Updated: Sep 8, 2018
How and why using mail marketing is crucial in your modern marketing mix.
It’s (nearing the end of!) 2018, folks, and if you’re a local small business, you’re probably concentrating most of your marketing efforts on digital channels. Email and social media ads are cost-effective, can reach a broad cross-section of prospects, and meet people where they spend most of their time these days. But would you be shocked to learn that response to direct mail (physical snail-mail) ads has increased since the beginning of the millennium? YES! Now although the total volume of mail has decreased, with a 29.9% decline in mail sent in the U.S. from 2006-2017, direct mail response rates have CLIMBED from 4.4 to 5.1% since 2003!
In fact, Neil O’Keefe, senior vice president of marketing and content at the Data & Marketing Association, has said, “Mail is not dead. The volumes have changed over the last ten years, but I think it’s more relevant and personal than ever. That’s why you’re seeing the uptick in interest in the channel.”
And that’s the key: with less “junk mail” overall flooding American mailboxes, advertisements that are personalized and provide value are getting positive attention and converting those leads. Contrary to what you might think, an ad that’s a physical object is now getting more, rather than less attention. It’s those email inboxes that are now overstuffed!
You can see that direct mail now presents a unique opportunity, but what’s the best way to add it to your marketing mix? When introducing direct mail to your arsenal, there are a few things to remember to ensure its success.
Great Copy, Appealing Design
This should be a no-brainer, but for direct mail there’s a particular balance your business should strike – too much “selling” reads as “junk mail” and will immediately go in the trash, but too glossy and high-concept might not get the offer across clearly enough (and will also go immediately in the trash). Make sure that what you’re sending is attractive (has visual value) and a clearly-presented offer that would be of interest to the lead who is receiving it. For example, one of the most popular and effective direct mail offers is the “birthday card” – a physical card on a customer’s birthday always creates goodwill and feels personal, can easily be customized with fun copy and design, and usually arrives when the customer is in the mood to splurge.
It’s worth noting that unlike with email, physical mail actually has to be sorted through, and so your direct mail lead is guaranteed to have to interact with whatever you’re sending, even if it’s for .5 seconds. That means you always have a chance to make an impression!
Segment Your Lists & Test for Results!
When you’re just starting to integrate direct mail into your strategy, you’re going to want to figure out which kinds of direct mail customers and prospects yield the best ROI. That means you’ll want to start designing offers for one group, or “segment,” of your master list at a time. For example, you might start with your core group of most loyal or “most ideal” customers, to see if they react to a direct mail offer with a certain expiration date. You might even test a few to see which kinds of offers are most compelling via direct mail. Then you might expand to a list of more sporadic customers similar to the core customers who made a purchase following the initial offer. As with any other marketing channel, there’s an element of experimentation.
It can be difficult, though, to measure direct mail’s exact effectiveness. You can’t always tell which purchases were inspired by a direct mailing or by something else. This means that perfecting your direct mail equation can sometimes be a slower process, but when you send to one segment at a time and test out fewer variables, you’ll get a much more accurate read on exactly where a “home run” is coming from.
Combine Channels to Pack a Punch
In today’s marketing landscape, it’s all about integrating different channels for a holistic approach. So when you send out a mailing to part of your list, make sure those same people get a follow-up email reminding them of the offer expiration, or piggybacking on the direct mail ad in some way. We all know it takes multiple impressions for a message to sink in, and a customer who wasn’t ready to buy when he/she picked up the direct mailing might think, “Oh! I meant to purchase that!” when receiving a follow-up email a week later. The important thing to remember about adding direct mail to your mix is that it should strengthen and underscore whatever other primary channels you’re using, so that you’re ultimately conducting a sort of “marketing symphony.”
The physical, tactile and more personal nature of receiving a snail mail offer (in a now primarily digital world) should serve as one effective and cooperative note in your total marketing scheme.