What You Need to Know About Direct Mail Marketing In the Digital Age


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With all the digital marketing channels now available, direct mail has fallen out of favor with a number of marketers—an unfortunate turn of events for brands.

Consumers, for the most part, recall an article of mail far more than digital correspondence (we’re looking at you, email).

What’s more, the physical aspect of something such as a flyer or mailer postcard provides a deeper level of engagement, enhancing the customer experience and capturing an individual’s attention long enough to get your message across.

And though direct mail marketing doesn’t provide the immediacy of digital channels, it does offer reach and engagement not often found with email.

It isn’t uncommon for businesses to capture just 40% of customer email addresses.

On the other hand, mailing addresses can be at 100% for brands with ecommerce, credit cards, contracts or agreements, and loyalty programs.

Besides this, mail can be a welcome change in the current environment.

In April 2020, 62% of people said receiving a card in the mail made them feel more connected, and 55% mentioned they felt less isolated after getting a piece of mail.

By November, a follow-up survey found those numbers had barely budged.

Maximizing Direct Mail In the Digital Age
Digital channels are fantastic at allowing brands to reach consumers through mobile and digital devices, but what if they’re not engaging with your brand through Facebook, Twitter, email, or on your website?

To affect the entire customer journey, direct mail marketing still ranks as one of the most cost-effective means of engaging with a target audience.

The question, then, is this: how do you maximize direct mail in the digital age?

The following are often the best places to start.

Stack Your Odds With the Right Person
Data is a significant part of any direct mail marketing campaign, meaning the people you hire to head up the project should understand how to derive actionable insights from marketing data and apply the test-learn-grow approach to campaigns.

You’ll often find that digital marketers are the perfect fit.

Because they’re great at deriving insights from data and using it to design tests and experiments, digital marketers possess the traits that are essential to successful direct mail marketing.

Know Your Audience
Sending direct mail to the right people with the wrong message (and vice versa) is just a waste of marketing spend.

In fact, many marketers blame the creative when campaigns don’t work—when it’s just as likely the result of a bad mailing list.

That’s why careful targeting is so essential.

Even with a limited budget, solid research can help you pull together a qualified list, get to know consumer needs, develop relevant promotions, and map out the customer journey.

Get active on social channels, monitor conversations, ask questions, solicit feedback, and (most importantly) capture as much data as possible.

After all, 92% of marketers believe using first-party data to understand your customer base is critical to growth.

Get Creative … With Your Creative
Just like in web development, where you lead with a mobile-first approach, optimize your direct mail marketing format for readers who scan headlines and skim the text.

This involves keeping the main points bold and larger than supporting details, choosing only the most pertinent points (too much text can be distracting), and making sure your call to action stands out.

It’s all about giving the target audience a reason to take notice and act on your offer.

Beyond that, consider the customer experience as your prospects open their mailboxes; oftentimes, larger mailer formats (or unique mail formats) can make more of an impact on target audiences.

Graphics are also key to authenticity, so remember to avoid canned, overused stock photos.

Instead, go with fresh images that spark curiosity and differentiate your business from the competition.

Apply an Omnichannel Approach
The most effective marketing campaigns should be accompanied by other marketing efforts, and that’s especially true when it comes to sending direct mail in the digital age.

Follow-up mailers are a must, and so are digital channels such as social, mobile, email, display, and paid search.

Start by developing a range of content for each stage along the customer journey.

Then, set up triggers based on certain in-market signals: think welcome cards for new subscribers, product comparison guides should someone demonstrate interest, or email reminders when consumers abandon their carts.

After that, take interactions even further by segmenting consumers based on response and interest.

Send out personalized email reminders about the current promotion.

Consider launching a retargeting campaign across social channels that’s similar in message and design to your unique mail format.

You might even want to use direct mail marketing in support of an email marketing campaign.

Compile a list of nonresponders, set some segmentation variables (geographic, demographic, behavioral, attitudinal, and so on), and send out highly personalized direct mail advertisements.

Direct mail marketing in tandem with email marketing can be an effective approach to supporting a networking event or virtual or live trade show.

Postcards, after all, can serve a dual purpose: they can be either direct mail or takeaways.

And if you capture the attendees’ addresses (both business and email), you have all the information necessary to launch an omnichannel campaign.

Test and Monitor Performance
As with any digital marketing strategy, direct mail marketing requires both testing and monitoring to ensure success.

Talk about the goals of a direct mail campaign, finalize the marketing tactics, and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to KPIs.

Response rate and conversion rate are two of the most obvious ones, but you could also track average order size, revenue per order, and cost per acquisition throughout your direct mail marketing campaign.

If direct mail is part of a larger omnichannel campaign, you might also need to get creative in tracking and attributing responses.

Including a trackable phone number or campaign-specific URL on your direct mail campaign represent two options.

(The added bonus of a URL, however, is that it’s a landing page specific to the promotion, making it searchable.)

Coupons and QR codes are strong options as well because they can both be used on mobile devices, delivering a more seamless customer experience in turn.

(In fact, the adoption and usage of QR codes specifically are on the rise as the pandemic emphasizes touch-free options for many businesses.)

Whatever methods you choose to monitor performance, capture as much data as possible to adapt the current campaign, inform the next iteration in the marketplace, and nail down what to test next with your marketing efforts.

The goal here is to be responsive to in-market signals so you can continually meet consumers where they are.

When it comes to effective marketing methods, direct mail can be just as good as digital.

And when they’re used together, marketing magic happens.

It’s all in the approach.

Make sure you understand your audience, craft relevant messaging, look for ways to support direct mail marketing with other marketing efforts, and continue to test and monitor results.

Once you’ve got these ducks in a row, you’ll have an actionable plan to blend digital and direct mail marketing to produce better results.

This article was originally published in Spin Sucks.

Rhonda Basler
With more than two decades of marketing and operations experience, Rhonda Basler is currently the Head of Operations & Agent Experience for Compass in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Nashville. Throughout her career, Rhonda has held the customer in the highest esteem and intimately understands the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer experience. Rhonda's career has spanned both B2B and B2C companies including Dot Foods, H & R Block, Hallmark, and Compass Realty Group.


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