By definition, a self-mailer is any mailing that is completely self-contained and does not require an envelope. It could be a simple postcard (please read my article "Postcards as a Marketing Tool – Yes, They Still Work"), a piece that is folded once and stapled (or glued or taped) to provide more space, or something more complex with more folds.
As with any type of marketing piece, the self-mailer has pluses, minuses, and specific strategies and purposes. Follow these tips on how to use the self-mailer most effectively:
A plus: a self-mailer is less expensive than a multi-part package. It's cheaper to produce, less costly to mail, and takes less time for the copywriter to create.
A minus: a self-mailer is less personal than a letter. It announces itself as junk mail at a glance and is at risk for being tossed. It also provides less space to make a sales pitch.
When to use a self-mailer: it generally works best with simple offers. Use it for lead generation (where you do not need a hard sell), to announce a sale, or to send coupons to previous customers.
Some ways to use your space most efficiently:
1. Put your contact information on the front – don't make your prospect search for it.
2. Make the business reply card easy to tear off and return. And do not put anything on the other side of the BRC that the prospect will need later.
3. Devote some space to a picture of the item being offered, so your prospect can tell at a glance if she's interested.
4. Do not make it difficult to open – and do not design it so that important information is lost when the prospect tears it open.
5. Test! Try a self-mailer, and try a complete package. If the package pulls better, it'll pay for itself in increased sales.
Whatever you do, do not completely delete the lowly self-mailer from your marketing repertoire. Used in the right circumstances – and done right – it can be an effective marketing tool.