Bulk Direct Mail: To Pak or Not to Pak

Bulk Direct Mail: To Pak or Not to Pak

What I am talking about in particular here is BULK direct mail; the provider I used is ValPak. Consumers receive their popular blue envelope in the mail every month. The envelope is full of offers from a variety of different advertisers. Depending on your location, you might find another provider’s envelope hitting your mailbox each month. 

In 2020, I had enough small business owners ask me about bulk direct mail services that we did end up deploying a few campaigns to test how it worked. And this is what I observed: Cost-Effectiveness & the need for Smart Metrics.

1. Costs of Bulk Direct Mail Services

A plus for small business owners is definitely cost-savings. The provider divides the direct mail piece’s costs between your business and the other advertisers in the envelope, so you end up saving money. A local nonprofit located in Erie, PA, wanted to increase awareness of their invaluable FREE community resources to a very densely populated area via direct mail. The mailable list was around 6,500 addresses, and with a small postcard plus postage, the bill was a couple of thousand dollars to hit those mailboxes just once. With Valpak’s bulk direct mail option, they could be delivered to those mailboxes four times for the same price!

Valpak is the most recognized direct mail program there is. Among the households that recall receiving Valpak, 9 in 10 (92%) opened and looked through the Valpak envelope.

Jenny Poff, Marketing Agency, Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland

*There are several factors that go into the cost of advertising with Valpak. However, the cost typically comes between 3 to 5 cents per household. Many factors contribute to the cost, such as the number of mailing zones, frequency, and print format. A Valpak media consultant in your area will assist you with identifying who your target audience is, where they are located and will match that up with our targeting systems and generate a no-obligation quote for you.

2. Smart Metrics

To track the effectiveness of this investment, I always advise the business owners to have smart goals in place. Many bulk direct mail providers will often include monitoring services in their fees, and one standard service is call tracking. This metric shows how many calls you received about a specific advertisement allowing you to benchmark how well it works. The provider will even send you a monthly report of how many calls customers made and a link to listen to the calls’ recording. This report is especially beneficial if you are curious about how your staff is answering the phone and navigating prospective customer conversations.

6 Tips to Maximize Your Bulk Direct Mail Investment

If you’re trying to decide to use something like ValPak, here are a few tips to consider before diving in.

The Offer

Make sure that you have a good offer; it’s a coupon insert, after all! A good offer will help motivate a consumer to try your business because new customers can be highly motivated by redeeming a timely incentive. Ask yourself, how much are you willing to invest in obtaining NEW customers? I’ve found that small business owners are often afraid of giving discounts, especially during an economic downturn. But if you can measure it, you can control it. Try offering a limited amount to give you the control to test, measure, and monitor results without feeling like you’re giving away more than you afford.

Jenny Poff, Marketing Strategist, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo

Expiration Date

It is so essential that your offer has an expiration date, and there are two major reasons why. One, it gives your audience a sense of urgency. People love offers, and they move faster when there is a deadline to use them! Think: Retail cash rewards, they don’t accumulate, you have to use them or lose them. Second, an expiration date gives your internal teams a timeframe to be ready to test how it performs and how operations handle the inbound inquiries. When your team isn’t prepared to process new leads, increasing the number of new leads can cause operations problems. It could end up hurting your business reputation and brand loyalty rather than growing it.

Promo Code Tracking

If you are selling a product or service online, hopefully, your eCommerce tool allows you to create custom promo codes. Custom promo codes allow you to generate unique codes so that you can measure across different marketing channels and measure their results. . If you are selling a service that must be sold in-person or by appointment, have your team ask customers how they heard about the offer and record their answers. Tracking responses, even by a notepad on your desk, is critical. Make sure your team is on board and consistently motivated to track codes so that you can see what’s working!

Vanity URL & Google Analytics

If you can’t offer a promo code unique to a specific campaign, another option would be utilizing a “vanity URL”. This URL type is a unique web address that is branded for marketing purposes; it is custom and points to a specific page on your website. A vanity URL should be easy to remember, use and share. For you – the business owner – the URL must be assigned a ‘campaign tracking code’ to monitor the incoming website traffic throughout your campaign in Google Analytics. This raw data gives you detailed metrics that will fuel your future campaigns. Google Analytics allows you to see when users entered the URL, their geography, age, and gender. It also tells you the time spent on the page, what on the page they clicked on, what other pages they visited on your site, and so much MORE!

PRO TIP: To avoid headaches (which I learned the hard way), purchase the vanity URL in GoDaddy to ensure it can handle that campaign tracking code. Not all website services accept the campaign tracking code for vanity URLs (ex: Wix). 

Zone Carefully

When using bulk direct mail, you can be extremely selective about which zip codes you send your offer to. It’s essential to understand who your current customers are so that you can select the best areas to send to. If you are trying to reach a new market, you will want to consider who your competition is. Your rep will help you understand who is currently dominating the direct mail space in a specific zip code. Understanding your competition can help you make important decisions, such as choosing a different zone or creating another offer. After picking your zones, you will want to send to them three or four offers in order to best determine the effectiveness.. Some things to consider to determine if they were the best zones? Was it the right offer? Was it the right people? How many offers were redeemed? How many calls came in? How was your website traffic during this campaign? You’ll inevitably uncover patterns in the data to determine your next steps. 

Give It Time

As with any marketing initiative, these things take time, but more importantly, it takes frequency. Even in traditional marketing (i.e., TV and radio), the goal is to get in front of your target audience as many times as possible during the campaign timeframe. When executing multi-channel marketing campaigns, it’s critical to plan to get in front of the same audiences at least 4 to 7 times during the campaign. So when doing just a direct mail initiative; you want to give it at least four months to build momentum and ensure you’re in their hands at least 4 times. 

PRO TIP: Four months is the minimum for ValPak, and for a good reason! It increases your frequency and builds brand awareness. The more you get in front of your customers, the better! And executing a multi-channel campaign means you’re committing to get in front of the same audience 7-12 times. 

How to deal with competition in the same marketing channel? 

When you have competition that is marketing in the same channel as you, it can be frustrating and confusing. What do you do? How do you combat this? Here are some of the things I recommend looking at to deal with marketing against the competition. 

What are your differentiating factors?

What is your secret sauce? This could be your product, materials, recipe, customer service, price, turnaround time, mission, etc. What are all the ways that you are different from your competitors? Get specific to showcase your authentic offerings. This is how you’ll stand out.

Competitive Analysis.

Always do a competitive analysis before investing in a new marketing channel that your competition is already in. Look at what they are doing, what offers they are putting out, and their customer reviews. This information will help you decide what to offer, how to approach your customers differently, and how to get them to choose you over your competition. 

So what will you do? Will you PAK or NOT PAK?

As always, if you need help digging in, just snag an Engage60 consultation with me. 

Engage60Engage60 is a heavily packed 60-minute working engagement where we can dig right into a project you’re working on. My consulting time is a rapid-fire eruption of ideas that are inspired by what you think you need against what is actually needed to deliver you results. We dig into what your business is, who you are serving, and how you want to grow. My brain is on fire at this point, adding up a variety of marketing ideas that could help you reach your goals.

I promise that you will leave this session with a list of ideas, resources, action steps, and more! It’s a great way to experience how I work and to see if I’m a good fit for your business. 


about jenny poff

Meet Jenny Poff

Jenny an independent consultant who specializes in marketing, branding, and graphic design. She partners with business owners and nonprofits as their out-of-house marketing manager to relieve their time and stress of DIY marketing by amplifying their advertising with expert strategies for unparalleled results


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