How Direct Mail Fits in an Omnichannel Strategy

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations.

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations. Direct mail is the tangible component of your omnichannel strategy. It is a physical piece that draws attention and then is remembered better than marketing that’s in digital channels.

When customers and prospects get a mail piece that ties to multiple channels, not only is your branding more effective, but your engagement goes up. Why? Attention spans are shorter, people are inundated with ads all day, and they are very busy in this fast-paced world, so reaching them multiple times across channels gives you more opportunity to get them to buy from you.

So exactly where does direct mail fit in an omnichannel strategy?

  • Start — Direct mail can be the start of your campaign. Use it to drive customers and prospects to specific online landing pages. Then create triggers for other channels, based on mail delivery date, landing page visits or lack of action.
  • Middle — So after you have sent out emails, display ads or any other marketing channel message, you can then use direct mail as a mid-campaign push to action. Then your follow up will be with other channels, based on either their response or the in-home dates.
  • End — Lack of response does not necessarily equate to lack of interest, so ending with direct mail is a very popular method. Direct mail is a driver of response. You can time it to distribute after a set number of days from other channels or be triggered based on lack of response to other channels. Direct mail as the last touch allows a final push of your campaign that can easily be saved until they have time to respond and can be given to others to increase your exposure.

Because direct mail is a good fit in any phase of your campaign, you should include the channel to help boost your sales. Now, let’s look at a real example of how IKEA uses direct mail in an omnichannel strategy. IKEA is known for its catalogs that come to life when scanned with a cell phone to show you how its furniture will look in your home, but did you also know that it’s using email and social media in conjunction with the catalogs, not to mention TV and radio ads? Each channel feeds into the other and allows them to build up audiences across all channels, which increase sales.

Direct mail doesn’t have to include an AR or VR experience like IKEA, but it does need to tie into your online content and other channels. You want the flow for customers to be the same, no matter what channel they respond to, so create a workflow that accomplishes this. Of course, what they see first is based on where and how they respond; however, the overall flow should be driven by triggers based on what each person is doing along the way. Customer experience is the key to great omnichannel marketing. You can no longer put your money into just one channel, because you will not get enough bang for your buck. Omnichannel marketing allows you to create a complete campaign based on ease of use for your customers. Every customer is different so allowing them to respond in the most convenient way for them increases your ROI. Are you ready to get started?

Slow Down to Go Faster, Marketers

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster. Those wise words of wisdom don’t just apply to business strategy, they are highly applicable to marketing.

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster.

Those wise words of wisdom don’t just apply to business strategy, they are highly applicable to marketing.

We live in an age of extreme digital addiction, consumers glued to digital devices every waking hour. As a result, marketers rush to buy up all of the digital channels they can to be present and steal mindshare from all of the other brands tweeting, posting, sharing and hoping to get attention, engagement and sales. Yet, the simple truth is that most brands can’t really tell if its working, if they are getting sales and they don’t really know if consumers are really focused on their messages, even when data analytics say they were.

The secret is quite clear: to create meaningful engagement with customers in ways that build brands for the moment, as fleeting as it is today, and brands for the long-term despite technological changes, brands must slow down in order to go faster. Faster toward securing meaningful, purposeful engagement that results in what matters most to brands, now, in the past and in the future – lifetime value.

As old-fashioned as it may seem, print is one of the best ways to do this. And one of the oldest forms of print at its best is the catalog. In 1845, Tiffany and Company put out the first mail order catalog in North America, which they called the “Blue Book.” Shortly after the most commonly known catalogs like Sears and JCPenney took hold and the American catalog industry took off. Yet with online stores taking off and minimizing the cost to entry the retail world, print started to die off. Fewer ads in magazines, fewer catalogs and eventually, for companies that dropped their catalogs, that  meant fewer sales. A lot fewer.

