Direct mail in a digital age

I sat down with our CEO, Jay Siff, to discuss direct mail’s position in the current marketing landscape as well as what’s in the cards for the channel in 2015 and beyond. How can direct mail be utilized to bolster the effectiveness of cross-media campaigns? Is there ever a time to stop testing a direct mail strategy? And what do marshmallows have to do with marketing? Read on to find out.

The future of direct mail

Q: The popularity of digital outreach channels shows no sign of waning in 2015. Is there still a place for direct mail in today’s marketing mix?

A: I certainly think there’s a place for direct mail today and probably forever. One of the things we’ve noticed is that because many businesses are focusing solely on digital marketing (which we don’t recommend), you get a greater opportunity to be noticed in the mailbox. In some respects, direct mail is probably more effective today than it was before the digital age.

Think about it… with more and more emphasis on email and social marketing, fewer companies are deploying targeted direct mail campaigns. Those businesses who are strategically using this channel as a method of outreach have less competition in the mailbox, so their response rate is markedly higher than in previous years.

Also, over the last five years, neuromarketers have started mapping the human brain to see how people respond to various stimuli. A print piece creates more of an emotional engagement than a digital piece, so simply holding a direct mail piece in your hands seems to light up parts of your brain that a digital piece doesn’t. I don’t see direct mail going away in the foreseeable future.

Q: What developments do you anticipate for direct mail this year?

A: One of the beauties of direct mail today is the ability to include it in a cross-media marketing campaign. If you do a direct mail piece ahead of, or during, a digital marketing campaign, you can measure the spikes in traffic on your website. So I imagine you’ll see a lot more coordination between direct mail, email and social marketing campaigns in 2015.

For instance, we do direct mail for restaurants, and in the old days, it was, “Come on in and try us!” The recipient didn’t really know much else about the business other than what was in our letter. Now, we can say, “Go to my website, and look at my menu. Go to Facebook or Yelp and find out what other people are saying about me.” That cross-channel tie-in strengthens direct mail outreach, and there are other technologies coming down the pike to enhance that connection.

Q: How can direct mail build on the “new year, new start” momentum?

A: There’s that seasonality, so you can certainly come out with new offers. Getting back to neuromarketing, using the word “because” always enhances response rates. It makes everything seem real. You can tie into that by saying, “We’re having a New Year’s sale because it’s January.” It’s also an extraordinary time of year to collect information from people you might not otherwise see and then try to market to them.

In terms of resolutions, who doesn’t decide to watch what they’re eating after the holidays? Putting five new salads on the menu and advertising these via direct mail is certainly something restaurants could do.

Q: How should SMBs adjust their direct mail strategies to maximize recipient engagement this year?

A: Test, test and re-test! Test different formats, mailing times, offers, graphics and wording. You’re never done. Always test against your control, and when you find something that beats it, that becomes your new control. Don’t assume what you send is the best you can do. Try something different. To me, whether it’s next year or any time in the future, just keep testing every aspect of your direct mail strategy.

Cross-media marketing is also something to make sure you’re taking advantage of. If your business has a good Yelp rating, tell the world. If you’re trying to build an email database, make sure you include a spot on your mailers for customers to jot down their email addresses.

Q: How can direct mail marketers measure their success?

A: What you ultimately want is to measure your ROI. What did you spend to do the direct mail piece? What did the offer cost you (the actual product cost, not the retail value), and how many sales did it create?

Sometimes businesses fail to take long-term value into account. Not only did Mrs. Jones come in and buy something from you one time because of a mailer, but she became a regular customer, buying from you for the next 10 years.

A blog post I wrote last month related marketing to the Marshmallow Test, asking if you have the discipline to not only break even on short-term ROI but make new customers who are going to be worth a lot over the long-term. If you can’t use the ROI metric, you can do response rates – look for spikes by checking weekly hit counts on your website, for example.

Do you have questions about tying your direct mail campaign into email or social media marketing strategies? Shoot me an email.

Related Posts