3 New Rules for Direct Mail in a Digital World

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

With the effectiveness of online marketing, why bother with old-fashioned direct mail marketing? The answer is direct mail still works....

With the effectiveness of online marketing, why bother with old-fashioned direct mail marketing? The answer is direct mail still works. Furthermore, when combined with Internet and mobile response mechanisms, direct mail can work better than ever.

Forbes blogger Steve Olenski points to a study commissioned by Target department stores that found, "the channel that delivered the strongest ROI for customer acquisition for B2C marketers was direct mail. Direct mail also scored the highest among B2C marketers for customer contact and retention." Tweet This!

One reason suggested is that consumers still like to touch and feel things. That includes members of the so-called Millennial generation, who never seem to be away from their smartphones. However, as Forbes contributor Will Burns points out, "Sometimes there's no better way to get a message across than to send your audience something physical, something with stage presence, something whose physicalness just can't be matched in any online forum."

Let's take a look at some of the new rules for making direct mail work in tandem with online marketing methods. Here are three new rules for direct marketing in a digital world:

1. Use technology to zero in on your best direct mail targets.

There's a lot more to modern direct mail than just renting a list, mailing a pitch, and hoping for a good response. First of all, lists have gotten much more sophisticated. List manipulation goes far beyond postal code demographics. Modern list management software and services can help you mail only to those who have a high response rate to similar direct mail pieces.

That's why The Financial Brand notices an upturn in direct mailings by financial institutions. "Discover and American Express both had significant increases in volume during the first three months of [2014]." The publication notes that "direct mail is still alive and well in the financial industry [...]"

This sort of list conditioning is made possible through Big Data collection and analysis. List brokers can be very sophisticated at thinning a mailing based on a wide variety of parameters. Among the tools used for modern list management are:

  • CRM Software Customer relationship management software, or CRM, connects the smallest piece of data about a prospect - an email address, for example - to a deep data profile that may contain purchasing history and other confidential information. CRM helps drive mailing list management and metrics.
  • Address Verification This uses software that checks all mailing addresses for errors by running them against postal service databases of legal, authorized addresses. Address verification reduces undeliverables and their associated expenses.
  • List Management Services Sometimes you are better off using the services of a list management professional rather than attempting to maintain detailed dossiers on your prospects yourself. Storing certain data about prospects can make you subject to legal review of your data access and protection policies. By contracting with a list management service, the legal responsibility for the protection of data will likely rest with them.

Related:Hitting the Bullseye with Direct Mail: A Free Checklist for SMBs.

2. Use customization to personalize the direct mail pitch.

Anyone can use the customer's name in the pitch - that kind of mail merge is old-school. Today, marketers can custom-craft the covers of catalogs to feature items the prospect has purchased in the past and is likely to want again.

Modern software can customize direct mail pieces in ways that are astounding. Images in catalogs and other direct mail pieces can be changed to more closely match the demographics of the receiver. Clothing offers can be tailored to the dimensions of the prospect. Products can be selected for inclusion in the mailer based on the age of the receiver.

3. Integrate the Internet into your direct mail pitches.

A direct mail pitch contains a "call to action." In the old days, that was a toll-free phone number or a response card - neither of which pulled much better than a single percentage point of response. Today, well-written direct mail pieces encourage the reader to connect online.

The information you can collect about those who connect but do not buy is worth almost as much as the sales to those who do buy. The rich data that comes with connection can be analyzed and used for more effective, personalized pitches down the road.

A recent direct mail piece for Victoria's Secret illustrates how the new technology can be combined with the old. The direct mail piece asked readers to snap a picture of the mailer with their mobile phones for a special discount. Mobile marketing strategist Esha Shah told AdWeek "By integrating mobile technology with direct mail, Victoria's Secret is bringing back to life a dated marketing tool." Tweet This Tactic!

Related:5 Steps to Deploying the Perfect Direct Mail Campaign

Data + Direct Mail: An Unbeatable Combination

Savvy marketers recognize that it's easy to opt out of email solicitations, either by clicking a "do not send" link or by automatically filtering email to the spam folder. You can't do that with regular mail.

The digital world hasn't made direct mail or any other print media irrelevant. It has provided additional options that make direct mail an even better, more effective marketing tool. The best way to optimize direct mail in a digital world is to use the two together.

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