Here’s just one example:

In 2000, Lands’ End cut back on sending catalogs to consumers. The result was a mere drop in sales of $100 million.  When the company conducted a survey among its customers to see what happened, they discovered that 76 percent of their online customers reviewed their printed catalog before going online. (Research by Kurt Salmon)

Xerox has helped add even more life to catalogs by using its variable data printing machines to create personalized catalogs.  Like personalized direct mail which enables customers to see their names and transaction history in a letter written “just for them,” customers can now see their names and other personalized information references in a multipage catalog.

According to Shelley Sweeney, a VP/General Manager at Xerox, brands are seeing big increases in results.

Catalogs are re-surging, not just because they can be personalized, but because they appeal to some key psychological drivers that digital just can’t. We humans are tactile people. We seem to trust more, believe more, like more and act more when we can reach out and touch something or someone. When we hold a magazine in our hands, carry it in our bags, and feel it with our finger tips, we feel connected. And when those catalogs present stories about the products, about the people who use the products, about the lifestyle qualities, values and causes associated with those brands and products, we feel connected with brands with a veracity that is hard to get from the fleeting digital screen with all of its moving parts, pop up distractions and links to click.

Patagonia’s catalog is a great example. This epic catalog features products alongside stories from its ambassadors and customers, sharing their personal stories in ways that inspire passion and evoke bonds with the brand telling the story. They use world-class photography to showcase the lifestyle of those who love their brand. And people love the art, story and products in the catalogs to the point that it not only creates product sales, but another life of its own. You can now purchase a book called “Unexpected,” which features some of the best catalog photographs from over the years.

The Patagonia catalog is not a quick read. It’s not a fast project and it’s not about fast and furious sales. It’s about slowing down for a moment, to read, to touch, to ponder the life you want to live and can live with brands that provide you tips, ideas, inspiration, and connection with themselves and with others just like you.

Its just like Dmitri Siegel, executive creative director and vice president of e-commerce for Patagonia, says, according to a recent New York Times article.

“Catalogs are a way we’re speaking to our closest friends and people who know the brand really well.”

Catalogs, now commonly called “magalogs,” are critical tools that build connections like few other channels can. Some things just never go out of style and this form of communication is not heading that way fast. In fact, while catalogs might seem to some like taking a step backward, they are truly becoming one of the fastest steps forward. And all by slowing down to regroup on what we humans like most: tangible, credible communications about things that matter to me.

5 Direct Mail Tips from Gardening Catalogs

This Monday was what some psychologists call “Blue Monday,” so I looked at some gardening catalogs. I jotted down some thoughts on what works well in them, marketing-wise. Even if you have the exact opposite of a green thumb, there are some practices worth considering.

This Monday was what some psychologists call “Blue Monday” but I was in pretty good spirits, thinking about spring, and looking at some catalogs.

Gardening catalogs, to be exact.

Last year, we planted a few tomatoes and that was it. No beans, no basil, no butterfly bushes … nothing.

This year’s going to be a different story.

We don’t have much space to work with, but enough for a few rows of this and that, and if we’re really lucky, save us a few trips to the farmer’s market.

I love the satisfaction that comes with each stage of the process, from turning over the ground, all the way up to harvesting a crop of … something.

So, time to plan, and out came the catalogs, some from home, and some from Who’s Mailing What!

I jotted down some thoughts on what works well in them, marketing-wise. Even if you have the exact opposite of a green thumb, there are some practices worth considering.

1. Use Lots of Color
catcover_01This should be a no-brainer, right? Plants are living things, so show them in all of the rich color print can deliver. This catalog from Tomato Growers Supply Co. is a great example, especially with its front cover. The size of the image on the pages inside can vary, and bigger isn’t always better.

2. Be Authentic
catorigin_01You want to build trust with your customers. But how? Tell a story. Talk about the history behind your brand. Baker Creeks Heirloom Seeds discusses the mission of its Good Seed Catalog, and ties to it a future without GMOs or corporate control of food.

