Why Include Direct Mail In Optichannel Marketing?

Direct mail is highly effective on its own; however, when you combine it with other marketing channels, it gets even better. Demand Metric, in partnership with PFL, conducted a benchmark study. The optichannel marketing research is meant to understand the importance of multichannel marketing.

Direct mail is highly effective on its own; however, when you combine it with other marketing channels, it gets even better. Demand Metric, in partnership with PFL, conducted a benchmark study, “Multichannel Marketing Maximizing Program Engagement and ROI”. The optichannel marketing research is meant to understand the importance of multichannel marketing and the power of intentional, coordinated marketing efforts.

The goal of the study was to collect data to identify best practices and help marketers know how to reach specific audiences, and when to use particular tactics within their multichannel campaigns. The results indicate that direct mail needs to be a part of your optichannel marketing strategy.

Key findings:

  • When direct mail is personalized and tightly integrated into the channel mix and campaign technology: Average response rates improve significantly, with a 62% increase in those reporting good or very good response rates. The ROI of multichannel campaigns improves significantly, with an 80% increase in those reporting good or very good ROI.
  • Just over half of this study’s participants include direct mail in their multichannel campaigns, and 80% of them report that direct mail improves multichannel campaign performance.
  • The executive, or C-Suite, audience is the most sought after by study participants. Events and direct mail are the most effective channels to reach them.
  • While postcards are the most frequently used direct mail format, the dimensional format does the best job of representing the brand.
  • More channels produce higher response. Respondents using seven or more channels in their mix are 26% more likely to indicate their multichannel programs produce good or very good response.

Respondents use a multitude of channels that include:

  1. Email: 91% usage
  2. Social Media: 81% usage
  3. Events: 73% usage
  4. Display Ads/Remarketing: 60% usage
  5. Direct Mail: 56% usage
  6. Search/PPC: 51% usage
  7. Outbound Business Development/Sales Development: 47% usage
  8. Content Syndication: 35% usage
  9. Other: 5% usage

Most marketers are using between three and five channels on any given campaign, but results show that you should consider adding more channels. When marketers use seven or more channels, they report a 77% “very good” or “good” response rate. The report also found that marketers are not consistently using the most effective channels. The top three most effective channels are: events at 83%, integrated and personalized direct mail at 78%, and Search/PPC at 73%. What are you using?

Direct Mail Needs More Attention From Marketers

The report shows that marketers are most familiar with postcard and letter formats, and report that they use those formats most. Postcards are the least expensive direct mail format. Many marketers favor postcards because there is nothing to open: the message is easily visible. Dimensional mail formats are a close third in usage. This format includes pieces that are not flat, like the other types, but have an element of depth to them. A dimensional mail piece is often sent in boxes or tubes, and its very form invites opening it. These pieces evoke natural curiosity and tend to drive higher response rates. Have you tried dimensional mail?

According to study participants, direct mail clearly enhances multichannel campaign performance. In this study, 52% report a moderate to major improvement in campaign performance when direct mail is one of the channels. When direct mail is part of the channel mix, campaigns have slightly better response rates. Personalized direct mail generates significantly better response rates to multichannel campaigns. Are you using direct mail enough?

As you can see, adding direct mail to your optichannel marketing campaigns is significant. The more personalized and integrated it is, the better your response rate is going to be. Are you ready to get started with more personalized direct mail?

How Are Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

direct mail
Creative Commons license. | Credit: Pixabay by Alexas_Fotos

There are so many marketing channel options now it can be hard to decide where you should invest to get the most bang for your buck. According to the DMA’s 2017 “Response Rate Report,” direct mail continues to provide the best response rate. The cost per acquisition rate is higher than other channels, but it is worth it.

Keep in mind that the best marketing is done through multiple channels, so make sure you are able to track each channel’s results. Use the ones that work best for you.

Almost all business types currently use direct mail and benefit from it. So, let’s get into the details the DMA found in its report of what they are doing that is working.

  • Postcards — A house file had a 5.7 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 3.4 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Letter Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 4.37 percent response rate with an ROI of 29 percent and prospect file had a 2.5 percent response rate with an ROI of 23 percent.
  • Flat Sized Envelopes — A house file had a 6.6 percent response rate with an ROI of 37 percent and prospect file had a 4.9 percent response rate with an ROI of 30 percent.

They do not track rates for self-mailers or booklets, I am not sure why. The two most common uses for direct mail are direct sale and lead generation, and no matter the use, a flat size envelope wins. So how are companies tracking their direct mail results?

  1. Online 61 percent of companies are tracking online with the use of PURLs, landing pages and more.
  2. Phone  53 percent of companies track phone calls to either a call center or designated location.
  3. Code or Coupon  42 percent of companies use coupons or codes to track.

They also use, at much smaller rates, matchback, linked sales transactions, list coding and others. There is no right or wrong way to track, do what works best for you. The most important thing is that you are tracking your results.

