In a time where email and other forms of communication via an electronic channel reign supreme by being easy to use and extremely economical, direct mail surprisingly represents in developed countries a growing part of the advertising industry and a significant amount of the total volume of sent mail. Given the resources it uses, it is wrongly perceived as harmful to the environment.
Although it may appear as wasteful, direct mail is known to have a small environmental impact. The stages of the process are: mail design, manufacturing the paper to write on and the envelopes, the production of the letter distribution and, finally, the disposal. In terms of CO2, there is much more of it being produced by daily activities such as watching television, running a dishwasher or a refrigerator. A study has shown that taking a two-minute shower is the equivalent of getting 40 letters. Direct mail is based on a renewable resource and generally the transportation issues represent a concern for environmentalists.
There is nothing in the world quite like letting a client or customer known they have all the time in the world to reduce response rates and generally see any ROI dwindling all-too rapidly. Conversely, it has been proven time and time again that if and when a consumer or potential client is made to think that the offer they have been ‘’blessed’ with is something of a limited offer; chances are an enormously higher quantity will respond, and respond fast.
The key is to use a balanced approach, whereby the customer or potential customer in question is made aware of the fact that their prompt action could prove rewarding for them, without ever crossing the line into using a frantically forceful approach or threats.
The basic premise behind direct mail has remained intact for decades – companies look to increase their customer bases by issuing out mass mailing campaigns with postcards, brochures, catalogs and other pertinent company information. Despite the presence of critics who decry the format and cite that direct mail marketing will be phased out by new mediums and ever-changing technologies, the truth is that technology is actually beginning to play a massive – and positive – role in how direct mail campaigns are run.
This is primarily through the development of big data and analytics. Business 2 Community notes that companies have gained access to increasingly larger volumes and more minute details about customers and their purchasing and spending habits. Armed with this information, direct mail marketing executives will be better poised to deliver campaigns that eschew the ‘spray-and-pray’ strategies of yesterday.
One of the great advantages of direct mail, according to the news source, is that it is rated by consumers as one of the most influential forms of marketing communication, primarily due to the trust factor that has been established. The medium has been proven to develop two-way relationships with customers who believe that the information on products or services they receive through direct mail is relevant to their interests. To this end, the advancement of data collating and analyzing capabilities can only strengthen this deeply-formed bond.
One aspect of direct mail marketing that has consistently demonstrated high return on investment (ROI) and strong retention and conversion rates is personalization. Direct mail campaigns that speak to individuals instead of the masses tend to be more efficacious in their goals. One way to increase personalization of direct mail pieces is to use variable data printing (VDP). According to Target Marketing Magazine, VDP produces a mass of customized documents via digital print technology. Instead of printing the same message to, companies can use this technology to customize individual messages and designs as they see fit.
“When marketers are able to share specific information with specific individuals…they are able to increase engagement,” Gina Danner, the CEO of Mail Print, told the news source. “Essentially with VDP, marketers make it easier for people to buy.”
Companies have increased access to customized data and information. Marketers are able to acquire mailing lists that not only provide names and addresses, but also more specific and detailed demographic information. This additional information includes marital status, income, personal interests and other personal information. One IMS suggests that using VDP allows your company to cater to this sensitive data by creating custom copy for a direct mail campaign.
As the 2012 presidential election enters the final stretch, the race appears to be more heated than ever, as each candidate and their respective party is jostling for pole position among voters around the country. Capitol Hill Blue reports that swing states in particular have been the target of many campaign efforts, as the undecided voters located in these important regions could end up playing a significant role in the outcome of the election. With such important results at stake, campaign managers for each party have resorted to strong direct mail campaigns, which have proven retention and conversion abilities in election campaign situations.
According to Businessweek, some 1.8 billion political direct mail pieces were sent in 2010, adding up to a robust $338 million in revenue for the United States Postal Service (USPS). Given that those numbers were reached in a relatively quiet political year with no presidential election on the docket, conservative estimates project that those benchmarks will be significantly surpassed when all is said and done following this election. Media, marketing and political experts have largely agreed that television commercials are considered noise and are generally less effective than direct mail.
The direct marketing industry is at a crossroads at the moment, with the tried-and-true practice of direct mail solutions on one side and the emerging technology and mass consumer online migration on the other. While some have decried the lack of viability of direct mail in keeping up with rapidly changing technologies, equally loud critics have noted that the returns on investment (ROI) from digital and online marketing mediums remain specious at best. This puts direct marketing executives in a difficult spot as to which path they should convince their managers to sign off on. The truth of the matter is that combining direct mail with emerging technologies and digital marketing channels will be the most efficacious method of developing a multi-channel strategy.
