All posts by Susie Mehring

How To Elevate Your Virtual Conferences with Innovative Mailers

Listen — by now, we’re all pretty sick and tired of traditional old Zoom calls. Connectivity issues, disjointed conversations… It’s no wonder National Geographic is publishing studies on the effects of “Zoom fatigue.”

But this past year has also shown us just how useful and convenient virtual engagement can be. Whether it’s working from home or attending far-off gatherings, the benefits of video communications have never been clearer.

Juggling these two realities beckons a difficult question: How do we harness the power of online meetings without succumbing to Zoom gloom?

Perhaps no one needs such a virtual solution more than the trade shows industry

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 had a serious impact on all sectors that rely on mass attendance and travel. And in the world of trade shows and business conferences, that impact was palpable.

In June 2020, for instance, over 70 percent of B2B executives stated that they’d canceled an event. Another report noted that the $15 billion trade show industry was likely to take its biggest financial hit of all time.

With their backs against the wall, conference organizers turned to video. In it, they found a solution that isn’t just a temporary stopgap; it’s a door to untapped possibilities.

Sure, virtual events sacrifice some networking ability… But that negative is offset by an exponential increase in accessibility. Remote capabilities negate the need for travel, and the ability to record is a godsend for anyone facing schedule conflicts. The bottom line here is greater reach and, in turn, wider impact.

Plus, early returns on virtual conferences are showing that they’re actually no less effective in creating leads. As such, it’s no stretch to imagine that new-age trade shows will be defined by a reduction in in-person attendance alongside a corresponding rise in online attendance.

… Especially when you have the tools to make those online experiences memorable.

At Structural Graphics, we’ve spent the past year-plus developing such tools

Our goal is simple: Transcend the monotony of your average Zoom conferences and forgettable collateral mailers. We want to create an interactive experience — one that does your brand justice.

Most notably, we’ve developed virtual trade show booths that essentially mimic the in-person sensation. In some instances, such actually fold out with panels that hold small video screens with your chosen content. In others, those panels contain augmented reality tags, QR codes and NFC tags that launch the virtual experience right on your phone.

In either case, these unique dimensional mailers can immediately bring your viewers to relevant online resources. You get every benefit from a trade show interaction — without having to compete with neighboring booths for attention.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Depending on your needs, we can tailor the virtual experience and accompanying materials to fit. For instance, we’ve recently partnered with a number of healthcare marketers on:

  • Interactive invitations — Eye-popping first impressions that cultivate curiosity in the short-term and transform into desktop mainstays that build brand recognition in the long-term.
  • Information kits — Helpful step-by-step guides to preparing for, logging into, and participating in any sort of virtual affair.
  • Interactive elements — Any sort of resources to accompany the main event, from quizzes to polls to follow-along materials.
  • Classic takeaways — All the goodies you’d normally accumulate at a trade show, including t-shirts, swag, snacks, and presentation materials.

See them in action here and give us a shout to see how we can make your next virtual conference come to life!

Dimensional Mail: Your Solution to the Rising Costs of Digital Marketing

With Digital becoming the standard marketing avenue, companies are pouring more of their resources into social, video, and written content to captivate their audiences. Even compared to last year, 2021 should see 12% more digital ad spend — up to 55% of all advertising spending.

As a result, we’ve reached a state of digital marketing overwhelm. What used to be a blue sea of opportunity has now become red with competition.

And on top of this market saturation, we also have to deal with steadily increasing ad costs. (Just consider how once-affordable Instagram has risen in ad cost since being acquired by Facebook). But with online click-through rates falling, wasted ad spend is crippling marketing budgets across industries.

Putting these factors together, we’re now at a point where we have to question the viability of digital marketing. So here’s our new marketing conundrum: How to effectively stand out from all the noise in an ROI-friendly manner?

Want high engagement? Then direct dimensional mail’s your best friend

Naturally, that’s our answer here — and with good reason. Traditionally, direct mail has pulled in considerably higher open rates and response rates than digital. 

HomeWorks Energy Pop Up Mailer

The reality is that despite our increasingly digital tendencies, physical mailers tend to cultivate more trust and emotional reactions. (With the recent prevalence of data privacy issues online, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise). When readers can hold something, experience it with multiple senses, and give it their undivided, non-scrolling attention, the result is a greater impact. Greater impact equals longer-lasting recall. And for our purposes, longer recall is what drives the sales we so covet.