Now, are you curious about volumes of mail? Based on monthly volume, companies are doing the following:

  • 50,000 or less = 39 percent for a house list and 36 percent for a prospect list
  • 50,001- 150,000 = 21 percent for a house list and 15 percent for a prospect list
  • 150,001 – 250,000 = 16 percent for a house list and 12 percent for a prospect list

Finally, let’s look at cost per format:

  • Letter: $22.55 for a house list and $39.75 for a prospect list
  • Postcard: $14.60 for a house list and $29.70 for a prospect list
  • Flat: $29.30 for a house list and $31.90 for a prospect list

As you can see from these numbers, direct mail can really be a benefit to your marketing. If you have done direct mail before but not recently or if you have not used direct mail before, you need to make sure that your final designs meet postal regulations. There is no reason to pay extra postage when you don’t have to. Your mail service provider can help you navigate the regulations and facilitate your direct mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started? Your prospects and customers are waiting to hear from you.

5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail

Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

what not to do in direct mailFor the last 26 years, we have worked with customers to send really good direct mail. Of course during that time there have been some flops for many different reasons. We have learned much more from the flops than the greats. Learning what not to do in direct mail is essential. So, we put our heads together to come up with this list of what not to do that will keep you out of trouble.

5 Things to Not Do in Direct Mail

1. Font: The most important thing in your direct mail is the ability for your audience to read it. If they can’t read it, they throw it away. When considering what font to use, make sure that it is easily read. Do not pick what you consider a fun and whimsical font; it makes your copy hard to read. Let your design and images do the eye-catching work. Your copy’s job is to sell your product or service, not look decorative. Your font size matters, too, so make it larger.

2. Lie: Your direct mail should never lie to people or as some people put it, stretch the truth. Always be open and honest about your product or service. You may get a sale under false pretenses, but you will lose your reputation and business in the long run. Your customers and prospects expect better from you. There are plenty of ways to create direct mail that works without being shady.

3. Old List: Old data is bad data. People and businesses move all the time. If you have a list that is three years or older without having ever been cleaned, don’t use it. Beyond the fact that addresses change, people and their circumstances change, too. Sending to people who are not there or no longer interested is a waste of money. There are ways you can clean it up, or you can purchase a new list of similar people. Keeping your data fresh means that you can correctly target the people most interested in your product or service.

4. No or Unclear Call-to-Action: The whole point of sending direct mail is to get people to respond. If you do not include a call-to-action where you tell them what you want them to do, they will not do it. Vague language and innuendo do not work either. A clear concise call-to-action is a must to drive response.

5. Features: Do not focus your direct mail on features — no one cares. People buy based on benefits, not features. All the latest gadgets mean nothing if they are of no benefit. Structure your copy so that you highlight all the benefits your customers and prospects are going to get when they buy your product or service. If you are having a hard time moving away from features, try listing the features on a paper and next to each one list at least one benefit. For instance, if you are selling a vacuum cleaner, a feature is the motor power. A benefit of a stronger motor is the amount of debris that can be picked up in a shorter amount of time. When you find the benefits and use them in your direct mail, you sell more.

This list could really keep on going, but we have hit in the five major areas. Have you made any of these mistakes or others? What else would you include in this list? We all make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing is to learn from them, to make your direct mail better. It’s time to make some great direct mail!

4 Great Ways to Use a Postcard in Direct Mail (Besides Mailing One)

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Maybe they have a badly outdated picture, or a city’s name emblazoned across the front.

And sometimes, I’ll scrawl a cliched: “Having a wonderful time … Wish you were here” on the back.

Anyway, while buying some new ones the other day, I thought about other ways postcards can be an effective element in many direct mail efforts. Here are a few.

1. Go Somewhere New
amexdpostcard_01This postcard was the perfed front panel of a self-mailer that American Express mailed last year. It uses a tropical scene to draw in a prospect for the company’s Gold Delta Airlines SkyMiles credit card. One of the inside panels lists the many travel benefits of getting and using the card. For example, new members can earn miles bases on their purchases. And their first checked bag is free when traveling on the airline

2. Talk With Your Network
oatpostcard_01Call it a friends and family discount, or member-get-a-member. Asking your customers to reach out to people they know to help sell your product or service can be a powerful tool.

Overseas Adventure Travel, a tour operator often reaches out to its past customers for referrals for its many trips. A recent envelope mailing included a sheet of 5 perfed jumbo postcards, each showcasing one of its destinations. The reverse side offers “3 Reasons to Travel” to that location, like Peru. For letting their loved ones know in a colorful way where they’ve been, the traveler earns rewards, plus savings for their friend.

3. Leverage Your Assets
nytpostcard_01When you create and control good, valuable content, why not let everyone know that?

This postcard features an iconic photograph of President Kennedy that originally ran in the New York Times back in 1961. It was mailed in a subscription package for the newspaper a few years ago. According to that effort’s letter, it was intended “to provide a vivid snapshot of what you will find in the Times.”

Another good example: the National Museum for Women in the Arts mailed postcards for years as part of its membership acquisition package. Each one featured a work from a woman artist that came from its collection.

4. Work for Change
ifawpostcard_01As a component of a fundraising appeal, the postcard can be an effective involvement device to advocate for change. Examples abound in Who’s Mailing What! but many of them generally build brand and not much else.

