Although the direct marketing industry has continued to thrive in the information age thanks to technological advantages, the same can’t always be said about direct mail circulation. Direct mail circulation planning is a serious challenge, and without an updated methodology for retaining current customers and accessing new, unique prospects, you can see the ceiling fast approaching.
The good news is that just as direct mail design and production have benefited from technology, the same revolution is starting to occur in direct mail circulation. With the right touch — and with careful planning — it can become easier than ever to get your direct mail into the right mailboxes at the right time. Here are four ways you can update your circulation practices and move your direct mail distribution into the 21st century.
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Implement a Consumer-Focused Approach
Direct mail is still a powerful medium, but it’s clearly not the only game in town. The truth is that the average consumer receives thousands of marketing messages a day in a variety of different forms. Direct mail comprises only a small portion of those messages. And even if direct mail is credited with a sale, it’s not the only factor in convincing a consumer to respond to your offer.
Today’s consumers are more savvy than ever before. They can go online and consult independent reviews. They can respond to your marketing through their Web browser, their email or on their phone. They know more, they expect more and they expect you to give it to them — not just through direct mail but in every form of communication.
That’s why it’s so important to think about marketing in a different way. The days of silo-based marketing, where every unit operated independently of each other, are quickly disappearing. That outdated model is being replaced by a new methodology where marketing teams work together to make the customer experience the best possible. The customer expects stellar service, and the best way to provide that is to streamline your company’s operations so that no part of the customer’s journey falls through the cracks, and there is complete transparency in your organization as to what that path looks like.
The benefit of this approach isn’t limited to the consumer. Your entire company can benefit from a communal approach to consumer-focused marketing. In particular, you can use the data shared between departments to your advantage. Instead of relying solely on previous order history, you can now work with digital marketing, sales and brick-and-mortar marketing personnel to learn as much about your audience as possible. That makes it much easier to deliver a message that warrants a response — and it helps you become a more efficient and well-rounded marketer.
Make the Most of Intent Data
In today’s world, where online shopping typically precedes talking to a salesperson or going to a store to browse, the consumer spends time researching online before they decide to make a purchase. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to pick up on clues from consumers who are subconsciously raising their hands that they want your attention.
Intent data is most easily defined as all the actions that help you understand who a customer is and why he or she may be interested in making a purchase. An example of actionable intent data is a shopper who spends a long time on a product page for inexpensive dinnerware on your website, but then also looks at beds-in-a-bag, office supplies and mac and cheese (all of which you happen to carry). This person could be a parent with a child about to go to college, or it could be the new college student shopping for herself. Digging deeper, you also see this consumer spends time on your careers page, specifically looking at entry level jobs. More than likely the person browsing your site is a college student who needs inexpensive home goods and a flexible job to pay for it all. No matter what the case may be, you have concrete evidence that you have a potential paying customer on your hands, and now you understand what is driving this person to purchase or not to purchase from you. This example is on an individual level, but can also be applied to audience segments.
Incorporating the analysis of intent data into your direct mail circulation planning can be most beneficial to your bottom line. It’s a major step forward from looking at previous orders made by your customers, which may no longer be relevant to the life situations of those individuals. Properly using intent data can help you to refine your audience segments. It can also help you to work with digital marketing on buyer personas that both the direct mail and digital marketing teams can utilize. No matter how you slice it, intent data gives you more information about your customer base, making it easier to market to all segments of your audience with personalized, relevant mail pieces.
Make it Personal
Combining your online and offline data about each customer can help in many different ways. But perhaps there’s no bigger way data can work for you than when it comes to personalizing your direct mail message. Technology allows you to distribute direct mail pieces for a virtually endless list of reasons. The more data you have about your customer base, the better you’ll be able to appeal to each person as an individual. That personalized touch goes a long way towards instilling customer loyalty.
At the end of the day, customers want to feel like you care about them, and they want to feel valued. Personalization is a great way to get your audience to feel good about their relationship with your brand.
But there’s more to the picture than simply leaving the customer satisfied. It’s been proven that a consumer who receives a personalized approach is more than willing to show their appreciation with their wallets. So while you might not see the point in sending out a postcard to thank your most loyal customers for their years of service, it may very well be worth your while. Especially if that postcard contains an offer on a product you know they’ll love.
A technological development with great potential benefit to direct marketers is programmatic print, a tool that bridges the gap between intent data and the subsequent messaging to customers. While intent data can identify a sales opportunity, programmatic print takes the next step by automatically sending a direct mail piece to the prospect with a personalized offer based on their browsing behavior.
Programmatic print, without combining it with other technologies to match browsing behavior to a physical mailing address, can only be sent to consumers who are on file in the company’s mailing list. It’s still an exciting technology that is helping to flip the ‘print to digital’ paradigm.
Although this direct to consumer practice is carried out in digital marketing as well, the auto-email that follows can quickly get filtered to spam, deleted or archived without the consumer so much as opening the communication. There’s no reminder of the interaction after the email is out of view. Compare that with a physical coupon that can be placed anywhere. It’s much easier for someone to remember to finally make that purchase when they have a tangible item that they can shove in their wallet or tape to their computer monitor.
It’s All about the Consumer
Using programmatic print goes back to what we discussed earlier — do everything you can to focus on the consumer. If an individual takes that coupon you sent and uses it on an in-store purchase, you’ve still done your job from a direct mail perspective. It’s all about making the lives of your customers easier so that they can get what they need from you, at the exact time they need it.
Direct mail has come a long way over the years, and direct mail circulation is finding new methods and practices to reach today’s consumer. Technology has made direct mail circulation planning a much easier practice, and emerging developments like intent data will continue to help circulation directors to perfect their craft. A consumer-focused approach and the increased use of data will turn your direct mail distribution operation into a well-oiled machine with tremendous reach and effectiveness.