This is part one of a series about how to tell your brand’s story through a variety of marketing channels. Today’s focus is on telling your brand story with direct mail.

Storytelling has become more than a buzzword in marketing—it’s one of the key ways to humanize your brand, engage an audience and endear your customers to you. In fact, you could argue that today’s consumers are increasingly more likely to buy a brand’s products if they “buy” that brand’s story. And storytelling is not just something for websites and blogs.

Storytelling is perfect for the digital realm, yes—but it works really well in direct mail too. When you tell your brand’s story in multiple places, you’re maximizing your efforts and broadening your reach. Plus, there’s a lot of noise online! When you put your story on something tangible that people can hold and focus on at their leisure, you often find yourself with a more captive audience.

And in case you’re a direct mail skeptic, let me put your mind at ease: People do read direct mail. Studies show that 80% to 90% of direct mail gets opened—way higher than email.

Mind if I share an example?

Direct Mail #ForGood

In December 2019, Firespring ran what we called our #ForGood campaign. We invited many of our clients to pay it forward and do something #ForGood with a $20 gift card we sent them in the mail—then we asked them to share the story of how they made an impact. This was inspired by a moment in Firespring’s earlier days when CEO and founder, Jay Wilkinson, gave each team member a $20 bill to “pay it forward” to someone they loved. We were all particularly moved at that time because this happened just days before Father’s Day and weeks after Jay lost his mom to cancer.

So, our entire #ForGood campaign was grounded in storytelling, tapping into themes like servant leadership, paying it forward and, most of all, loving others.

To kick off this campaign, we gave each Firespring team member cash and empowered them to use it for an act of kindness. We filmed segments to show examples of our team members spreading love in unique ways to inspire others. Next, we sent a direct mail piece to 250 clients and prospects that included a Visa gift card, encouraging them to do the same. We asked that they share their story on and on social channels using the hashtag #ForGood. The objective was to demonstrate that small acts of kindness can snowball into a movement reaching beyond our own community where people are inspired to give back to theirs.

We had a 40% response rate. We saw $4,020 injected into communities #ForGood. And marrying this direct mail effort with our digital platforms, we reached 18,875 on Twitter and saw 46,000 Facebook impressions.

How to Use Direct Mail to Share Your Brand Story

Now that you see that direct mail can make an impact, let’s break down how you could potentially use specific printed pieces to share your story and engage your audience:

  • With an envelope, you can use teaser copy to get people to open and read more—like a subject line on an email. You’ll want to be sure your logo is prominently placed as well.
  • With a letter, you have plenty of room for telling your story—and studies have shown that reading on paper is easier on the eyes than reading on a screen. Your recipient is more likely to read word for word, as opposed to an email where they’re more likely to skim and jump around. Plus, let’s be honest: Getting a paper letter is much more personable than another email in your inbox.
  • With a postcard, you can physically engage someone with creative headlines and emotional images. It’s something they can hold on to, leave on the kitchen table, put on their fridge or lay on their desk.
  • With a brochure, you can go into more details: who you are, why you exist and what your mission is. You can include headlines, short paragraphs and images that pull you in and showcase your story. And your recipient can hold on to it and read it whenever they want.
  • With a branded promo product, like a pen, magnet, water bottle or mouse pad (or anything that reflects your story best), you can keep your brand on their minds by staying front and center each day.

How to Keep Your Direct Mail Engaging

As a writer who’s been helping Firespring tell its story for over 15 years, here are three tips I’d suggest to keep your printed materials as engaging as possible:

1. Write as if you’re talking to just one person.

Whether it’s a letter, postcard, brochure or anything else you’re sending, have someone in mind as you write the content. One person. Sure, you’re probably sending it to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people—but each one of them reads it as an individual. So, let your storytelling sound as if the two of you are having an engaging conversation together, not as if you’re announcing something with a megaphone.

2. Let your direct mail reflect your culture and brand.

Like I alluded to in the beginning, consumers today don’t simply buy a product; they buy a brand, and that brand’s culture can make or break a purchase decision. Do you think every iPhone user did their research and decided that Apple does, indeed, make the best iPhone? I’m an iPhone user, and I didn’t—but I don’t care. I buy Apple products because I love their culture of innovation and their commitment to creating products that are user-focused and friendly.

When you send direct mail to promote an offer, introduce a new product or make an announcement, be sure your culture, your values, your brand’s look and feel—your brand’s story—comes shining through on every piece you create.

3. Be consistently consistent.

The first step here is to be authentic. If you’re not trying to tell a fake story or multiple stories, you’re going to be much more effective at telling a consistent story, so stay true to who you are as a business, brand or nonprofit. At Firespring, we promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and you can see that in the people we hire, our office space, the organizations we support and sponsor, the messaging we create and the clients we partner with. We send the same consistent message everywhere. If you don’t, your brand’s story will seem more like a fictional narrative.

On the practical side, stay consistent with your language and tone of voice when you write your marketing messages. Don’t sound like a Jester one day, and a Caregiver the next. Keep your colors, design, look and feel the same across all marketing channels. Put your logo on everything. Basically, you do you—but do it authentically, on every platform and in every tangible asset you create.

Is Your Direct Mail Telling Your Brand Story?

This is a lot to think about, I know, but we’d sure like to help you process it all. Firespring actually began in the basement of a print shop back in the day—that’s the origin of our story. We’ve thankfully upgraded our digs over the years, but we’ve been doing direct mail for decades, as well as helping thousands of clients elevate theirs to make a bigger impact for their brand.

Want to put your direct mail to the test? Let’s take a look together and see how we can infuse your story into your print marketing. Schedule a free direct mail ROI analysis with a marketing specialist today.

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