3. Master the Details
catguide_01There are so many things the customer has to consider when ordering seeds or plants from a catalog. You want to provide enough facts for them to feel confident, but not overwhelmed. Wildseed Farms shows an image, some background and cultivation information, and pricing. Each listing also includes a seedling photo, and even indicates if it helps pollinators like birds or butterflies.

4. Compare Yourself to Others
catcompare_01Plants and seeds are available in so many places, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. So, what differentiates your products from theirs, besides price, or reputation? Territorial Seed Co. devotes an entire page to explain what makes its live plants so special.

5. Offer the Latest Tools
catapp_01Seed and gardening catalogs have been around for well over 150 years. But when it comes to working the soil, or getting ready to do so, time doesn’t stand still. Tools aren’t just implements like shovels, composters, and seeders. Industry giants like Burpee offer apps to assist to help gardeners. Other companies promote instructional videos on their websites, as well as social channels for further assistance.

Printing and postage costs continue to go up, and more gardeners choose online shopping to fulfill their gardening needs. But hopefully, printed catalogs will continue to evolve, and become more personalized and relevant to consumers.

A Visit From Catalogs of Christmas Past

A few months ago, I found a stack of vintage catalogs in a drawer that were collected from back in the day, when Who’s Mailing What! was still a print newsletter.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … when holiday catalogs begin to show up in my mailbox, and my desk at work.

I’ve loved catalogs since I was a kid, whether they were from Sears, Edmund Scientifics, or Banana Republic. Fortunately, today, neither print nor direct mail are dead. Far from it. So, at some point in the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at what’s been mailed this year.

But a few months ago, I found a stack of vintage catalogs in a drawer that were collected from back in the day, when Who’s Mailing What! was still a print newsletter.

It got me in a seasonal mood. Or maybe just thinking about how much catalogs have changed over the years, and how much they’ve stayed the same.

Let’s go back in time to 1985. Ronald Reagan was the president, Back to the Future was one of the year’s top movies, and the World Wide Web was almost ten years away. And, appearing in homes across America were these holiday catalogs. Here are some thoughts I have about each of them.

Neiman Marcus
neimanm_01This luxury retailer’s Christmas catalog has had a reputation for outlandish gifts since 1960. A $2 million pair of his-and-her diamonds was one the highlights in the 1985 edition. Well, that and the section of gifts for $25 and under.

Calls to action are hard to find throughout the book. But then, relaxing and paging through it while filling out an order form was probably a good way to go.

This was a big book, measuring 9-1/2”x12” and 110 pages.

I also liked the cover, which featured a collage by artist and designer Ivan Chermayeff.

Williams-Sonoma
williamssonoma_02I don’t like to cook, but I get how chefs of all abilities have drooled over the cookware and foods this company sells. This catalog is easy to read, lots of black type on white backgrounds on most of its 76 pages. It only measures 5-1/2”x8-1/2”, though.

Two other things I like:

  • The copy really sells benefits of much of the merchandise. In some cases, it even offers some preparation and serving suggestions.
  • There’s also content … recipes sprinkled throughout the catalog.

Lands’ End
landsendxmas_01A lot of what’s in this retailer’s catalog would still fit with what it sells today, even after the recent overhauls. Sweaters, anything plaid, pea coats … some things never go out of style.

Something I had not seen before was a removable center insert. It’s a short charming Christmas story called “The Impossible Snowsuit of Christmas Past,” by George V. Higgins.

Altman & Co.
baltmans_01Altman’s was a small New York-based department store chain that went out of business in 1990. One of its stores was in suburban Philadelphia, where I grew up. There’s not much good to say about this catalog. It wasn’t well-organized or indexed. But I did like the fold-out pages to quickly find gifts for under certain dollar amounts. And, I may have owned some of the clothing pictured above.

I know thirty-one years is a long time to hold on to a catalog. But I’m curious … marketers, did you shop with catalogs growing up? Which ones were your favorites? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

When Long Copy Ruled the Mail

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the time to read as I once did. Sure, lengthy product copy can sometimes be found online for some retailers. But in print, there aren’t many marketers relying on the power of long copy to persuade someone to buy.

