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March 3, 2022

Sustainability Best Practices for Direct Mail Marketing

by 
Kim Courvoisier

Direct mail marketing has many advantages, even in today's hyper-digitized world. It's an incredibly effective channel for lead generation, customer acquisition, and customer retention. But in recent years, direct mail has come under scrutiny for its potential to be wasteful. Thankfully, there's plenty you can do to make your direct mail marketing more environmentally responsible. As companies learn how to operate more sustainably, direct mailers can easily follow suit.

Direct mail complements your digital marketing channels perfectly. It can increase your ROI and customer lifetime value while reducing churn and helping you acquire new customers. The best practices outlined in this article will help give you a better understanding of how to optimize your direct mail campaigns so they're as green as possible while being more effective than ever—a win-win!

Going green: sustainability in direct mail marketing

Many companies have goals and requirements around sustainability in marketing and yours might be one of them. The first step is to identify the green initiatives you already have in place, whether those are recycling, adopting new procedures, or meeting with vendors to ensure environmental commitments. It's much easier to build on what you already have than to start from scratch and implement an entirely new sustainability plan.

There are countless ways companies using direct mail marketing can be more earth-conscious. When you plan campaigns in an eco-conscious way, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Let's start by looking at materials and considering some easy methods for 'greening' your campaigns.

  • Opt for more environmentally-friendly materials like recycled paper, chlorine or chemical-free paper, or tree-free papers made from non-wood-based pulp.
  • Use minimal packaging materials, which ensures both cost savings and reduces the risk of damage to your product or item.
  • Be sure to get international post standards from an organization like Universal Postal Union (UPU) so you can be sure to use a minimum standard.
  • Use items that can be reused or recycled after they have served their purpose. If possible, look for paper with a high post-consumer recycling content, which means it is made from recycled material instead of virgin fiber.
  • Consider using simplified messaging and address labels, as these will require less space on a letter or brochure envelope. This enables you to keep contents that are more environmentally friendly.
  • To save on postage, you might be able to reuse your mailpiece. For example, instead of printing a letterhead that includes the company's address every time you send a piece out, use custom templates from a digital document creator.
  • If possible, choose an eco-friendly font—For example, Century Gothic is less-ink intensive than the traditional Times New Roman.
  • Don't print mailing list names or other information in black; this is not necessary unless it's the only color ink available. Try using different shades of gray, blue, green, etc., if you're out of other colors. Black printing can use up to three times more ink than any other color. If you must use black, reduce the size so that fewer amounts will be used during production.

While seemingly minor, all of these little considerations add up to more sustainable direct mail campaigns you can be proud of.

Recommended reading: Buyer's Guide for Choosing Eco-conscious Mailers

Eco-conscious marketing materials

There are several cost-effective printing materials you can use for direct mail marketing. Depending on your preference, there are many paper options from 100 percent recycled to those that have been certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In addition, depending on your needs, you can print with soy ink or use uncoated cover stock instead of glossy paper.

Using recycled uncoated cover stock

Uncoated cover stock is great because the surface absorbs inks well, so it’s perfect for vivid colors and sharp text. It can be recycled at least three times before needing to be replaced, meaning less paper ends up in landfills.

Using recycled coated cover stock

Coated cover stock is created from a mix of virgin and recycled content, so it can be used on a more regular basis without having to use uncoated stock.

The direct mail industry has many sustainability initiatives in the works to bring about more sophisticated environmental stewardship. Many leading companies are aiming for 100 percent green certification, while others are simply trying to clean up their impact over the next few years.

Recommended reading: Our Commitment to Environmental Sustainability

Environmental standards for direct mailers

The U.S. Postal Service offers free resources directly to marketers and creative agencies on best practices, sustainable design, and eco-friendly printing choices from paper type to ink choice. In addition, there are organizations such as EarthEasy, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, GreenPrintingCouncil.org, SustainableBrands, and of course, Lob.org that offer additional guidance around reducing waste at every step of the direct mail process - from creative brief to final mailing list acquisition.

Mail smarter, not harder

Direct mailers can also send mail more strategically by using trigger-based direct mailto send mailpieces to consumers based on behavior. It's mailing smarter, not harder. You can also use address verification to ensure your mailpieces go to the right address and reduce waste.

Using direct mail metrics to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns can help you experiment and optimize using data. According to the 2022 State of Direct Mail, 67% of marketers agree that direct mail gets the best ROI of any channel they use so you can feel good about using direct mail as part of your omnichannel strategy. Incorporating personalization in your campaigns can help get a better response rate to ensure your mailpieces convert.

If you're getting better results after each marketing campaign by refining your message and reaching the right audience, you are reducing waste - another win-win!

Remind consumers to recycle

It's an obvious courtesy option, but one that a surprising number of companies leave on the table. As a direct mailer, you can remind people how to recycle the materials you send out to them. This is especially important if your materials are unusual or bulky. You can include a large recycling icon or a note as simple as, "To ensure your direct mailings are eco-friendly, please use this envelope for recycling. Thanks so much!"

Nowadays consumers have a more discerning eye and c'mon, who can blame them? They are bombarded with advertisements more than ever before. For this reason, it's crucial to let people know how to unsubscribe from your mailings if they are not interested. Not only will this reduce waste and save you money, but it will raise your reputation as a respectful brand in a sea of not-so-respectful spammers.

Recommended reading: How to Recycle Your Direct Mail

Choose the right direct mail partner

If your business partners aren't committed to sustainability, it will be hard to honestly say that you are. A direct mail partner that supports eco-conscious decisions will help you:

  • Prioritize a paper stock that is recycled and/or PCW certified
  • Offset carbon emissions from freight
  • Look for paper stocks made from sustainably harvested, responsibly managed forests or recycled material
  • Track mailings on an ongoing basis
  • Complement digital marketing channels rather than competing with them
  • Remember mailing schedules and holidays to ensure accurate deliveries
  • Make it easy for your customers to recycle

At Lob, we help you craft sustainable direct mail campaigns that drive engagement and inspire brand loyalty.

Join the future of direct mail

If you are in charge of direct mail marketing, it's important to realize that reducing your company's environmental footprint can give you an edge over the competition. Changing the way you produce and distribute mailers can help build your brand while saving your business money down the road, which means that customers will always get what they want at a price they like.

The environment is no longer an afterthought in business and direct mail marketers need not be left behind in the movement toward a greener world. You can start making your direct mail more eco-conscious by using earth-friendly materials, but it ends with finding better ways to personalize your mailing list and track conversions. If you find better ways to target potential customers, you’ll send fewer, more environmentally-conscious campaign pieces without sacrificing ROI.

Sign up for Lob today to get help executing targeted and sustainable direct mail campaigns all while raising revenue and brand awareness.

This blog provides general information and discussion about direct mail marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.

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