Lumpy Mail


What is lumpy mail? That may be your first question. Well, you know what direct mail is. Lumpy mail is direct mail with a free gift! We all love getting free gifts, even when they're not free and called a 'gift with purchase'. But lumpy mail really is something you receive for free. Lumpy mail is any direct mail piece that includes an item – such as an eraser or boomerang – ON or INSIDE a direct mail piece. The purpose of this mail is to entice the receiver into deeper engagement and increase the open rate.

So what exactly is lumpy mail? As the name suggests, it’s any type of mail that stands out from normal envelopes by being bulky or strangely shaped because it includes promotional products or giveaways as a marketing tactic. No doubt, you can remember receiving mail like this with an extra added “treasure” inside, just for you. This is the kind of mail that is difficult to ignore, and that’s just the point - it works to create that same a feeling of exuberance you had as a kid getting a birthday or Christmas gift in the post...what could be more exciting!

Lumpy Mail Campaign

Obviously, the point behind any marketing campaign is to get your business noticed. Getting that attention is becoming ever more difficult with a cacophony of advertising messages bombarding your target market every day. Internet marketing is unquestionably one of of the most important aspects of marketing for most businesses, but it is limited - limited to what your target audiences search for and do, something they decide for themselves. Other types of marketing can also be filtered out - magazine and TV advertising, PR and even sales promotions. But not lumpy mail - it's excruciatingly difficult, in fact impossible to just have to see what's inside that package don't could be...well anything! And when it's a thoughtful, useful or funny gift it will enable you to stand out from the competition and get attention from the recipient. Hopefully, if the rest of your marketing is right, it will lead them along the path to becoming a customer.

Lumpy Mail

Another benefit is memorability and this is confirmed by the research. Marketing your company's goods or services is all about being remembered at exactly the right time in the buying process. Many Internet marketers achieve this using longterm email campaigns, but this requires extensive commitment and valuable content which can be expensive to generate. Even if prospects and clients don’t contact you right away, they are more likely to remember you in the future when the need arises.

Although it's rarely mentioned in marketing (except by the most savvy marketers) getting the recipient to actually participate in a ritual where they have to work to get at the 'thing' brings a degree of interactivity and satisfaction in finding out just what's in there - another small commitment that connects them with your business.

Items that can be used for lumpy mail include any of the thousands of promotional products, including pens, keyrings, folders, notebooks, mugs and USBs and sticky notes. You can get really creative and link your message to the item for impact.

So, I guess the embarrassing truth about lumpy mail is that it's been around for generations and has suffered unfair scorn in the process. Maybe it's time to dust off the techniques of the classic direct marketing geniuses - like Lester Wunderman and Robert Collier - and to use this incredibly effective and undervalued tactic as an easy, low cost method to get attention and to be memorable.

Dimensional or “lumpy” mail – packages with bulk, heft and tactile shape that set them apart from regular flat letters – can significantly improve your prospecting and sales.

That was the message during “Snail Mail on Steroids: How to Pump Up Your Profits With Lumpy Mail,” an education session presented on Wednesday, Feb. 3 to almost 350 attendees during the ASI Digital Expo. Michele Bell, vice president of editorial, education and special events, and Jake Krolick, executive creative director for marketing, teamed up to present best practices for using unique mailers as marketing tools.

Michele Bell, VP of editorial, education & special events and Executive Creative Director Jake Krolick talk about lumpy mail during the ASI Digital Expo.

They attract attention because their shape makes them harder to stack with other flat mail, along with recipients’ natural curiosity and appreciation of receiving something unique.

“There’s the excitement of getting a gift,” said Bell. “It’s a wonderful vehicle for self-promo, and recipients will reach out and want to do the same promo for themselves.”

During the presentation, Bell and Krolick shared that, according to the Data and Marketing Association, lumpy mail has a 4.4% average response rate compared to .12% for email, it’s opened by nearly 100% of recipients and for every $167 spent on it, marketers sell $2,095 in goods, a 1,255% return.

