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The Importance of Direct Mail Marketing in a Digital World

Direct Mail MarketingSince the earliest days of the Internet, there have been marketing prognosticators predicting the death of direct mail. Yet the reality is that this traditional marketing tool is still alive and kicking. Consider that 57 percent of total mail volume was direct mail in 2014. According to the USPS, this is up from 39.9 percent in 1990. In other words, many businesses are still getting plenty of value out of direct mail marketing pieces being sent to targeted segments of potential customers. And the businesses that are reaping the most benefits from direct mail are those that are able to successfully incorporate it into a comprehensive plan that includes both digital and non-digital marketing efforts.

The Power of Snail Mail
Just how relevant is direct mail with the increasing use of digital marketing? Here are just a few statistics from the latest Direct Marketing Association Statistical Fact Book that indicate it’s still beneficial.

Direct mail spend has stayed relatively consistent for the past five years
Nearly $10 billion was spent on data for direct mail in 2015. This is an increase over the two previous years
The average household receives nearly 20 pieces of mail each week
Greater than 40 percent of individuals read or scan direct mail pieces
Over 14 percent of people in the 45-54 age group respond to direct mail pieces, making them the most likely demographic to respond
Postcards are the most favored type of direct mail piece

So this begs an important question. How can you weave a direct mail campaign into a larger marketing plan to maximize your success? It’s certainly a question that countless businesses are asking. The key is figuring out how to make the most of direct mail while ensuring that it is consistent in your overall brand message across all channels.

Create a Consistent Brand across both Digital and Non-Digital Channels
Too often businesses make the mistake of not taking a coordinated approach to their marketing efforts. By managing digital and non-digital channels in silos, there is often a lack of consistency that weakens the overall brand message. Digital and direct mail campaigns should be developed in tangent to ensure consistency.

You’ll also want to consider that direct mail readers are online, and online audiences may read their mail. Thus, a strategy to provide cross-over between direct mail and your website or social media is a very smart strategy. For example, social media posts can encourage readers to sign up to receive direct mail promotions, and direct mail pieces can direct readers to “like” your brand on Facebook. This cohesive approach drives a fluid, larger marketing strategy that can drive more sales and increased brand recognition.

Include Direct Mail in Your Annual Marketing Plan and Budget
While a direct mail marketing campaign can certainly boost sales, it shouldn’t be pulled out only after digital marketing efforts are not enough to support sales goals. Direct mail should be budgeted for in annual planning. This includes considering the costs of mailing lists, design, copywriting, printing, distribution, and follow-up.

Carefully Consider Your Target Market and Your Goals
Individuals who downplay the importance of direct mail are often those who have had poor results from direct mail campaigns that were not well thought out. To achieve success, not only do you have to have a powerful mailer that attracts attention and motivates the reader to take a specific action, it also has to be mailed to the correct target audience and tracked to determine its efficacy. This isn’t an easy task for any business and why it often makes sense to outsource direct mail to a provider that specializes in executing successful campaigns. Those that see results and return on investment will tell you that direct mail does work, and in fact, many will admit that it’s a fundamental part of their overall marketing effort.

Fine-Tune Your Mailing List
Your direct mail success largely hinges on the quality of your mailing list. This is one area where the digital world definitely touches direct mail. You’ll likely maintain your mailing list in a spreadsheet or a CRM solution. By doing so, you’ll be able to add, delete, and update names and addresses on a regular basis. You’ll also have data stored in a single file that can be accessed when you want to generate printed pieces and labels.

Direct mail lists should be updated frequently, and outdated or incorrect information should be purged. One of the costliest mistakes in direct mail is sending out mailers to a list of names that is not up-to-date. By doing so, you’ll greatly reduce your open rate and your return on investment.

Making Direct Mail Work for You
In a pile of mail, it’s not always easy to get your direct mail pieces noticed. However, there are some clear ways to make them more eye-catching to the individuals who matter the most.

Create a Powerful Value Proposition – Unlike long-form sales letters that don’t reveal the value proposition until the reader is paragraphs into the text, a direct mail piece should fuel the recipient’s attention right from the start. Consumers have short attention spans. Take the time to carefully consider your value proposition and make sure your readers understand it in a matter of seconds, or it’s likely your direct mail piece will get tossed.

Be Creative – Don’t get lost in a sea of junk mail. Direct mail is most powerful when you can create a piece that stands out in the crowd. This can be everything from a memorable image on a postcard to an utterly unique type of packaging that drives the recipient to open it up to see what’s inside. For example, a manufacturer of luxury wood floors created a hand-crafted puzzle constructed from their wood that fit into a die-cut box that was mailed to magazine editors and designers. The result was a 100 percent open rate with several sales being made and an article published in a leading interior design magazine. The return on investment was calculated at more than ten times the cost for the entire campaign. And two years later recipients of the puzzle still remember the piece!

Partner with a Complementary Business – By creating a co-branded piece with another company, you’ll not only add value to your mailer, you can split the cost of the campaign while sharing mailing lists. This can be another business in your local area or one that sells products or services that go hand-in-hand with what you sell.

Follow Up – Don’t underestimate the power of following up with recipients of a direct mailer. This can be with either a secondary piece or via email or phone. By doing so, you’ll jog their memory and may even encourage them to take advantage of your promotion or offer.

Track Results – You can’t determine the success of a direct mail campaign unless you have a strategy for tracking calls, website visits, and orders that are generated as a direct result of someone obtaining the mailer. This can be as simple as providing a unique email or phone number on the piece that is only used for tracking purposes. Or you can add a QR code or personalized URL to lead recipients to a specific sign-up form. This will enable you to measure traffic and calculate results.

What’s Next?
The line between digital and non-digital marketing is continuing to blur as new technologies are developed. One such innovation is variable data printing, which is a form of digital printing in which text, graphics, and images can be changed from one printed piece to the next using information from a database without slowing down the printing process. VDP opens up the door to greater personalization of direct mail pieces, and by doing so, it is increasing returns on direct mail campaigns by up to 10 to 15 times.

Smart marketers in today’s digital age are those that are open to all marketing channels and are developing increasingly creative ways to leverage both new and old methods of building brand awareness and generating business. Direct mail is certainly a powerful tool in a complete marketing arsenal that offers tremendous opportunities when it is used effectively.

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