I got rid of my breadmaker a couple of weeks ago, 24 years after I bought it through the mail.

It still worked.

To be honest, I hadn’t used it much recently, as my girlfriend is an excellent from-scratch baker. I am not.

So I gave it away to a friend who couldn’t believe I kept it all these years. And she was even more thrilled that I had all of the materials that were mailed to me after buying it from DAK Industries so long ago.

DAK_01I gave her the catalog that originally sparked my interest, the instruction leaflet, and a few booklets with dozens of recipes. Like orange bread … chocolate chip bread (my favorite) … you name it. Fortunately, we still have copies at Who’s Mailing What!

On my way to dropping everything off, I flashed back to the summer of 1992. There was a 3-way presidential race featuring Clinton, Bush, and Perot, Radiohead and Pearl Jam were playing on my Walkman, and I was reading the DAK catalog cover-to-cover.

Founded in the 1980s by Drew Alan Kaplan, DAK Industries was a direct mail company selling consumer electronics like PCs, radar detectors, stereos, and yes, breadmakers, like my Turbo Baker II.

Unlike some of my friends, I was never into gadgets. But thanks to Kaplan’s copy, I didn’t have to be.

The magic started with his long signed letters in the opening spread of each catalog. They were conversational, even homey: “If your family is like mine, you’ve been trying to eat right.” It continued with product descriptions focused clearly on benefits: “Just look at all you get for just $99.90.” And he carefully explained why devices worked a certain way. Single product write-ups often ran for a thousand or more words, and lots of small black-on-white type.

Who does that anymore?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the time to read as I once did. Sure, lengthy product copy can sometimes be found online for some retailers. But in print, there aren’t many marketers relying on the power of long copy to persuade someone to buy.

R Crusoe_01I still like the J. Peterman catalog and the way it paints a picture. From a shirt’s description in the Fall 2016 edition:

This isn’t the flannel you leave hanging by the door.

Or chop a cord of wood in(you already have those). Trekking over dirt and rock isn’t its strong suit.

Think Parisian Cobblestone. Or a fireside glass of ’63 Quinta do Noval.

R Crusoe_03Travel marketer R. Crusoe & Son uses long travelogues as part of its catalogs. From a recent mailing, this description of an encounter with hippos on an African safari: “You’ll meet huge populations of these Pliocene relics sleeping, eating, socializing, and keeping cool in the water.” Now, that’s a trip I want to go on!

With well-written long copy, a marketer can demonstrate expertise and build a customer’s trust. She can use it to provide answers and head off objections. And, maybe, tell a captivating story along the way as well.

RIP, Victoria’s Secret Catalog … But Long Live Catalogs!

The news came out a few weeks ago: Victoria’s Secret – one of the most iconic catalogs of the last few decades – will be discontinued sometime this year.

The news came out a few weeks ago:  Victoria’s Secret – one of the most iconic catalogs of the last few decades – will be discontinued sometime this year.

VictSecretB_01Parent company L Brands cited high costs and a need to simplify its brand, but let’s face it, it’s also about the internet, especially mobile, and how it’s more and more the preferred channel for many customers.

That’s why this move isn’t that big a deal. One factor identified by the company was that testing revealed that eliminating the catalog mailings in a few areas had little to no effect on sales. As creative director Carol Worthington-Levy told me, “test-test-test.”

I’ve been thinking of other catalogs that show up on my desk every day at Who’s Mailing What! and how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace. What makes them special? Why do they stick with print?

Here are a few ideas about what works for catalogers today.

1. Photography & Paper
Patagonia_01Patagonia is an apparel and gear brand that has long relied on matching spectacular photography with the merchandise it sells in its catalogs. The paper even feels good, kind of satiny in my hands  – the same paper that makes those images looks so good. Patagonia even published a coffee table book, Unexpected, that featured photos from the catalog over the years.

