As the direct marketing community remembers industry pioneer Lester Wunderman following his recent passing, it’s timely to note how direct marketing, and direct mail especially, continue to drive new revenue for brands.
Integrated with new media, savvy marketers are discovering that direct mail is more powerful and return on investment-positive than ever, especially for microtargeting new customers and deepening relationships with existing ones. While communications channel options evolve at a rapid pace, the premise of putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right time never changes.
Email, digital advertising, robocalls (sorry), social media and numerous other techniques have specific strengths for reaching audiences at low costs. But our cluttered messaging channels render many of these channels ineffective, unemotional, brand-damaging and expensive.
Why Direct Mail Works And When To Use It
In addition to its pinpoint targeting advantage, direct mail is tangible and has a longer shelf life than email, which users often forget or delete seconds after opening. A piece of mail with a strong offer might sit on a desk or a kitchen counter for days — even weeks — after your target first glances at it. Because it can be held and touched, it conveys emotion and inspires action in a way that screentime can’t.
About 42% of people read or scan their direct mail. Direct mail’s success, though, is what led to overuse of the medium. When a particular marketing strategy begins to create cost-effective results, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. As a result, mailboxes become cluttered with junk mail and the tactic is poorly executed. When used wisely, however, direct mail can be a strong selling tool.
At our agency, we do a lot of direct mail — from campaigns focused on 120 high-value business prospects to broad initiatives impacting 6 million carefully targeted households. We’ve found that direct mail, especially when integrated with other channels, continues to rank among the most cost-effective ways to influence and engage a carefully targeted audience.
It works best when advertisers have a unique offer for a specific segment of customers, like free trials, exclusive content or a discount on a product. Additionally, advertisers shouldn’t use direct mail unless they’re targeting a specific audience — luxury homeowners or suburban dog owners, for instance. It’s better to speak to one audience clearly than to try to resonate with several at once.
Kick It Up A Notch
So how can you add spice to a classic marketing medium? Here are three tips that can help:
1. Personalize your message and offer.
In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” More than 80 years later, it’s truer than ever. In the past two years alone, Google searches containing the phrase “for me” have increased by 60%.
We want to be understood and recognized. The more you can connect with this human truth as a marketer, the more successful you’ll be. In fact, according to recent consumer research, people are choosing brands more for their relevance to customer needs than for their loyalty and incentive programs. So ask yourself, “How does this campaign demonstrate our understanding of the user?” If you’re selling a lifestyle, demonstrate your authority and expertise with the appropriate jargon. If you’re targeting current customers, offer them something that makes sense as a next purchase.
2. Target carefully and succinctly.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is sending too much mail or cluttering your creative with too much information. Focus on the offer and simple calls to action. Save the details for later in the buyer’s journey. And make sure the right people are getting the message. With today’s analytics, there’s no excuse for getting this wrong.
Millennials, for example, aren’t fooled by advertising and generally don’t like it. However, they can appreciate when ads are valuable to them and relevant to their interests. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service found that 62% of millennials visited a store in the past month based on information they received in the mail.
3. Fuse complementary marketing mediums together.
One study found that people spend 25% more when direct mail is used in combination with email marketing. The magic happens when you fuse multiple tools together and combine old, trusty techniques with new, trendy ones. Here are a few ideas:
• Use USPS Informed Visibility to know when your mail is delivered and to more accurately estimate when direct mail will arrive. Time other messaging to hit at the same time.
• Match household IP addresses to postal addresses to synchronize online ads with the same direct mail offer, which can increase campaign results dramatically. One of our clients saw a 44% lift in conversions for a small increase in cost.
• Reinforce your sales process with customized email signatures using a service like Sigstr or Opensense. These types of services host and centralize customer email signatures, including a display ad in the email that can further engage prospects with links to relevant content.
• Integrate the power of video. Better yet, make your video more effective by using voice and text to personalize landing page video with your prospect’s name, town and custom offer. According to one study, an estimated 80% of all internet traffic will be video by 2021. Plus, social video generates 12 times more shares than text and images combined.
• Create personalized landing pages to reinforce offers and create an instant connection.
Every award-winning sauce has the right amount of every ingredient added at the just the right time. No marketing medium works in a vacuum, which might be why Wunderman coined the phrase direct marketing rather than simply direct mail. As marketers continue to test new ways to target and persuade audiences to engage, adding complementary technology simplifies the buying process for prospects and lowers the cost of acquisition for you.