The benefits of each individual medium are well-noted. Direct mail offers a great deal of possibilities for one-on-one engagement with customers. Creating a meaningful connection with consumers and potential customers is typically the primary goal of direct marketing executives, and direct mail gives them the best chance of doing so. While email and television ads can be quickly scanned, glossed over or ignored altogether, a well done piece of direct mail forces a consumer to spend a substantial amount of time on it and absorb the information. Digital marketing channels, meanwhile, allow for a wealth of creative opportunities. Additionally, Tri-Win suggests that the relatively low cost of digital media, combined with its capacity for more detailed tracking measurement metrics on the back end, makes it an attractive option.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is urging customers who currently use the mail provider’s POSTNET barcode system to switch to the new Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) system in order to ensure that they maintain existing postage discounts on direct mail, according to Post and Parcel. The move to phase out the archaic barcode system was first proposed in March 2012, with a deadline set for the 28th of January, 2013. Mailers who do not switch their barcode systems by that date will lose eligibility to receive discounts for direct mail and other business mail that is automatically processed.
The new IMb Full Service option requires barcodes on each individual piece of direct mail to be unique. It combines data found in the old POSTNET systems with information on the barcode, including mailer ID number, service type identifier, zip code and household sequence number, the news source reports. Some of the primary advantages of the new IMb system over the previous POSTNET barcodes include more detailed tracking of mailpieces and numerous USPS service programs or promotions that spare headaches by not requiring the clutter of multiple barcodes.
“We are beginning to provide the incentives to get people to move into Full Service, and by January of 2014 there will be a requirement to be in a Full Service environment – because we believe the power of this technology is too important for mailers to miss,” Jim Cochrane, vice president of product information at USPS, told Post & Parcel.
Direct mail postcards have been lauded by industry experts and marketing executives as one of the channels of promotion that draws the highest response rates, and one of the most cost-effective ways of connecting with customers. Yet, despite the already-affordable prices of designing, producing and mailing these promotional direct mail pieces out to potential customers, there are always ways of cutting costs and ensuring an even higher return on investment (ROI). With some careful planning, and adherence to the following tips, marketers stand to benefit from an even more effective direct mail campaign.
Avoid expensive designs just for the sake of fancy designs
Oftentimes, when delving headfirst into a direct mail campaign, a marketing executive might look to make a big splash by concocting an unnecessarily intricate and eye-catching piece of mail. This could involve outsourcing to a professional design firm, which will undoubtedly charge high prices for conceptualizing and designing a postcard. Instead, avoid this needless cost by creating your own postcards in-house. This is even more important for small business owners for whom cutting costs at every possible avenue is always a desired goal. Business 2 Community suggests that there is a wealth of user-friendly software programs that provide easy, customizable designs or professional pre-designed templates.
Marketing executives at the recent ExactTarget Connections conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, agreed that the future of direct marketing will depend on the personalized consumer experiences that come from building strong emotional relationships and connections, Direct Marketing News reports. Much of this engagement between marketing executives and customers will ultimately be driven by the prevalence of demographic and consumer data. This data is extremely valuable during the planning and strategizing processes of a direct marketing or direct mail campaign.
The conference was formed as an initiative to integrate data gleaned by a company across multiple disparate channels. By creating or acquiring targeted mailing lists that rely on a wealth of personal data, marketing executives can craft campaigns that are focused, clearly-defined and efficiently-run. Ensuring that the right direct mail pieces and direct marketing ad campaigns reach the right audiences could mean a great deal to the bottom line of a company in determining its return on investment (ROI).
“Data is king,” Scott McCorkle, the vice president and general manager for software at ExactTarget, told the news source. “Data is what drives relevance.”
A recent survey highlighted the various marketing channels utilized by small business owners and how effective marketing executives were in measuring the results of their direct marketing campaigns, The Herald Bulletin reports. The Pitney Bowes Small Business Marketing Survey polled 756 small business owners and discovered that most had inadequate metrics for measuring direct mail and email marketing response rates and returns on investment (ROI).
According to the survey, more than 80 percent of respondents failed to measure their direct mail effectiveness, while 73 percent of survey participants did not effectively measure the response rates on their email marketing campaigns. Additionally, the survey highlighted the importance of implementing multi channel marketing efforts. Combining direct mail and direct marketing efforts with an email campaign was noted by the survey authors as being an effective marketing practice.
For direct mail and direct marketing executives, failure to properly measure the returns on investment of a marketing campaign is tantamount to an incomplete effort. With the advent of new technologies – including mobile marketing channels and social media networks – marketing executives have to justify the success of direct mail. Implementing a system of tracking response rates could make a big difference when compared to simply sending out a mass campaign and relying on a “throw it and see if it sticks” philosophy.