There was a time, not so long ago, that direct mail was the workhorse for direct marketing. Then along came the newer and less expensive communication media of email, search, social plus other digital ad technologies.
In this mix, direct mail was not forgotten, but relegated to “the last resort.” Results of new media were initially strong, and as a result, usage of direct mail declined.
Then something odd began to happen a few years ago: direct mail response rates began to climb (see the DMA Statistics Fact Book).
There are good reasons for that, as there was less mail, plus the mailings became more relevant in terms of targeting, messages and offers due to the use of improved databases and segmentation.
Smart marketers are now not only returning to the usage of direct mail, but are also now developing new and impactful usages. Much of this has been documented, and what follows may be a rehash for some marketers, but hopefully a few ideas or reinforcements will be offered on the value and usage of direct mail for marketing campaigns.
1. Advantages of Direct Mail
There are significant advantages of direct mail that we seem to forget. Here are the major ones.
- It’s tactile. Even the act of briefly looking at the mailing piece and tossing it away requires more human engagement than clicking the delete button. Of course, its tactile nature also encourages closer inspection, whether turning it over and/or opening it.
- There are a wide variety of formats. From the standard post card, to 3-D, to impact mailings, the creative options are almost unlimited. Some years ago, I even heard of a firm that sent a 12” two-by-four piece of wood with a letter attached through the mail. If a high-value repeat attendee segmentation can be identified, then consider an impact mailing, something that goes “bump” in the mail. Yes, they are more expensive, but also very effective.
- Digital printing allows for not only impactful graphics, but personalization as well. We all know that the higher degree of relevancy of the message and offer, the higher the engagement and response rates are. For past attendees, a different message and offer should be crafted from one for prospects. People want to be remembered and valued, and the personalization available in direct mail can accomplish that.
- For many communications, there is much to communicate. All can be contained in one mailing piece, and it is frequently saved by the individual for reference. This is certainly easier for them than printing out the email!
2. Multi-media and Multi-touch campaigns
In Don Schultz’s book on Integrated Marketing, he concludes, “All the touches will accumulate to a behavior.” The most successful campaigns are multi-touch and multi-media. All media is used as is appropriate for the target audiences.
Yet, when we want to communicate to an individual, the three media are email, mail, and, at times, phone.
The sequence and frequency of this strategy varies, but mail is a very important component. In fact, Greg Nappi, director of audience database marketing at Emerald Expositions reports that direct mail, when properly timed, is the key media in a multi-touch, multi-media campaign. He also reports that the mail lifts open rates.
3. Pass-Along and Redirection
An often overlooked value of a mailing piece is its pass-along value. An individual in the company receiving the mailing probably knows who else in the firm might be interested and will pass it along. That’s a two-for-one result.
In addition, in large companies the mail room will still deliver mailings to “replacement” individuals, at least for a time. As job changes and new hires are more frequent than you think, this redirection can be important to communicate to new or promoted employees.
How to Increase Direct Mail Results at a Lower Cost
While direct mail is making a comeback, there is no denying that it’s relatively expensive and will probably get more costly as printing and postage increase.
So how do you send mail to those individuals who you really want to communicate with and reduce costs at the same time? The answer is obvious: don’t send mail to individuals who are not there, won’t register or are not interested.
Here are five ways to save money on direct mail.
- Before any mailing, run the list through NOCA to catch those companies who have moved. Also, have the mail shop apply CASS certification to ensure the address meets postal standards. This is standard practice to secure the proper delivery of the mail.
- Maintain a central suppress file that contains names of individuals and companies who should not be mailed or have requested to be opted out.
- Reduce the number of mailings going into a company location. Over the years, the number of individuals from one company may have grown. Review the list of all individuals at one company and/or location.
- Identify best vs. worst performing segments.There are many ways to segment a database, depending on what data is captured. When you select the best segments, differences will almost always be uncovered, and this will provide the insight needed to establish the mailing quantity devoted to the best vs. worst segment.
Direct mail is back in the marketing mix and is better than before! Now, I may be prejudiced, as my marketing roots are in direct mail, but recent results support this comeback story.
Don’t forget the basics when creating a direct mail campaign, and that includes good copywriting – a hard skill to find. As direct marketers say: test, test and test, and with the right data, message, offer and creative, direct mail will work for you.
About John M. Coe
John is President of B2BMarketing, LLC. His background includes experience in both sales and marketing. On the sales side, John was a field salesman, national sales manager and executive in charge of both sales and marketing for three major B2B firms. On the marketing side, he was president of a B2B direct marketing agency for 10 years, National Campaign Manager at IBM, Sr. VP of B2B at Rapp Collins Worldwide and President of Protocol B2B. John is also the author of The Fundamentals of Business-to-Business Sales & Marketing, published by McGraw-Hill. He can be reached John.Coe@B2BMarketing.com or by phone at 602-402-6588.