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Email and Direct Mail: a Competitive Marketing Strategy Duo

Direct mail is great at generating leads, while email allows you to nurture those leads and turn them into sales. Combine the two, and you’ll find yourself sitting behind the wheel of a marketing machine that feels like a super-charged muscle car.

Distinctly different marketing mediums

Competitive Marketing Strategy

Competitive Marketing Strategy

Direct mail and email each have unique strengths, and smart marketers know how to make the most of both. Direct mail marketing is ideal for establishing a presence and generating leads – getting people interested in you, your products and services, and building a brand.

Of course, email marketing can also be used for prospecting purposes, but many small- and mid-sized companies are finding its even better suited for the difficult and time-consuming work involved in “nurturing” prospects through the sales process. Plus, it’s become a core component of many “viral” marketing campaigns, as well. (Both of these marketing strategies are discussed in detail below.)

Why not use email to blast low-cost mass mailings? Because, unlike direct mail, it’s considered bad form, and potentially illegal, to fire off even a single marketing email to someone without getting their permission first (something the industry refers to as “opting in“.) Ignore this basic principal, and the federal law it’s based upon, and you risk stiff financial penalties, plus being labeled a spammer.

The nurturing process

As you know, generating leads is just one part of the sales process. Even more difficult is the “nurturing process” (turning leads into sales, cross-selling, up-selling, and transforming past/current clients into referral sources). That’s where email holds a distinct advantage over other forms of marketing.

In fact, according to the latest reporting from industry observer MarketingSherpa, a whopping 64 percent of U.S. adults say email is “the best way for companies to communicate with me.”

Such a high level of consumer acceptance makes marketing email ideal for:

  • Telling past and current clients about new products, properties and services.
  • Promoting special offers and limited-time pricing.
  • Communicating changes and improvements to existing programs and services.
  • Offering seasonal greetings.
  • Relaying industry information and professional advice.

And because you can target each of those emails to very select segments of your overall mailing list, the marketing efforts can be highly personalized and targeted.

Creating viral campaigns

Competitive Marketing Strategy

Competitive Marketing Strategy

Another inherent benefit of email marketing is its “interactivity.” It promotes interaction and two-way communication like no other marketing medium can. Take the simple but highly effective “forward” button, for example. If you include some truly helpful information in your marketing emails, you can expect some of the recipients will forward them on to family and friends. Industry insiders call this “viral” marketing because, when done right, it just keeps spreading.

Not only is this a great way to quickly and easily spread your message, but each person that sends it on to someone else is giving you an implicit nod of approval. Now that’s referral marketing at its best.

Combining forces

Email can take your marketing to a whole new level. But it needs direct mail to get started (and to function most effectively over time). Once you weave the two together into a comprehensive marketing program, that’s when the real magic starts.

According to a Royal Mail study, combining direct mail with digital marketing (such as email) can boost your customers’ spending by as much as 25 percent. That’s breath-taking. What’s more, the study’s participants said they actually prefer to be contacted with a combination of direct mail and digital marketing.

That means you need to continue using a steady stream of direct mail to generate leads and build your brand. Keep following up with your target market until they eventually respond. (In a recent Pitney Bowes survey, 37 percent of consumers said they were motivated to try a new business only after receiving direct mail from it.)

Once you’ve made contact (or landed the sale), that’s the time to sweep in with a regular program of email marketing – with the recipient’s permission, of course – to seal the deal, sweeten the deal (with an upgrade or additional products and services), strengthen the relationship and start asking for a few referrals.

When you’ve got both forms of marketing pumping at full speed, start switching back and forth between the two – not only to keep either one from wearing out its welcome, but also because this synchronization makes it much more likely your key marketing messages will truly resonate with your target audience. According to studies from the Direct Marketing Association, most consumers have to see a marketing effort at least nine times before they’ll take action.

Your final task: test

Once you gain some initial success with this combined marketing strategy, the best way to build on it is by testing new approaches. Nothing will improve your marketing more. With both email and direct mail marketing, you have to routinely try different marketing messages, different mailing times, new offers and more. Then review the results and see which performs best: your current approach or the new way.

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