Direct mail marketing: how to make yours more sustainable

Illustration of a an email icon made of a grass lwan

Direct mail isn’t making a comeback – it never really went away.

Direct mail has an average open rate of between 57.5 and 85%. Marketing campaigns that use direct mail with other tactics are 52% more likely to report ROI benefits. And 87% of people believe more in direct mail’s messaging.

But as with anything that looks this good, there’s a bit of a stickler – direct mail is nowhere near as sustainable as digital.

The plastic packaging, the inked-up colours, the paper itself, it all needs to be manufactured and sourced. Trees need to be cut down, plastic needs to be wrapped, mail needs to be delivered, and most of it goes straight in the bin after it’s been read (if it’s read at all).

So how do you get all the benefits of direct mail without harming the planet? Here are a few starters to get you thinking:

  1. Save it for ABM
  2. Pick the sustainable option
  3. Mix up physical and digital
  4. Create something reusable.

1. Save it for ABM

Thankfully, the days of mass junk mail are on the wane. Email, cost and sustainability considerations are making big direct mail campaigns a thing of the past.

And the same should go for your own DM strategies. Make your direct mailers matter by creating highly focused, highly creative campaigns that aim to convert a handful of high-priority targets you know will want to read your stuff when it falls through their door.

Avoid sending out loads of generic spammy junk and personalise each mailer as much as you can – make it all about the recipient so you’ll know they’ll read it, and save yourself money and unnecessary paper wastage along the way.

2. Pick the sustainable option

With sustainability a big target for a lot of businesses, there are a lot of different options when it comes to greenifying your direct mail.

There are your bog-standard recycled materials, including both the card itself and the plastic it’s wrapped in. Then you can one-up it and go for compostable packaging that goes straight back to the earth.

And if you want to go even further, consider using seeded paper – it puts wildflower seeds into compostable card, which can be planted in the ground to grow anew after use, turning marketing into meadows, assets into Arcadia, CTAs into countryside…you get the idea.

3. Mix up physical with digital

‘Phygital’ is a silly word, but what it represents isn’t. Combining physical marketing with digital marketing brings together the best of both for more engaging, accessible, and sustainable content.

Instead of bloating a brochure with pages of copy, consider sticking in a hero QR code that leads the reader to a personalised video. Instead of saturating your flyer with coloured graphics and images, add an AR function that brings those images out into the world.

Or you can go for the big bucks and send a model, a pop-up book or an innovatively thought-out mailer, combined with a QR code or link – save paper and make a lasting impression at the same time.

4. Create something reusable

One way of making your direct mail more sustainable is to make it less disposable. Offer something with value that extends beyond the marketing messaging on it.

Sure, it’s been done before – like the free pens and goodie bags you get at events. But that shouldn’t stop you. The trick is in coming up with your own meaningful, unforgettable spin on it.

Craft a 3D model of your client’s logo out of recycled wood. Build a bee hotel shaped like your clients’ headquarters. Send a bouquet of wildflowers, elegantly pruned to evoke the face of their CEO. Actually, that one may be a bit much.

Get creative, get weird, and get sustainable.

If you still need some help coming up with some big green ideas for your next direct mail campaign, we’ve got heaps of them – let’s talk!

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(Header photo: Max Ostwalt on Unsplash)