Direct Mail Marketing to Millennials – 5 Tips

Millennials will have a cumulative $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020. Because they are known as digital natives, many people thought direct mail was a bad way to reach them. However, this has shown itself to be untrue: Millennials like getting mail!

Marketing to MillennialsMarketers are really starting to look at how millennials respond to marketing. In a recent study conducted by DigitasLBi, Razorfish, Tumblr and Yahoo, millennials will have a cumulative $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020. Therefore, marketers need to pay attention to this group of people.

Because millennials are known as digital natives, many people thought direct mail was a bad way to reach them. However, this has shown itself to be untrue: Millennials like getting mail!

How can direct mail appeal to millennials?

  1. Authenticity: All the messaging and imagery on your direct mail pieces need to be authentic and in sync with your brand. Show that you are consistent, responsible and transparent. Provide links to access more information about your company. Show your passion not only for what you do but the people in your organization that do it.
  2. Accessibility: How easy is it for someone to reach you? How many ways to respond to your direct mail are there? If they call you will they reach a human or an auto attendant? The easier it is to respond the more responses you are going to get.
  3. Human Appeal: Create a sense of connection with each individual, not only with personalization but through emotion. Highlight real people in your organization who are doing good things and remember to use a picture. When you humanize your brand you have a greater appeal.
  4. Social Awareness: Showcase all the good things your company is doing for social causes. This goes beyond just donating money, which is seen as a token gesture. How are your employees giving back? Pick Charites that are in sync with your brand or that you and your employees feel very deeply about. Then tell everyone about the great things you are doing!
  5. Technology: Since this group is very digital savvy, make sure that you are including technology in your direct mail. Not just QR codes, but more powerful NFC, augmented reality and more. Direct mail is a great gateway to online content and mobile devices. Millennials like interactive experiences, so give them that experience generated from your direct mail. Remember, they love to share good experiences with friends!

Millennials are great people! Targeting them with direct mail is not as big of a challenge as some people try to make it. Using the five techniques above will help you effectively communicate with and sell to millennials. Your direct mail should be inclusive and informative, not pushy. Keep you calls to action very specific with easy-to-understand benefits. Millennials view direct mail as more trustworthy than electronic communication, so make sure to capitalize on that!

Providing an excellent user experience across multiple channels is required with this target group. Embrace that and create fun, engaging direct mail that moves recipients online to landing pages, social media or whatever content you want. As always, make sure to track your responses so that you know what is working and what is not. Lastly, keep in mind that all millennials are not the same, they are individuals just like the rest of us and have varying wants and needs. Capturing their response information and adding that to your database is valuable. It will allow you to provide better offers to them in the future.

Why Millennials Make Great Marketers

Forget whatever you think is wrong with Millennials. Here are some qualities, which I think get overlooked, that make them the best generation yet to be marketers.

There have been a lot of articles about what’s supposedly wrong with Millennials. That’s OK, there were a lot of articles about what was wrong with Gen X, too. It happens to every generation (and here’s a selection of historical quotes to show you just how far back that goes). It even happened to the Baby Boomers.

Red Foreman calling 70s kids hippies.
Actual dialog from 1970s households (probably).

And yes, one day Millennials will be the elder generation and they will glamorize their generation’s exploits while talking down whoever comes after Gen Z. That’s just how it works.

I was born in 1977. That makes me a late Gen Xer. I’ve had the chance to work with many Millennials, though, and overall I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen.

Here are three qualities, based on nothing more than my own personal experiences, that I think get overlooked when we’re worried about who’s staring at their phones.

Taken as a whole, these qualities are why Millennials make great marketers.

1. Millennials Are True Digital Media Natives
When we’re hiring someone coming out of college for an editorial role, I’m looking for candidates who’ve been doing daily blogging, vlogging and/or social media on their own as a personal pursuit. Many Millennials enter the workforce knowing how to shoot and edit video the same way I knew how to use Word and Excel. They’ve lived with multimedia capabilities in their phones since school, and they’ve used it. They get how to build audience on social media and interact with them. They communicate visually.

One does not simply generate a meme.These are valuable skillsets that you generally only find in specialists from Gen X and Baby Boomers. Many Millennials picked them up on the side, and bring them to employers essentially for free. These bonus skills alone mean Millennials have the opportunity to move your marketing forward like no generation before them.

Fall in Love With Direct Mail All Over Again

I will admit to doing a lot of reading. What can I say, I love it. I especially like to read something and find out that my own views have been verified. So, when I read the Washington Post article “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.” I was so excited! Here is someone else saying the same things about print that I say every day. Basically in summary, people prefer to read in print rather than digital.

I will admit to doing a lot of reading. What can I say, I love it. I especially like to read something and find out that my own views have been verified. So, when I read the Washington Post article “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right” I was so excited! Here is someone else saying the same things about print that I say every day. Basically in summary, people prefer to read in print rather than digital.

There are many reasons for this but the top ones are:

  • Easier to read: The eyes find the printed pages less straining to read.
  • Easier to comprehend: There are less distractions when reading print so it is easier to understand.
  • Easier to recall: Readers skim less when reading print versions so they remember more when finished.
  • Feel: Touch is a very important sense. The feeling of different types of paper stock and textures adds pleasure to reading print. You can’t feel digital.
  • Smell: Paper, ink, coatings and binding all add to the scent of a printed piece. You can even add a scent to enhance the printed piece. You can’t smell digital.

