How to Use “Lumpy Mail” to Increase Sales

Lumpy MailFor thirty years, direct mail has been one of our best marketing strategies. It has higher likelihood of being retained by the recipient, being passed along to other people, and creating an emotional connection with readers. Communications that are physical can help the sender seem real to the receiver.

Every marketing strategy needs to get the attention of the recipients before it can lead to action. This week I recalled one of our most memorable direct mail campaigns.

Bagwell Marketing has been providing marketing services to other businesses for thirty years. We generally find our clients through networking, direct mail, internet marketing, social media, and word of mouth.

The “Lumpy Mail” Concept Works

Rather than sending just another postcard, brochure or flyer, we decided to try a “lumpy mail” piece. The concept behind this type of direct mail is, instead of being flat, lumpy mail is packaged and the message comes in a box or envelope so it has length, width, and depth. That makes it stand out from everything else in the post office box and increases the likelihood that that the message will register and be remembered—particularly if it is clever or very compatible with the company’s business or service. There is less chance of someone throwing it out.

In some cases, more senior level executives often have an admin assistant open their mail. That person may be trained to discard advertising mail.  An admin assistant is more likely to pass this along if they also find it interesting or unique.

The term, “Lumpy Mail” has been around for a long time. Dan Kennedy, noted direct marketing expert, has used this concept to create record breaking campaigns for all kinds of businesses.

The Toilet Paper Campaign

In this campaign, Bagwell Marketing packaged toilet paper with a message that said “When it hits the wall, give us a call..” Of course, our intention was to lighten the mood at the office and increase awareness of our services.

We had 800 addresses on our Best Prospects List. To test the effectiveness of the campaign, we decided to send our packages to 200 of them in the first mailing.


Three of the recipients complained immediately that they were very offended by this campaign. Even with a lot of others who seemed to love it, we decided that we should pull the plug and not send out any more of these pieces. (I regret that now.)

With the TP, packaging, and postage, we spent about $5 for each of the 200 pieces we sent. Three new projects resulted, so our return was more than three times the original cost. Even with the criticisms, this aborted campaign was a financial success.

And, 30 months later we received a call from another of the recipients. The marketing director had just let their ad agency go and she thought of us. She had the TP on her desk and it had become a great conversation piece in the last year. That prompted her to call and we gained a great new account.

Lumpy Mail as an Option

This campaign illustrates some of the qualities of lumpy mail:

  • It is more expensive to send than flat mail so it is best used with qualified prospects.
  • Because it is different, it is more likely than other communications to be passed along to the decision-makers by the gatekeepers at the company.
  • The likelihood of a reaction is greater.
  • The more surprising the mailing is, the wider the range of the responses will be. Some people will love it and others will find reasons to be critical.
  • Expect some negative responses with almost anything you do. Try to plan how you will handle it.

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