And lest we forget, we’ve so far been concerned only with traditional direct mail — which has an average response rate of 4.4%. That’s impressive compared to email’s 0.12% figure, but it’s completely overshadowed by dimensional direct mail which sees a staggering average response rate of 8.5%! With its heightened focus on quality and engagement, dimensional mail undoubtedly lies at the top of the “effectiveness” food chain for direct mail.

And the kicker is, dimensional mail is only getting more effective

Consider USPS’s deep-dive study that pinpoints three notable areas of improvement in the direct mail landscape:

  1. Targeting well-defined audiences with relevant marketing
  2. Tracking the long- and short-term metrics of campaigns
  3. Working hand-in-hand with omnichannel campaigns (and even driving digital traffic!)

These three bullet points have traditionally been digital’s biggest advantages over print. But now, as intelligent innovations develop, that gap is closing.

At Structural Graphics, for our part, we’ve been integrating these industry-shifting innovations into high-impact dimensional mailers. The result is an unprecedented combination of new-age data capabilities and enticing visual and tactile designs. Here’s what they look like:

USPS SleekPeeks® VR Viewer

So here’s the bottom line: We’ve long known that dimensional mail is as powerful as it gets from an engagement standpoint. And its rapid integration of technological developments is only further boosting that effectiveness.

Meanwhile, digital channels are as crowded as ever, with returns diminishing at a steady pace. Marketing here is cheaper than via direct, sure, but the ROI simply isn’t what it used to be.

And that’s why we’re so high on dimensional direct mail: If you actually want to inspire engagement and cultivate meaningful customer relationships… It really is a no-brainer.

Keep Your Brand Top of Mind with Dimensional Print

The magic starts from the moment they open the mail. And it lasts until… well, even months into the future. 

That’s the power of creative dimensional mail — if done right. But here’s what “done right” looks like from start to finish:

It opens with an unforgettable first impression

The mail we receive on a regular basis doesn’t tend to inspire much excitement, right? That’s why we put such a premium on making that first impression unique — to capture attention and invite engagement.

Unsurprisingly, studies back this up: Direct mail is praised for delivering open rates as high as 90%. And under this direct mail umbrella, dimensional leads the first-impression pack; when people receive something that immediately appears out of the ordinary, they can’t help but indulge their curiosity.

For instance, here at Structural Graphics, we partnered with global luxury brand agency Hudson Rouge, in collaboration with Maker House, to create a sleek foil-stamped package containing a hardcover welcome book for new Lincoln vehicles. To truly capture the Lincoln brand and wow the viewer, the books outer edge lit up in LED lights when opened — mimicking their cars lighting up when unlocked. Best yet, when the book is removed, thin speakers in the box automatically play a custom composition by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Now, have you ever seen anything like that before? We’ll bet that those Lincoln customers hadn’t, and we’ll bet they weren’t quick to forget it.

Once they’re hooked, it’s all about engagement and response

The Lincoln book’s elegant, lit-up appearance may have been the invitation, but the music inside was the real party. So once they’re in, you want to continue cultivating an experience for the recipient. And the best experience is one that they participate in; dimensional mail’s greatest strength is that it’s not a one-way street.

For starters, people appreciate that direct mail lets them engage on their own time, at their own pace. One study found that direct mail remains in homes for 17 days on average. And in that 17 days, your mailer is much more likely to make an impression than any email; print ads can have recall rates 30% higher than digital. 

But we’re not just talking about any print ads. We’re talking about the most innovative designs, sent straight to the reader’s door. Get this: Average direct mail’s response rate of 4.4% easily trumps email’s 0.12%… But dimensional mail makes both look like child’s play, with a staggering 8.5% response rate of its own!

Point being: There’s no better tool for engaging your audience. And no tool is as safe a bet for high ROI.

And we’re not done yet: Dimensional mail has unmatched shelf life

People throw out mail. If you’re lucky, they skim through it and then toss it. What else would they do?

Well, if you give them a rare reason to keep it, they just might. Take this self-standing popper we made for Uniti. This nifty piece of dimensional mail shares a message promoting community education. And with its eye-catching diorama and light scheme, it’s quite easy to leave standing on one’s desk for long-lasting impact.

Or how about something that offers long-term value without a self-standing setup. Here’s a recruitment brochure we made for UC Riverside to share vital enrollment information. With pop-up graphics and fold-out panels containing useful resources, UC Riverside gave students every reason to keep the card for future reference and even share it with other friends applying to college.

And that’s yet another feather in dimensional mail’s cap! It creates an experience that’s not only memorable (and in some cases long-lasting), but it also begs to be shared.

Which brings us full circle: Dimensional mail “done right” is a branding home run — from the first impression, through the experience of the mailer, and into its next life as a desktop ornament.