching postage stamps. First-class stamps give more legitimacy to your package. For “decoration” you can buy cancelled stamps and/or foreign stamps in bulk from a stamp dealer.
  • Put seals, official stamps and other interesting graphics on the envelope.

Putting together a direct mail campaign costs money. If you can do something to get your recipients from throwing your money in the trash before they even open the envelope, you can make the most of your investment. The ideas we talked about here should help. But do research your prospects so you know what will appeal to them. You don’t want to send something that will not be appealing, that doesn’t make sense, or worst of all, may be offensive.

Then, as always, test your results. Do the returns you get from your “creative” campaign justify the extra cost and effort? If they do, keep up with it. If they don’t, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on it altogether. Maybe you just haven’t found the right formula. Keep trying new ideas and testing the results.

Don’t be afraid to try some of these creative ideas. They could very well help create more business for you!