Even millennials prefer print. The best part about all of this talk about the benefits of print is that direct mail can take advantage of every single one of the reasons people love print. Direct mail can get pushed aside by marketers looking for the newest channels, but statistics still show direct mail as a very strong marketing channel.

Create direct mail that provides an experience:

  • Reading: Engage the reader with well written copy. Use bold and bulleted text to draw the eyes to important information.
  • Comprehension: Use clear and concise wording, a strong call to action and “what’s in it for me” language.
  • Recall: The most important items to be remembered should stand out. You can use italic, bold and underlining to emphasize what you need the reader to remember.
  • Feel: You can go beyond just the texture of the paper by adding different coatings. From soft velvet to rough stone, there are many to choose from. Get creative.
  • Smell: Depending on what you are offering, smell may or may not be a good fit. Try to think of creative ways to use smell to make your unique direct mail stand out.

Take advantage of the pull of direct mail, with less skimming your message resonates more. You have the opportunity to get someone to act on your call to action right away.

There is no reason why you can’t use direct mail to drive digital interaction too. QR Codes, Augmented reality and NFC all enhance the direct mail experience. The power of direct mail is waiting to drive your marketing ROI to new heights. From catalogs to flyers to samples, direct mail can handle it all and provide an excellent experience for recipients.

Channel Collaboration or Web Cannibalization?

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L. I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff.

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L.

I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff. Imagine that … left-brain dominant Data Athletes who want to talk to people! Actually, a true Data Athlete will always engage the stakeholders to inform their analysis with tacit knowledge.

Every time we do this, we learn something about the customer that we quite frankly could not have gleaned from website analytics, transactional data or third-party data alone. We learn about how different kinds of customers engage with the product and their experiences are in an environment that, to this day, is far more immersive than we can create online. It’s nothing short of fascinating for the left-brainers. Moreover, access and connection with the field interaction does something powerful when we turn back to mining the data mass that grows daily. It creates context that inspires better analysis and greater performance.

This best practice may seem obvious, but is missed so often. It is just too easy to get “sucked into the data” first for a right-brain-dominant analyst. The same thing happens in an online-only environment. I can’t count how many times I sat with and coached truly brilliant Web analysts inside of organization who are talking through a data-backed hypothesis they are working through from Web analytics data, observing and measuring behaviors and drawing inferences … and they haven’t looked at the specific screens and treatments on the website or mobile app where those experiences are happening. They are disconnected from the consumer experience. If you look in your organization, odds are you’ll find examples of this kind of disconnect.

So Does The Web Compete with Retail Stores? Well, that depends.
While many businesses are seeing the same shift to digital consumption and engagement, especially on mobile devices, the evidence is clear that it’s a mistake to assume that you have a definitive answer. In fact, it is virtually always a nuanced answer that informs strategy and can help better-focus your investments in online and omnichannel marketing approaches.

In order to answer this question you need a singular view of a customer. Sounds easy, I know. So here’s the first test if you are ready to answer that question:

How many customers do you have?

If you don’t know with precision, you’re not ready to determine if the Web is competing or “cannibalizing” retail sales.

More often than not, what you’ll hear is the number of transactions, the number of visitors (from Web analytics) or the number of email addresses or postal addresses on file—or some other “proxy” that’s considered relevant.

The challenge is, these proxy values for customer-count belie a greater challenge. Without a well-thought-out data blending approach that converts transaction files into an actionable customer profile, we can’t begin to tell who bought what and how many times.

Once we have this covered, we’re now able to begin constructing metrics and developing counts of orders by customer, over time periods.

Summarization is Key
If you want to act on the data, you’ll likely need to develop a summarization routine—that is, that does the breakout of order counts and order values. This isn’t trivial. Leaving this step out creates a material amount of work slicing the data.

A few good examples of how you would summarize the data to answer the question by channel include totals:

  • by month
  • by quarter
  • by year
  • last year
  • prior quarter
  • by customer lifetime
  • and many more

Here’s The Key Takeaway: It’s not just one or the other.
Your customers buy across multiple channels. Across many brands and many datasets, we’ve always seen different pictures of the breakout between and across online and retail store transactions.

But you’re actually measuring the overlap and should focus your analysis on that overlap population. To go further, you’ll require summarization “snapshots” of the data so you can determine if the channel preference has changed over time.

The Bottom Line
While no one can say that the Web does or doesn’t definitively “cannibalize sales,” the evidence is overwhelming that buyers want to use the channel that is best for them for the specific product or service, at the time that works for them.

This being the case, it is almost inevitable that you will see omnichannel behaviors when your data is prepared and organized effectively to begin to see that shift in behavior.

Oftentimes, that shift can effectively equate to buyers spending more across channels, as specific products may sell better in person. It’s hard to feel the silky qualities of a cashmere scarf online, but you might reorder razor blades only online.

The analysis should hardly stop at channel shift and channel preference. Layering in promotion consumption can tell you how a buyer waits for the promotion online, or is more likely to buy “full-price” in a retail store. We’ve seen both of these frequently, but not always. Every data set is different.

Start by creating the most actionable customer file you can, integrating the transactions, behavioral and lifestyle data, and the depth that you can understand how customers choose between the channels you deliver becomes increasingly rich and actionable. Most of all—remember, it’s better to shift the sale to an alternative channel the customer prefers, than to lose it to a competitor who did a better job.