It's no secret that we take snail mail very seriously around here. So when it comes to creating promotional mailers for the National Stationery Show we pull no punches! The National Stationery Show is the main event in terms of trade shows. It's a veritable who's who and a must attend for almost anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the paper biz. So it's no wonder why we put so much emphasis, every single year, on the pre-show mailer.
Your mailer is your first impression, your, "Hey look at how amazing I am!" introduction. So making sure it properly represents you is key. But have no fear! We have plucked all of our knowledge of mailers, retailers, snail mail and maybe even unicorns (why not?!) to help in creating the ultimate formula for the perfect mailer!
1 | The Theme: Your mailer needs to visually represent your brand. I'm not just talking colors and logos here. I am talking about that THING that makes your brand stand apart from the crowd. That could mean focusing on a specific design, or choosing to feature a specific product, or whatever it is in order to perfectly encapsulate your current Brand and imbue you mailer with that esthetic. By following through with a firm visual identity you are creating expectations and standards for potential wholesalers. This gives them a strong memorable idea of what your brand stands for. Not only does this help them to recognize you at the show, but they will already feel like they have a connection to your brand, even if it is the first time they are seeing it face to face. That brand recognition is key to building and establishing relationships.
For Reyn Paper Co that means keeping things preppy and clean visually, while also giving it a quirky twist.
Our first year we decided to focus on our Fortune Cookie design, which we carried through to multiple products. These products were samples in our mailer along with custom fortune cookies(more on this below). This design flowed to our booth by having a feature wall displaying a fortune cookie pattern. That way even if they didn't remember our name or logo, they recognized the fortune cookie almost instantly.
Our second year we decided to go with a much more narrow focus. Knowing that the theme around our NSS product release was Wanderlust, it seemed apropos to feature our NYC products (duh!), seeing as it's the home base of NSS. Once again, by narrowing in on a specific theme we were able to implement the NYC design across the entire mailer. This helped guide what imagery we would use on the invitation, what product samples would be included, the esthetic of the address labels, all the way down to the color choice for our crinkle paper filler.
2 | The Invitation: Visually your invitation should be based off the theme or branding you decide to go with. And while 'looks' are always important, listing the basic information for the show is paramount here. This is where you want to list any info to help new and established retailers alike find you.
The easiest way to set this up is by thinking of it as a wedding or birthday invite.
| List Your Where and When. The Stationery Show's location and dates. This may seem a bit formal and unnecessary to include to people in the know, but this is a special occasion, so treat it accordingly.
| Your Booth Number. Obvious, yes, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention it.
| Show Special. If you are offering any show specials this is the place to include them. Show specials are just another great incentive to get eager eyes into your booth. This is the main goal! The whole point of your mailer is to create traffic to your booth. The more people that come, the more you are likely to sell, make relationships and create potential customers.
| Contact Information and Social Media. Make sure your phone, email, website and social media are all listed. You want to make connecting with you as easy as possible.
| Online Wholesale Catalog and Password. An online wholesale catalog is a great way to get retailers engaged before they attend the show. This gives them the opportunity to take the introduction a step further. We all know that retailers don't have unlimited funds, so getting them interested early on increases the chances of some of that money coming your way. Some retailers will even place an order before the show begins.
*I suggest making your invite something retailers will cherish and want to keep around. The ultimate goal is to create something they would pin on an inspiration board. This will help keep you fresh in their minds.
3 | The Product: It's always a good idea to include samples of your work, especially if you are new to the game or jumping into a new product category. This isn't something that everyone does, and the size of your mailer might determine whether you consider offering samples. If you choose to send an envelope instead of a box your space will understandably be more limited. If this is the case, you can always keep it simple by including something small like a gift tag, enclosure card or just a single card sample.
4 | The Packaging: There are many options when it comes to packaging your mailers. We choose to go with boxes so we can fit the invitation, a few samples, plus a little something extra. But any size box or envelope will work just fine; there are no set rules or standards. The key here is how you decorate the exterior. You want this to catch someones eye. You will be just one envelope amongst a sea of snail mail, so standing out is crucial. Use pretty postage. Print a label that corresponds with your theme. Hand address them or have a calligrapher script them. Some people even design custom stamps! Have fun with it.
*It's important to keep shipping costs in mind when selecting the size of your mailer. It can cost upwards of $300 to send out about 100 medium sized box mailers.
5 | That Little Something Extra: I think we can all agree that when someone goes the extra mile it is greatly appreciated and it tends to stick in our minds. So when it comes to designing your mailers, try to add that little something extra. Write a hand written note. Make something exclusive to the mailer that no one else will get. You could create custom gift tags, luggage tags to use on their trip to NSS, temporary tattoos, stickers or even custom enamel pins or buttons. Try to think outside the box with this one. The possibilities are endless!
For us, this means always including food in our mailers. The first year we had fortune cookies made with custom fortunes. They said things like, "You will make new friends in booth 2070" and other fun things. And these weren't just any boring cookies; we went a step further by having them dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles. Since the cookies were a delicious success, we made sure to include food in this years mailer as well. This time we had pretzel sticks dipped in dark chocolate with light sprinkles not only tying into the NYC pattern featured on this year's mailer but the color scheme as well. Yes, the sprinkles matched the color scheme of our mailers both times! There's nothing wrong with being obsessed with the details.
Mailers are an amazing promotional tool for NSS, and if executed well, should lead to increased traffic and sales. Not enough stationery companies have the luxury of time that it takes to send out mailers, but if you do definitely take advantage of it. But don't let these mailers get the best of you. Remember, It's better to get one out the door than to not send one because you are hung up on creating the "perfect" mailer, but hopefully we helped making the perfect mailer a little easier for you.
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The National Stationery Show, for those of you who are new to the industry, is THE show for all things paper. Every May the stationery community descends upon Manhattan to make the Javits Center its temporary home for 4 days of total stationery bliss. And while most of us will spend months in preparation for just a few days of excitement, I think most stationers would agree that it is definitely worth all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a show like this possible!
But that's not the entire story...