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The Original Inbox

Today’s Direct Mail Offers Great Opportunities

Tina Stevens

Tina Stevens

I often write about digital marketing technologies, but it is a great time for your business to take a fresh look at the direct-mail marketing channel.

I often hear people dismiss mail as ‘old school,’ and many seem to consider it ineffective. Two points on that. First, have you noticed how little mail you now receive in your mailbox? You may interpret that to mean ‘everyone knows mail doesn’t work.’ But research shows that mail does work when used intelligently as a component of your marketing plan. And that uncluttered mailbox means there is a bigger chance that your mail piece will be noticed.

Second, data shows that direct mail generates a higher response rate than e-mail. Consider how many promotional e-mails you receive versus direct mail in a given day. That large volume of e-mail makes it difficult for e-mail to penetrate your attention and grab your interest. Once that e-mail scrolls by, it is pretty much gone forever in terms of the recipient. The response rate for direct mail is 4.4% compared to 0.12% for e-mail, according to data from the DMO Council.

Direct Mail Is Effective

Direct mail is the original big data channel. Direct mail is where marketers began to segment, customize, target, and measure the results of their actions when sending catalogs, magazines, postcards, etc.

We have been refining, improving, and utilizing these processes for a long time. Today’s software programs have added even more power to data management and manipulation. The amount of data that is available for direct mail is extensive, and it is very accurate, especially when compared with some of the consumer data gathered online.

Your house list of customers, prospects, and contacts is your big data. You should be carefully growing and managing your house lists; they are a valuable component of your marketing efforts. When using direct mail, you can analyze and segment your internal lists based on the data you have collected about customer preferences and purchases. You can use your software to clean up your lists by removing duplications and identifying addresses that need to be completed.

You can also have your list run through a National Change of Address update for further accuracy. For small and local businesses that have a very targeted audience, direct mail can be highly effective when used with your house list.

Purchased mailing lists are also a viable option when using direct mail for prospecting. They let you reach out to potential customers that are located in the vicinity of your retail location and share similar characteristics with your customer base. Working with a mail house or list company, you can use a data-profiling program to review your customers and then create a model for your best prospects. Most consumers have many e-mail addresses while they have just one mailing address, which helps make direct mail more efficient for prospecting.

People Like Direct Mail

We continue to hear that we need to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Just as important, we need to deliver that message in the recipients’ preferred media.

A study by Epsilon noted that consumers trust some marketing channels more than others. You may be surprised that it also found that 50% of U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to e-mail. This preference also includes 18-24 year olds, so you should not assume that a younger audience will ignore your direct mail.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Postal Service, 98% of people retrieve their mail daily, and 77% of people sort it immediately. That means there is an excellent chance that your recipient will at least touch and see your mailing. It is up to you to ensure that your mailing is timely and relevant to the recipient so that you capitalize on this valuable opportunity.

Integrating Direct Mail into the Mix

Using direct mail alone can be successful for your retail business when utilizing your house lists and quality prospecting lists. It can be more effective when combined with other marketing activities to enhance and strengthen the results of your marketing efforts.

Direct mail can be used in conjunction with e-mail to improve performance, heighten engagement, and provide new creative opportunities. When well-combined, they can provide a 10% to 30% uplift in conversion, according to Epsilon. You can also link print with other online actions to increase response. Your direct mail can include a PURL (personalized URL) or a QR (quick response) code to easily send the mail recipient to an online message that reinforces the print message.

In addition, you can also utilize variable data technology to provide customized messages and unique PURLs or QR codes for a totally customized experience. These PURLs and QR codes are very trackable so you can measure and test the response to your mailing. Consider creating a first impression with direct mail, reinforcing it with e-mail, and using your website to expand on it and encourage response.

Tina Stevens is president of Stevens 470, a full-service marketing, advertising, and design firm in Westfield; (413) 568-2660; [email protected]