Call Us: 973-305-1500 | Upload Files

How Furniture Today Boosted Direct Mail Response by 500%

We have a direct mail case study to share with you that features our B2B client, Furniture Today. Last year, direct mail wasn’t working for them. And then this year, they tested new creative and lists and boosted response rate by 500%. Want to learn how? Keep reading!

furniture today

Read the rest of this page →

Direct Mail Case Study Featuring Ploughshares Literary Journal

We have a direct mail case study to share with you for a new client that makes for a great success story. For this case study, we spoke with Andrea Martucci, Managing Director. Let’s dive right in!

Quick Summary

Ploughshares, the professional Literary Magazine at Emerson College, mailed a #10 Voucher package that used an attention-grabbing offer presentation without talking down to these high-minded prospects.


Components included:

  • Two-color outer envelope
  • Two-color form with monotone photos of the guest-editors on back (which stressed how having a rotating editor uniquely sets Ploughshares apart from the competition)
  • Two-page letter that included an interactive side flap focused on the famous literary voices first showcased in the publication
  • One-sided buckslip playing up the premiums
  • Offer-driven chit
  • BRE


This direct mail package was tested against a new business campaign from 2011, consisting of a 2-color, 1-page letter with response slip attached, a tri-fold 4-color brochure, #9 business reply, all housed in a 2-color #10 window envelope.

The aim was to be more transactional and assumptive of the sale than the previous control — while using shorter, more actionable copy blocks that highlighted the recipients’ interests versus simply presenting features of the product.


According to the CLMP (Council for Literary Magazines and Presses): “Generally speaking, a well-executed direct mail package sent to well-targeted lists should bring in at least 1% or more of the total number mailed.”  In reviewing our previous history of direct mail subscription campaigns, we were consistently getting about 2.1%-2.2% about 10-15 years ago.

Using the same campaign as earlier years (one that is recommended for literary magazines: #10 window, 4 page letter, response card with variable data), with slight variations every year, by 2006/2007 the response rate had fallen to about 1.5%.  In speaking to people at other literary journals, we learned that our peers were experiencing a similar drop in response rates.

The response rate for the 2011 control was 1.32%. The response rate for the 2013 campaign provided by AdSpace Communications was 2.76% — with 80% cash with order.  What most excites us is that approximately 65% of the orders were for a two-year term (which was not even offered on the previous control).  Needless to say, we are thrilled with the response rate!

Lessons Learned

We learned the value of taking the extra time to arrive at the best offer and best presentation prior to rushing a campaign out the door. We also integrated direct mail best practices with our knowledge of our audience, and customized the mailing slightly to appeal to former subscribers as well as new prospects.

First, as Ploughshares content is timeless, we were able to add to the number of premiums by offering two back issues (which also allowed us to save space and money on warehousing.)

Secondly, AdSpace provided two takes of the outer (for new prospects) — as the more packages opened would increase overall response.  While both versions handily beat the control, the single window, traditional envelope outperformed a close-faced, matched mailing with affixed addressing label.  This confirmed that paying for a more expensive, but more personal-looking, outer was not worth the additional expense.


If you have any questions, or want samples, please contact us!

September Case Study Featuring Lapham’s Quarterly

Lapham's Black Outer EnvelopeThe September 2012 issue of our case study newsletter features our client Lapham’s Quarterly and their test of a black outer envelope versus a white outer envelope.

The companies involved in this mailing include:

Test Summary

Lapham’s Quarterly was mailing a #10 package with a black outer envelope, reply card, accordion brochure, lift note and BRE. The offer was four editions for $39, a $21 discount. Their question was: Could switching to a white outer envelope, but keeping the package components and offer the same, boost response?

Lapham's White Outer Envelope     Lapham's Brochure

Lapham's Order Form     Lapham's Lift Note

Test Strategy

The black outer envelope #10 package was performing well for Lapham’s Quarterly, but they wanted to see if switching to a white outer envelope would boost response. While it was obviously a color test, the other part of the equation was the fact that the white outer envelope would be less expensive to produce versus the black outer envelope because of the significantly reduced ink coverage.

Test Results

The white envelope basically tied with the black envelope on response. But it’s the first time they mailed the test and only at a quantity of 25,000 pieces. Since the white envelope is the less expensive version, they’ll re-test it in November at a larger quantity of probably 50,000 pieces and label it the new control if they get a similar result.

Test Takeaway

According to one of Acme Publishing Service’s founding partners, “The takeaway, I think, is a simple one: Examine your control each time for new ways to wring out savings. Can you deliver the same visual impact in a less expensive way? Ballantine has always been stellar when it comes to making these kinds of very specific cost-cutting suggestions.”

Do you have any questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you below!


June Case Study Featuring Saint Peter’s College

Let's Get It DoneThe June 2012 issue of our “Sample of the Month” case study newsletter features our client Saint Peter’s College and their extremely successful fundraising campaign.

The goal for Saint Peter’s College was simple in concept, but complex and strategic in execution. They wanted to acquire 140 donors on June 1, 2012 in honor of the College’s 140th anniversary. To accomplish this goal, they took a multi-step and integrated approach to build buzz leading up to June 1st.