2. Social Awareness
Penzey_03A lot of catalogs use content (more on that later), but not many express a viewpoint or advocate for a cause. Uline is one I can think of right away, with a new issue addressed every few months. Another one is Penzey’s, the spice catalog. In this example, it ran stories of people involved in Milwaukee’s public transit struggles around recipes and the ingredients they required.

3. Transparency
Lush_01Lush is a cosmetics retailer that at the front of the catalog announces its commitment to using responsible packaging, buying ethically, and opposing animal testing. Each product listing includes its ingredients.

4. Fun
Zoro_01
I’ve always liked catalogs selling products that are good for a little laugh, but this heavy card stock paper football game from Zoro, the tool supplier, really caught my eye. It’s more elaborate than what I ever did as a kid, and it has the company brand on it. Nicely done.

5. Curation
TravelsmithCurate_01You can sell clothing or other merchandise, so how about championing your expertise? Lots of style guides do this, laying out the trends for a new season, or maybe putting together a wardrobe. TravelSmith here talks about how its team starts a year in advance to select materials and styles for its apparel.

6. Content
Design_01I never miss an opportunity to look at how catalogers use content, and there are too many to easily name. And, I’ve already mentioned Patagonia and Penzey’s. Build.com is another catalog that’s much more like a magazine.

This is a great example from Design Within Reach, the furniture brand. A recent issue of the catalog featured a collection based on the work of George Nelson. Besides articles about the late designer, the stories behind individual items are told.

Somewhere along the line, after changing how lingerie is sold in several retail channels, the economic rationale for Victoria’s Secret’s continued existence as a printed catalog ended. But with so many exciting developments under way, like programmatic print, and augmented reality, the age of the catalog is far from over.

 

3 Ways to Introduce Augmented Reality in Your Direct Mail

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very savvy when it comes to direct mail and technology. Although I use them a lot now, I was a late adopter in scanning QR codes. So when augmented reality (AR) first came along, I was a little skeptical that I would ever use it, or care about it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very savvy when it comes to direct mail and technology. Although I use them a lot now, I was a late adopter in scanning QR codes. So when augmented reality (AR) first came along, I was a little skeptical that I would ever use it, or care about it.

Now that I’ve seen it in action, I’m very convinced that it can really make some direct mail campaigns stand out, and provide a more enriching experience with print materials for customers.

At our Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk Virtual Conference & Expo in March, Cindy Walas of Walas Younger Ltd. delivered a good overview of AR’s capabilities. She’ll get into more of the nitty-gritty how-to’s at next month’s Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference.

But ahead of that, I thought I’d provide a quick look at some mail from Who’s Mailing What!. Here’s how a few marketers deal with a steep learning curve in getting customers started with AR.

1. Make It Easy
Don’t assume your audience knows what to do. You have to tell them or show them what app to download, and from where. And customers need to know what content is enhanced with AR on the pages or panels of your direct mail piece. Icons are a simple but effective way to designate them.


Ikea_031This key is a good example I found from the 2015 Ikea catalog. It not only explains the basics of how to identify AR content but also what types of experiences customers can have.

2. Make It Worthwhile
Your customers should know that the additional content they can access may be worth their time and effort.

Raymour_01Home furnishings retailer Raymour & Flanigan regularly sends out a direct mail style guide that provides customers with something of value — ideas on home decorating — as well as drive traffic to its brick-and-mortar stores and website. As this page from a recent issue shows, the AR symbol promises additional value.

3. Make It Fun
Most toy catalogs are already pretty cool, but Toys “R” Us did something interesting with its 2015 Christmas catalog: it tied in AR to a game.

TRU_01First, kids (and their parents) had to download an app. Then, they had to open it and scan wherever they found a gold coin featuring Geoffrey (the store’s mascot) to win prizes, as explained by this page.

