Regardless of the source of the recent bioterror scare, the aftermath of it will affect the way we market our businesses. Unfortunately for us, direct mail is probably one of the more effective marketing vehicles we have at our disposal. So we all hope that this recent terrorism in the mail episode is a short one!

But what to do in the meantime for direct mail? Here are some suggestions:

  • E-mail

    Probably the only “disease” you have to be concerned with in e-mail marketing is computer viruses. Update your anti-virus files. And, if you’re sending an attachment with the e-mail, it’s probably a good idea to virus scan it before sending it out.

    However, the major problem with switching mailings to e-mail, is that you probably don’t have the e-mail addresses for a good chunk of your customer or prospect list. Plus, with all the privacy brouhaha and anti-spam initiatives, people are a bit skittish about giving e-mail addresses out at all. It is really too bad that hackers and hawkers have hamstrung the Internet’s most valuable communication tool.

    If you have an e-mail customer/ prospect list, I highly recommend using one of the broadcast e-mail services. They are relatively cheap, help you maintain your e-mail list, give you reports about your e-mail campaigns, and can help you create an e-mailing that will work in a variety of web browsers.

  • Use self-mailers

    Use self-mailers to eliminate customer concerns about what may be “lurking” in an envelope. However, there is a myriad of postal regulations regarding self-mailer size, weight, and sealing options. Therefore, I do not highly recommend this option for the occasional direct mail piece or for the inexperienced in mailer development.

  • Use postcards

    Like self-mailers, postcards don’t require the customer to open anything to see what’s inside, making them a good candidate for mailing these days. And like self-mailers, they too have postal regulations that need to be followed. However, those regulations are generally much easier to meet.

    I’ve done postcards that were printed on 8-1/2” X 11” card stock cut in half lengthwise and widthwise (4 identical postcards of 4-1/4” high X 5-1/2” wide). Experiment with a couple of designs, print some samples on the card stock you plan to use, and cut to size. Then bring the samples to your local post office to make sure the cards meet guidelines. But here’s the best part... the postage rate is lower for standard size postcards than a regular first-class envelope. So you’ll lower your customers’ fears about opening mail from you while lowering your mailing cost!

    A couple more notes about postcards. You can use a wide variety of colors of card stock to grab attention. But make sure that the mailing label is printed on a white label so that the postal service machines can scan the address. Also, and this seems to be a relatively recent development for all mail, try to make sure that the type for your return address label (if you’re not imprinting your address on the postcard) isn’t too much darker or bolder than the mailing label. Apparently, the current optical scanning equipment interprets bolder type as the “mail to” address. I’ve been reprimanded by my local post office for this very thing.

    Of course, you’re not going to be able to put your entire newsletter on a postcard, but you can put a news tidbit on it or include a coupon of some sort. And with the lower cost, you’ll be able to mail more often. Maybe even once every month or two. Postcards are a very effective marketing tool — even when there’s no bioterror scare!

    Here’s a couple of ideas for your postcard mailer. If you’re using my “10 Minute HVAC Newsletters” CD-ROM), you could use one of the short articles as a “Tip of the Month” for your postcard and include a little coupon. See more product info at http://www.thornecom

    Or, if you’re using my “50 Sales Letters for HVAC Contractors” CD-ROM), you can put text from one of the shorter letters on the back of the postcard and make it a mini-sales letter, again possibly with a little coupon. See more product info at

    Special note: Marketing lessons from the Pizza Place:

    All of us have a favorite pizza joint. And many of us rifle through the coupon mailers to fish out the buck-or-two-off coupon for said pizza joint. Then we stick them to our refrigerator and call the number on the coupon when a pizza fix is needed.

    Two lessons here. One, pizza places know people look for their coupons in specific mailers and make sure their coupons are in those mailers – every time. Two, pizza places usually remember to put their phone number on the actual coupon because they also know that people sometimes just tear out the coupon portion, but throw out the rest.

    Does your coupon mailer meet the pizza place test?