Borzou Azabdaftari is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Washington, D.C. and Creative Director of The Falcon Lab, a creative, digital and print agency. When Borzou needed expertise on a project involving lumpy mail, he consulted Paul Strack, president of CustomXM and an authority on the topic We asked them about best practices for this innovative and often under-utilized marketing tool. Here's what they shared:

What is lumpy mail?

BA/ For those unfamiliar with the concept, lumpy mail is a tactile piece of direct mail that literally has a lump in it. It can be any kind of three-dimensional, unexpected mailing piece. There are so many unusual and attention-grabbing items marketers can utilize with a mailing piece?a message in a bottle, a mini Rubik's cube, dice, shredded money or even a boomerang from an organization that wants your business back. Pairing these lumpy items with a compelling sales letter amplifies results.

Can you share a recent lumpy mail success story?

PS/ One particularly innovative college used lumpy mail to notify high school seniors that they had been accepted for admission. The college created mini-banners?about 3" x 6" in size?and personalized them with the recipient's names, in addition to mini banner stands made with a wooden dowel and a small wooden wheel to hold it. When recipients received the box containing the banner and display stand, they were asked to "proudly display their banner" and take a photo to share on social media. That was a genius move because who's more enthusiastic about sharing good news on social media than recently accepted college students!? The campaign ended up being hugely successful because the college employed the smart strategy of creating an item the recipient would want to keep and share. The work practically did itself with so many future students sharing their good news--and as a result, the college enjoyed a viral moment on social media.

What's the ROI on lumpy mail compared with flat mail?

PS/ The word around the industry is that lumpy mail gets opened 100% of the time, and double-digit response rates aren't unheard of. The businesses we know that have experimented with lumpy mail report a solid ROI on this type of campaign, and better results than they experienced with a traditional direct mailing.

How do you curate a mailing list for lumpy mail, since its higher cost warrants a more selective process?

PS/ It's true that lumpy mailings cost more to send, but you're also sending the unspoken message that your recipient is worth the extra effort and expense. The best results for lumpy mail are highly targeted, thoroughly curated lists. You need to determine your audience and make sure they are the best fit for your product. You'll have much better results this way than through purchased databases. While this is a bit more work on the front end, it's worth it.

Does the extra cost for lumpy mail pay off?

BA and PS/ We believe it does! Lumpy mail instantly grabs the attention of potential buyers, beginning the dialogue on a fun and clever note. Think about your own reaction when you check your mail: don't you go for the package or non-standard envelope first? It's human nature. An added bonus to sending lumpy mail is that because it isn't flat, it's usually placed on top of the pile, garnering extra attention.

How does lumpy mail complement digital marketing efforts?

BA/ As I open my email, I see a ton of ads. Consumers are constantly bombarded both electronically and by direct mail, although admittedly direct mail has declined in recent years. In any sales pitch, there's the need to capture the attention of your prospective buyer, to light up that part of their brain that makes them want to visit your website or make a call. To that end, lumpy mail can be hugely effective in amplifying and complementing digital marketing efforts. It's a best practice to send your recipient list advance emails before your lumpy mailer is delivered, to build anticipation and hype. Coordinated online efforts that echo the messaging of your lumpy mailing also help reinforce the call to action. 

In today's marketing environment, there's no single "holy grail" method for marketing your company's product or services. Success most often comes from an integrated, multi-channel approach. And for the right product and the right client, lumpy mail is an unexpected, additional arrow in our quiver.