Ballantine handled the printing, mailing, email blasts, personalized URLs and creative for the email and PURL landing page. Managing this campaign from start to finish at Saint Peter’s College was Jamie Bredehoft, director of annual giving.

Campaign Details

The strategy behind this fundraising effort was to build buzz and awareness leading up to the June 1st giving date. This was accomplished using three postcard mailings, four email blasts, social media and personalized URLs.

Front of Postcard

Postcard #1

This was a 5” x 7” postcard sent to about 8,000 people on April 30th. The mailing list consisted of:

  • All alumni couples regardless of giving history (counts as two donors and helps their alumni participation rate)
  • Any alumnus who has made a gift of $5 or more since 2000
  • All graduates of the last decade regardless of giving history (the urgency, immediacy and tech components of the campaign appeal to the younger generation of donors)

Postcard #2

This was a 6” x 9” postcard sent to about 5,000 people on May 10th. The mailing list consisted of:

  • All alumni couples
  • Graduates of the last decade who have made a gift in the past
  • Anyone who has made a gift of $5 or more since 2005 (giving trends show that if someone doesn’t give within a six year period, an organization is likely to lose their participation for good)

Back of Postcard

Postcard #3

This was a 6.125” x 11.5” postcard sent to about 2,700 people on May 22nd. The mailing list consisted of:

  • Donors from last year that haven’t yet given this fiscal year (it’s important to retain these folks year to year)
  • Those with unfulfilled telemarketing pledges (making the pledge shows their commitment to the College and gives confidence that they will ultimately make a gift)
  • All alumni couples
  • Graduates of the last decade who have given in the past

Creative Strategy

The creative from the postcard to the PURL landing page to the email blasts was very consistent – visually attractive and clean. And on the postcard and landing page, the copy reinforced what specific donation amounts would provide.
Email Blast
Email Blasts

A staggered approach allowed alumni to receive communication about the campaign through a different outlet each week. The email blasts would be sent one week, and a postcard would arrive in mailboxes the following week. Additionally, a final e-blast was distributed on May 31st.

The focus of the emails were to drive people to their personalized URL for more information and to request a reminder call to make a gift on June 1st. And on June 1st, four emails were sent throughout the day reminding them it was the big day.

The email blasts were sent to their entire list of about 10,000 people. That being said, for both the postcard mailings and the email blasts, the people that requested a June 1st reminder call were suppressed.

Personalized URL Landing Page

Personalized URLs

The PURL was used as a response vehicle for both the postcard and the email. On the landing page was a countdown clock that showed the number of days and hours left until June 1st. There was also a recap of what specific donation amounts would provide. And lastly, there was a pre-populated form to submit if you wanted to be reminded to give.

Social Media

Social media was an important component in the promotion of the “Let’s Get it Done. June 1” campaign. In advance of June 1, the campaign logo was made the cover photo on the alumni Facebook page and a lead story on the Saint Peter’s College website and alumni website. Posts regarding the promotion of the website were distributed via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter a month in advance of the event.


Within a week of the event, posts were shared up to three times daily on the various social media pages, highlighting the different components of the campaign. Members of the advancement team were also provided with logos and imagery, which they could share on their personal social media pages.


On the day of the event, regular updates on the progress were posted. As donors gave they were encouraged to share the announcement of their gift on their personal social media pages. Donors who tweeted mentions of their gifts were retweeted on the Saint Peter’s College Twitter page to encourage additional participation.


The goal was 140 donors on June 1st. Saint Peter’s College surpassed this goal by 273 percent. The final number came in at 382 donors, who made gifts online, over the phone and through regular mail, resulting in more than $90,000 raised by Saint Peter’s.

According to Jamie Bredehoft, “The culture of giving is changing, and we need to be receptive to what will motivate our alumni to give back. With this campaign, it’s become clear that an integrated approach, which communicates a tangible goal and solicits collaborative participation for a greater impact, works. We’re extremely proud of our alumni community for stepping up to the challenge – and we’re thrilled that their excitement about the campaign was contagious, allowing us to surpass our goal.”


January Case Study Featuring Guilford Press

Guilford Press postcardThe January 2012 issue of our “Sample of the Month” case study newsletter features our client Guilford Press and their 12 version postcard campaign to generate interest in their course books. Ballantine handled the printing and mailing of this project.


Guilford Press designates a handful of their book titles as Free for Adoption Consideration. This means that professors can get the book for free to examine it before agreeing to adopt it for use in their course.


This mailing consisted of 71,000 6×9 postcards, but this total quantity was spread out over 12 different course books being promoted. To help cut costs dramatically, we produced this job as one run of 71,000 postcards with 12 different versions. Always gang-run if possible.


Guilford Press has been using this strategy for awhile because it works for them. That being said, tracking ROI accurately is difficult because they are giving out free copies that can’t be tied to a promo code. Instead, they look back 18 months later and measure:

  • How are course adoptions doing for these specific titles?
  • Did they get a spike in free copy requests after the postcard mailed?


If you would like a printed sample of this postcard, or have a project you want us to quote, please contact us.