AR really has a lot of potential to make a big difference in how some brands use direct mail and print. It’s important to remember though, that even with a 2 percent USPS discount for using an “enhanced” or interactive form of AR in 2016, you still have to understand what your audience needs before you get started. Like any other direct mail campaign, you’ll also have to have a clear goal for your campaign, a smart design in both technologies, and a precise call to action.

4 Delicious Ways to Leverage Recipes in Direct Mail

Direct mail can affect you in a lot of ways. It can make you happy, angry, inspired or sad … but can it make you hungry? It can when it includes food recipes. Here are some ideas, based on mail found in Who’s Mailing What!, on how to entice customers with food content.

Direct mail can affect you in a lot of ways. It can make you happy, angry, inspired or sad … but can it make you hungry? It can when it includes food recipes, even when one of them turns out to be for borscht.

A few weeks ago, Ashley Roberts of Printing Impressions (a sister brand of Target Marketing) asked me to appear in a video with her to profile a mailing that Agfa Graphics sent to its VIP file. The beautiful food photography of the calendar and its accompanying cookbook was enhanced by augmented reality. You can read and see all about it here.

It got me thinking about other companies that have used recipes as an important ingredient in their marketing mix. Here are some ideas, based on mail found in Who’s Mailing What!, on how to entice customers with food content.

1. Demonstrate Your Product
This is almost too obvious: if food is your product, it certainly can’t hurt to help to offer a demonstration of how it can be prepared or used in a meal. For instance, supermarkets or packaged goods marketers can tie a recipe to a food that’s part of a sales promotion, special offer, or coupon.

Penzeys Spices sells high-quality spices for the home chef, from cinnamon and lemon peel to extracts and chili peppers. It has a chain of brick-and-mortar stores, an e-commerce website, and a direct mail catalog, all of which rely on recipes.

Penzey_0001Here’s an example. This partial page from a Penzeys catalog describes saffron’s properties, the varieties that are available, and their pricing. The recipe that’s shown is so simple to follow that even I can master it.

When combined with numerous sidebar pieces and long-form articles in each issue of the catalog, this tactic bolsters the authenticity of Penzeys’ brand.

2. Reinforce Your Mission
Clever organizations have leveraged recipes for the right types of foods that are in keeping with their goals. Lots of health systems and hospitals mail newsletters and magazines that are chock-full of juicy content, like tips on exercise and disease prevention, as part of creating a more healthy lifestyle. To encourage healthier eating of one kind or another — low salt, low sugar, etc. — recipes are provided.

NtlOsteo_0001National Osteoporosis Foundation focuses on bone health and improving screening and other preventative measures in its fundraising campaigns. To supplement those efforts, and to support the group’s expertise, a recent appeal included two recipe cards and highlighted the calcium amount for each food.

3. Support Your Product
Recipes have long been used to tease printed products — like magazines, cookbooks, diet plans, and recipe cards — that focus on food. But what if the product isn’t print?

ComFoodN_0001Comcast, for example, partnered with the Food Network on a direct mail promotion for all of its entertainment and communications packages.

Images throughout the brochure show food in different holiday settings, as well as the channel’s programs and personalities.

And the next-to-last page? Two “tasty holiday recipes,” with pictures, for “Really Onion Dip” and “Butter-and-Jam Thumbprints.”  Yum.

4. Reward Your Customers
As the forward to the cookbook shown below notes, “food and travel are inextricably connected.” It was mailed to past customers who had traveled with Grand Circle, a tour operator. There’s no promotion for any upcoming trips, just a request for feedback on the cookbook itself.

GrandC_0001The book’s 48 pages are designed to “inspire a culinary journey at your table,” with recipes covering dishes from a variety of Mediterranean destinations. With its high-gloss coated stock and spiral binding, it’s the perfect thing to sit on a kitchen counter as the traveler cooks and dreams of their next trip with the company, and the food they’ll eat along the way.

The one big takeaway to using recipes in mail is that it’s really not all that different than cooking itself. It’s a tactic that should be carefully measured out in just the right amounts to achieve the desired outcome, and not overwhelm the senses, or the tastes, of the customer.