Among the many benefits are increased lead generation, more business with existing clients and getting the attention of hard-to-reach prospects and customers, said Krolick. Lumpy mail also makes a great lasting impression. Krolick shared a case study of a company that recently made a mistake that affected their customers. To apologize, they sent out humorous, self-deprecating mailers with voodoo dolls representing their organization, along with pins, and won back a ton of business.

“It’s also a great way to show clients new products,” Krolick said. “Send a lumpy mail kit of products to your best end-buyers.”

Bell and Krolick shared the details of some of their favorite industry mailers in recent months. The first, from Top 40 distributor PromoShop (asi/300446), was sent out to invite attendees to a virtual end-buyer show. The mailer boxes went to 2,500 potential attendees, with help from The Chest (asi/44830), a supplier known for custom packaging. When opened, the “Pop On By” themed kit smelled of Bazooka bubble gum and spotlighted the vintage candy’s famous mini-comics. Nearly 40% of recipients registered for the event.

Lumpy Mail Items Images

“It was a real nostalgia win,” said Krolick. “And they carried the theme through the whole campaign.”

Top 40 distributor PromoShop sent out 2,500 of these “Pop On By” boxes as invitations to a virtual end-buyer show.

Top 40 distributor Jack Nadel International (JNI, asi/279600) sent out thank-you boxes to clients and attendees after a challenging year. They used eco-friendly materials as filler and included personalized, handwritten messages.

“Everyone’s so mindful of packaging and waste, so do it smartly,” said Bell. “They also used curated, artisanal items from California, where they’re based.”

This box from Top 40 distributor JNI contained California-made products and eco-friendly filler.

Consistency is key as well. Maple Ridge Farms (asi/68680) sends out frequent lumpy mail boxes, including a “Chill Out” kit last summer with a coupon for their ice cream, imprinted ice cream scoop and toppings. “Connect it to a time of the year that’s not super popular [for gifting], so you can stand out,” said Krolick.

City Paper (asi/162267), Counselor’s Distributor Family Business of the Year in 2020, put together an “Our Favorite Things” box filled with items from employees’ favorite suppliers. And yes, they were wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. Meanwhile, Monarch & Company (asi/275403) put baking ingredients in a “Bake It Happen” box and then asked recipients to make the cookies and share their creations on social media. They had a 100% response rate and won Counselor’s Best Distributor Self-Promotion Award in 2020.

Lumpy mail products

Lumpy Mail Meaning

Distributor Monarch & Company sent out boxes of cookie ingredients and asked recipients to share their creations on social media. They had a 100% response rate and won a Counselor award for the campaign.

“Lumpy mail is only as good as your call-to-action,” said Krolick. “Make it understandable, easy and quick. This campaign connected the user with what they did creatively.”

Bell and Krolick even have their own annual mailer, called “Bell & Krolly.” For the past seven years, they’ve mailed out the box with their photo (a take on different vintage album covers) along with cannabis-themed products imprinted with their logo. “So many people have asked to be on the list,” said Bell. “The products inside are second to the creativity.”

Among the industry suppliers known for custom packaging, said Bell, are The Chest, Lion Circle (asi/67620), Independent Folders (asi/62554) and Keepsake Products USA (asi/64180). Make sure to ask suppliers for recommendations and specials, said Krolick.

Lumpy Mail Meaning

When planning a campaign, ensure its success by starting small, said Bell. Instead of 300 boxes, begin with 30. You’ll want to track them and follow up the day after they’re received. That’s harder to do with a larger group. Also, send a couple of test packages to you and a friend to make sure they arrive in good shape. If something’s broken, you’ll need to rethink the packaging. And don’t include anything that beeps – the post office won’t look kindly on those and may even confiscate them.


Lumpy Mail Letter Examples

Consider including handwritten notes whenever possible. “Never underestimate the emotional connection they create,” said Bell, who sends out an estimated 600 handwritten holiday cards every year. Set precise goals for the campaign, and know your recipients well so the box resonates with them, said Krolick. If it’s not something they’d use, it won’t be effective.

“In this industry, lumpy mail is one of the best marketing tools in the arsenal,” said Krolick. Added Bell: “It offers such a bang for your buck. I wish more people did it, and so do suppliers. They tell me, ‘Not as many distributors do it as you would think!’ ”

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