Every marketer worth their salt has probably used direct mail at some point during their career. It’s a marketing mainstay, not purely by virtue of its having been around forever, but because it consistently delivers better response rates than any other channel.
And while a new generation of marketers may not realize it yet, the integration of direct mail into the digital world creates an environment in which mail is poised to be more powerful, performant – and cost effective – than ever.
Let me back up just a bit and address my supposition above, which is that for some marketers in 2017, direct mail may seem like digital’s less sexy cousin, the slow burn to digital’s instant gratification. And the reality is that direct mail does in fact require a commitment of time, creativity, and effort; but it pays that back in increasingly impossible-to-ignore ways.
And while digital is easier to implement and cheaper per impression, there’s a reason that digital retargeting has come to be referred to as a channel where marketers “spray and pray.” Spray a message across a large, unknown universe of prospects and customers, and pray that some of them care enough to take action against that message.
And with digital retargeting response rates averaging around 0.7 percent I’d call that pretty cost inefficient.
A direct mail postcard on the other hand will net about a 4.25 – 5.0 percent response rate. It can do this for four key reasons that every marketer will understand and embrace:
The ability to smartly use data is the best it’s ever been – and only getting better
Advances in data gathering methods, combined with the ability to segment and model with more precision than ever before enables heavy-duty micro-targeting with direct mail. Rather than relying on volume to deliver results (and picking up the attendant cost), marketers can target only the prospects most likely to make a purchase.
Imagine, for instance, identifying anonymous visitors to your website who also have specific attributes that you see across your loyal customer base. Advances like ID resolution combined with the application of third party data are among the sophisticated data methodologies that are available to marketers today.
Customization is less complicated than ever
With the advent of dynamic printing combined with a plethora of campaign management tools, customization is available at levels that weren’t imaginable before.
Direct mail is a particularly ripe channel for personalized messages and imagery due to its variety of formats, and physical connection to the recipient. Little is more powerful than combining point 1 (an engaged audience) with point 2 (a targeted message). But today, direct mail can do even more.
Direct mail amplifies the performance of other channels
Multi-channel campaigns have become table-stakes for most brands, as consumers move fluidly across digital and non-digital channels. And when direct mail is part of that mix, it not only serves as a workhorse in its own right, it adds incrementality to every other touchpoint.
Our clients are experimenting with every combination of direct mail, e-mail, social media and even addressable TV – and they’re finding that each channel becomes more efficient and effective when direct mail is priming the pump.
Mail can get into recipient’s hands faster than ever
In the distant past, direct mail could take as many as 30 days to reach households. Now it can get out in a matter of hours – a critical upgrade, as our own client campaigns have shown us what direct mailers have known all along: recency matters.
We’ve done numerous tests related specifically to timing of mail after a prospect visits a website, and have found that the quicker a prospect receives that physical reminder of the product, the higher the conversion rate.
I’m not the only one who has figured all of this out. According to 2017 Media Usage Survey results, direct mail isn’t just holding steady, it’s growing. 31 percent of marketers surveyed were increasing their use of direct mail this year, with another 33 percent keeping it at 2016 rates. And based on spend and volume analysis, major brands such as Nordstrom, Starbucks, and General Motors are among the top mailers in the country.
So, if you’re a long-term mailer, I encourage you to keep it up. If you’re newer to the game, don’t let fears about cost or complexity keep you on the sidelines. The sweet spot of digital technology plus direct mail effectiveness is out there, just waiting for you to find it.
About the Author: Andrew Fegley is the President of Remarketable, an ALC smart data solution, the only proprietary, privacy-compliant, omnichannel optimization platform. He has decades of experience driving digital transformation at global corporations and brands. He was a co-founder of Empathy Lab, an ALC partner company and leading digital agency that was successfully acquired by EPAM in 2012.