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7 Environmentally Conscious Strategies for Direct Mail
November 17, 2021

7 Environmentally Conscious Strategies for Direct Mail

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Christina Louie Dyer

You know direct mail is good for business. Your campaigns generate strong response rates and positive ROI.

But there’s also an environmental impact created by direct mail that is important to consider and we know it matters to consumers, as well. Nielsen found that 73% of global consumers would change their buying habits to reduce any negative environmental impact.

The good news? You don’t need to ditch direct mail marketing in order to demonstrate environmental best practices. Make these seven changes part of your direct mail strategy, and you can continue enjoying the positive ROI of direct mail without compromising your commitment to sustainability.

1. Target recipients to reduce mail volume

Customers want personalized communications, from emails to direct mail pieces. Salesforce’s 2019 State of the Connected Consumer report found that 64% of customers expect companies to take past interactions with them into account when sending communications. Find ways to better target your communications, and you’ll not only see ROI increase—you won’t need to send out as many mailers, too.

Simply personalizing your direct mail with the recipient’s first name can increase campaign response rates by 135%, according to Canon’s research. If you have 5,000 customers in your CRM, but only 4,000 have confirmed first names, you can save money and materials by only sending to the 4,000 with names.

Keep in mind, that “Dear John” greeting can fall flat if you send John an offer for something he doesn’t want. If John only buys athletic shoes from you, and you send him a postcard offer on dress shoes, your postcard could likely end up in the recycle bin. With variable data printing, you can personalize offers as easily as personalizing first names.

2. Simplify your mailers

One of the easiest ways to make your direct mail pieces more environmentally friendly is to reduce the amount of paper used in their production. Do you really need that envelope with the plastic address window or that glossy insert?

Postcards are a popular eco mail option, and they’re far less expensive than other types of mail. The average postcard starts at $0.40 to send first class. A first-class letter with an envelope starts at $0.58. Multiply that by a few thousand, and the savings add up quickly.

Postcards also don’t require the extra step of opening an envelope and force you to be more succinct in your copy, which can lead to faster customer comprehension and conversion.

It’s also never been easier to source postcards made from recycled materials, so not only are you able to send a smaller piece of mail, you’re leaving a smaller environmental footprint.

3. Measure your eco mail

If you’re not laser-focused on measuring the ROI of your direct mail campaigns, you’re not only throwing money away—you’re also potentially adding to landfills.

If you send out 10,000 discount-offering postcards each time you launch a new product, in addition to an email, how do you know the impact?

The following tracking methods can help you determine who’s converting from direct mail, giving you more insight into how you can better target your campaigns (and send the optimal amount of mail).

  • Personalized URLs (PURLs) have identifiers in the URLs that let you track a website visit or conversion to a customer. If your postcard’s CTA is to have the customer go online and complete a task, a personalized URL such as www.buythisproduct.com/john.smith can tell you exactly who bought as a result of the mailer.
  • QR codes can be personalized to customers as well. QR codes deliver a customer to a landing page when scanned. That landing page can contain a larger share of your marketing copy than the mailer, which means your direct mail piece can be smaller.
  • Personalized promo codes work much like personalized URLS. When a customer enters the code to redeem an online offer, you know exactly whom to credit.

If these tracking methods reveal that 1,000 or so conversions occur from direct mail — and roughly the same 1,000 customers are converting via direct mail — then you can send fewer mailers with better results.

4. Ask customers if they want to receive direct mail

One of the easiest ways to reduce your impact? Send less mail.

Consider using digital channels to see how many of your customers are open to receiving direct mail from you. Don’t be afraid to reach out: 89% of customers don’t mind if companies ask them for input, according to Microsoft.

One tactic is to send an email containing a link to a larger survey that includes the direct mail question. For every finished survey, you can send the customer a promo code for a small discount as a thank you. You can also make the direct mail question a single call to action in an email. From there, you track which customers click your “I Want Direct Mail” button in your analytics. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn also have poll features that can help you determine what your followers want.

Say you have 10,000 email subscribers and 1,000 of them indicate they don’t want to receive direct mail. You haven’t just saved money on printing costs—you’re also sending 1,000 fewer direct mail pieces, which benefits the environment.

5. Choose your raw materials carefully

Once you’ve found ways to send fewer but more strategic direct mail pieces, you can now look for ways to make the pieces themselves more environmentally friendly.

Your two biggest considerations are paper and ink. Recycled paper uses less water, energy and bleach, and keeps paper out of landfills. Vegetable-based inks use a fraction of the petroleum needed to produce industrial inks.

Recycled paper and vegetable-based inks can be more expensive than “virgin” paper or petroleum-based inks, but if you send simpler and fewer mailings because of better targeting, your campaign can still be profitable. Soy-based ink has sharper, brighter colors, meaning less is needed for printing and offsetting its higher price.

If your eco mail stock is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), you can put its logo on your mailer, which your environmentally conscious customers will be happy to see.

6. Help customers recycle your eco mail

You’ve created the most eco-friendly direct mail campaign possible. It’s only natural to want your customers to complete the circle by recycling your piece. It doesn’t hurt to nudge them to do the environmentally responsible thing.

One of the best ways to remind them is to include a “Please Recycle” message on each piece. You can put that same invitation to recycle on any website landing page the mailer asks them to visit. Make sure the page also includes your environmental certifications and memberships. You might even add easy-to-find links that explain how your customers can get involved in environmentally sustainable initiatives.

If you have a brick-and-mortar retail location, another tactic is to invite customers to redeem the mailer at the store for a discount. Staff can make sure to recycle the mailer.

7. Choose a direct mail partner who cares about sustainability

If you’re committed to incorporating the strategies above into your direct mail marketing campaigns, you need a partner who cares about environmental sustainability as much as you.

At Lob, we realize the impact that direct mail has on our planet. Beyond helping you personalize and track your campaigns, we’ve planted over 300,000 trees since November 2017 — more than twice the paper used for the mail sent through our platform. Our paper stock contains at least 10% PCW, recycled pulp fiber for all letter and postcard mailings. It has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainable harvesting and production.

Using eco mail is good for business

Concern for the environment is no longer a nice addition to a direct mail campaign strategy. It’s a necessity—your customers and the planet demand action.

An eco mail strategy starts with using earth-friendly materials, but it ends with finding more targeted ways to engage with your customers. If you find better ways to personalize and track your mailers, you’re not only sending fewer, more environmentally friendly mailers, you’re encouraging higher rates of conversion.

Lob is here to help you craft more sustainable and ROI-driven direct mail campaigns. Sign up for Lob today.

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