At the top are bulky magalogs and thick direct mail envelope packages with all the bells and whistles.
At the bottom are the lowly workhorses, such as postcards and inserts.
The direct mail insert shown here in the photo comes from a box of plants I ordered from Spring Hill Nursery.
Technically, it’s called a fulfillment insert, meaning it’s an advertisement inserted into the package you receive when you order something by mail.
It’s not the sort of thing anyone wins awards for. In fact, some copywriters and designers look down their nose at humble inserts like this. For them, it’s sort of like the hillbilly member of the family you never talk about and hope won’t show up at weddings or funerals to embarrass you.
That attitude is unfortunate, because direct mail inserts can generate tons of extra income for both advertisers and the companies that offer to include the inserts in their mail or packaging.
Direct mail inserts (specifically fulfillment inserts) give you three big advantages:
1) People are more likely to buy something just after they’ve bought something else.
2) The marketing message can be delivered less expensively than with a solo mailing.
3) You can target your message to proven buyers of highly specific types of products.
The elements of an effective direct mail insert
Let’s take a quick look at what goes into creating a direct mail insert. Click here to open a pdf of the full insert.
This particular insert aims to generate inquiries for a compost tumbler, which is a simple device gardeners use to create fertilizer, or “brown gold,” from grass clippings, leaves, kitchen garbage, and other waste.
If you’re not into gardening, you’ll just have to trust me that free fertilizer is a powerful selling point.
As you can see, the insert resembles a small self-mailer. It’s similar to take-ones you see in grocery stores. It’s printed on a small sheet, folded, and includes a perforated reply card.
The insert focuses on one product and one offer. In this case, the offer is free information about the product and how to buy it. Lead generation or inquiry offers like this tend to work better for inserts since less selling is involved than if you had to make people part with their money immediately.
The more something costs, the more copy you need to make the sale. So lead and inquiry generation work better with smaller formats such as inserts.
As for copy and design, the elements should be familiar.
A strong headline, lots of copy, photos showing the product in action, features and benefits, testimonials (in this case just one), and a guarantee. The primary call to action is to mail the reply card, though options include phone and website.
The insert also includes a “one-two-three” panel which shows how easy the product is to use and proves the promise of creating compost in just 14 days. Most backyard gardeners want things to be easy, so this adds a nice touch.
There’s nothing mysterious or difficult about direct mail inserts. As always, you just have to remember how prospects receive and interact with the piece. A fulfillment insert arrives with a product you ordered, often along with other inserts, packing slip, invoice, and additional items.
Your copy and design must be clear and straightforward to momentarily pull someone’s attention from the nifty product they’ve just received.
Let me know about your experience with direct mail inserts or your thoughts about how to make them work.