Despite an endless stream of digital marketing and a growing audience that prefers online communication, direct mail remains an essential part of marketing campaigns worldwide. And since 55 percent of consumers look forward to getting mail, you’re providing them with an impactful and positive experience they look forward to. However, a direct mail campaign is only as good as the circulation plan behind that campaign. An outdated, underperforming or poorly segmented plan can doom even the best campaign, resulting in lost revenues and significant expenses with little ROI.
With a limited budget and time-constraints, it’s a challenge to find the most effective ways to grow direct mail program, but here are four tricks you can use to improve your approach.
Make the Most of Intent Data
One of the reasons direct mail has remained such a powerful force is the sheer amount of information that’s available to marketers today. In previous generations, the only feedback marketers received was responses to their direct mail queries. Today, instead of being the be-all and end-all, response rate is just one indicator of direct mail circulation success. The marketing ecosystem is much more favorable for marketers to learn more about their audience and how best to reach them.
Clearly the greatest new tool available to direct mail circulation directors today is the data that comes from the company’s website. Your business generates mountains of information about how users behave on the website; from which pages are visited to how long a user spends on each page. This data provides a digital body language you can use to help understand buyer intent. This intent data can show that an individual is a serious prospect, or one who may need a little more time before they’re ready to consider buying from your company. If a person has received communications from you and is browsing your website, it’s a strong sign they have interest in your company. Just as important is the feedback you can derive from these interactions. If a significant amount of recipients visit your website after receiving your direct mail piece, it is another indicator that your campaign was successful, and you’re reaching the right audience.
The real value of intent data, though, is in its ability to identify new prospects and unique reactivation targets. If a first-time visitor comes to your site, clicks on several pages and spends a significant amount of time on those pages, their activity is a major indicator of their interest in your products. It’s a great time to send that prospect a physical catalog or other direct mail piece to introduce yourself. Similarly, lapsed customers who have not purchased from your website in years may show up on your website and display similar browsing behavior, qualifying them for a direct mail piece as well.
Tracking and making sense of intent data is well worth the time and money, because this information is often unique to your company’s site, meaning that you’ll be reaching shoppers who are interested in your products and who won’t be part of the rented lists and optimized house file names provided by the database cooperatives.
Personalize and Target
Just as identifying new prospects has become easier, so too has reaching out to those prospects with personalized mail pieces. Today’s printing technology has made personalization and customization a breeze, giving you the chance to reach your targets at an individualized level.
While it’s now easier and cheaper for you to advertise in this way, it is also important to understand that shoppers have come to see this approach as the norm. So customary, in fact, that the average shopper expects to be treated as an individual at every touchpoint they have with your company — whether it’s a catalog, postcard, email or social connection. Indeed, Marketo states that nearly 80 percent of consumers expect a personalized approach, which includes the company reaching out and making an offer based on previous brand-related activity. It’s up to you to make sure your direct mail pieces meet the expectations of your consumer base.
Once again, these personalized communications have some pre-defined criteria. They must be convincing, and above all else, they must be distributed to the right audience. In addition to using the intent data from your website, it’s also a good idea to identify specific segments of your customer and prospect universe. For example, targeting former customers who haven’t made a purchase in 12 months with a “We Missed You!” approach, combined with a promo code offering a discount, is a great way to gauge the interest lapsed customers have in resuming their relationship with your company. You can then tailor the exact message based on what those customers previously bought, or what type of list they came from, giving you a customized approach without incurring major risk and expense.
Create Clear and Compelling Calls to Action
With the exception of getting the right eyes on your message, the most important part of any personalized marketing campaign is the call to action. While many articles focus on creating calls to action to drive web traffic, direct mail also needs to use compelling calls to action that give the recipient a real reason to become interested, or re-interested, in your brand. Direct response marketing has always been defined by its ability to compel consumers to take immediate action based on an offer, and that capability and focus is just as important today as it was 20-30 years ago.
There’s more to a call to action than just being persuasive. You must also be clear in your communication. The reader must know exactly what they are to receive, and they must understand exactly what they have to do in order to make that happen. For example, a call to action on a mailer encouraging customers to sign up for your loyalty card should clearly state what benefits will accrue from signing up, but it should also make clear all program requirements (i.e. the loyalty card must be used to accumulate points). Covering these details will create a well-informed customer who’s even more eager to do business with you.
Although you may deliver your offer with a call to action through the mail, you should also provide the recipient with multiple ways to respond. They should be able to respond on your website, through the mail, in-store or by calling. Making things more difficult, or creating unnecessary steps to complete the purchase, will turn many customers away from your offer and your company, resulting in the unexplainable failure of a potentially great campaign.
Combine Online and Offline Efforts
Calls to action and intent data are great ways to incorporate online functionality into your direct mail campaigns. But the usefulness of the Internet in direct mail goes well beyond these two capabilities.
Your ability to link your online marketing to your offline work is limited only by your imagination. Direct mail circulation doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, completely separate from your online promotions. Send out email reminders to people who have received your mailings but haven’t responded. Include promo codes in your catalog that are also good for online use. Place QR codes on your letters and in your catalogs so your audience can go to your website without lifting a finger.
While you build bridges between your online and offline worlds, it’s a good idea to make sure all forms of marketing media send the same message. You should use the same logos, fonts and overall imagery in all of your communications with each audience segment. Doing this reinforces the messages you’ve sent through your direct mail, and it puts consumers at ease as they understand that they’re being courted on more than one platform by an identifiable brand.
Although you might think it counter-intuitive to incorporate these digital elements into direct mail, it actually makes a lot of sense. Think of the Internet’s capabilities as a way to enhance the effectiveness of your direct mail circulation. Anything you can do online to reach your customers and make them feel valued will only bolster the power of your direct mail campaign and vice versa.
Improve Your Direct Mail Circulation Performance
Direct mail can be a challenging media at times. With so much riding on the effectiveness of your campaigns, both your message and methodology for distribution has to be good. Fortunately, technological developments like intent data and personalization have made the challenges of direct mail easier than ever to overcome. Incorporating online elements into your campaign can only help enhance the buying experience of your prospects, increasing their loyalty to your brand. It’s time to make the most of the wealth of information and techniques at your disposal to make your direct mail programs an integral part of your company’s overall marketing efforts.