This exception to the rule was mailed by International Fund for Animal Welfare. It’s part of a campaign to stop the declining numbers of rhinos in South Africa. The front includes a stark caption to accompany a cute image. The reverse side contains a message to the country’s Minister for the Environment, asking for an end to poaching and slaughter.

The common element in all of these cases is that the postcard’s job is to inspire an action.

It is not enough to be eye-catching, or look pretty; the postcard has to make a connection — maybe several of them— to be relevant to the customer or donor.

 

Direct Mail Drives Membership

Across the United States, many museums are struggling to maintain current membership levels, let alone increase them. They have aging members and that population deceases all the time. In order to remain relevant, many museums have adopted new programs trying to reach younger demographics. This is where direct mail, in conjunction with other marketing channels, can really help.

Postal workerAcross the United States, many museums are struggling to maintain current membership levels, let alone increase them. They have aging members and that population deceases all the time. In order to remain relevant, many museums have adopted new programs trying to reach younger demographics. While these programs may draw people in once, on average they have not been able to turn the visits into new memberships. This is where direct mail, in conjunction with other marketing channels, can really help.

1. First, profile your current membership list. What are their common interests? Ignoring their ages, what else do you see? Do they live in certain areas? Do they subscribe to certain magazines? Create a list of characteristics that fit with your membership. This will become the criteria for your list purchase. You want to target people based on interest in order to reach new potential members.

2. What are you going to send them? Why not start with a fun postcard? The design needs to draw attention. You should create a special membership deal just for them, for example, if they go to a specified event you are having, they can get a great deal on membership. Focus on what is in it for them and why a membership is good for them. You can’t just appeal to their sense of altruism — there needs to be clear benefits. These should be tailored to types of people since some features will be more appealing than others to each person. Just listing a bunch of benefits is not the same as highlighting three very specific things that are of specific importance to them.

3. Consider sending direct mail to people who have visited in the past, but have not become members. Send them a mailer with a card attached that lists all your upcoming events and a special membership deal that will get them into these events. They can detach the card to keep for reference. If you use a magnet they can affix it to the fridge. Consider trying new things with your direct mail that you have never done before. You can run a test by sending half your list a new version and the other half of your list your normal mail piece. See which one does better. Constantly changing how you send direct mail is important to get the attention and create a sense of curiosity with your potential members.

Usually at this point we start to have the discussion that since they are trying to reach millennials they are better off with digital only marketing channels. This is not true at all. Millennials like getting mail. I am not saying to stop digital marketing to them; I am saying add direct mail to the mix. Quad released a study about millennials, click here that shows they really do respond to direct mail. Of course when they get the mail piece they go online to make the purchase, so make sure to have a web link on your mail piece for them to buy the membership.

The big takeaway here is that direct mail can help boost your membership rates more than just digital channels alone. For best results, use an omnichannel approach. The more touches you have with potential members the greater chance you have of turning them into members. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and try new things; just make sure that you have a way to track responses so you truly know what is working for you.

3 Ways to Make Your Postcards Stand Out

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find creative, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using two PMS colors in combination to look as if you had full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques were and are one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find clever, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using combinations of two PMS colors to portray full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly, I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques have always been one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Today I will discuss three of my favorite printing techniques — when applied to your concept, they can help your postcards stand out.

1. Paper

This is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to make your mail stand out. There are so many paper stocks that will make recipients stop and take a second look at your mail. But in today’s 4-Color world, creatives are not considering paper as much as they should.

Consider an ultra-heavy stock, or even sandwiching two sheets together. Most mail is floppy. If your postcard is the most rigid in a stack of mail, it will receive attention. That few extra seconds your consumers spend investigating will increase your response rate.

moothickpaper
Moo doubled up stock with edge color

You should choose stocks heavier than 16pt — double it up and make it 32pt. Print one side of the sheet, sandwich two sheets together and then trim to size. Printing companies like Moo Cards offer this as a standard option.

Your stock could be particle board on which you can use production techniques like embossing, silk screening or letterpress.

Companies like Ward/Kraft are sandwiching your postcard in plastic. I know, I know: Plastic will increase your postage costs. But not with this product — they’re getting standard postage rates. This card is extremely rigid and has options for punch-out cards and tags.

Ward/Kraft plastic pop-out card
Ward/Kraft plastic covered postcard with pop-out cards

2. Texture

Texture is a wonderful way to make materials stand out. Our fingers are amazingly aware and notice anything that is abnormal. Bumpy, sticky, rubbery surfaces — anything that is not the regular feel of paper.

Use a gloss or matte varnish as a texture for sections of your postcard. Varnishes across the entire piece, like matte or glossy, will not create the unique texture you want. You want gaps for your fingers to distinguish the differences. This will also work for spot UV as well, which can create an even more dramatic effect.

Spot Gloss Varnish
Spot Gloss Varnish from tasteofinkstudios.com

Revisiting the Lowly Postcard

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

“The Toilet Crisis” was the headline on the first inside panel. The copy continued, “600 million people in India do not have access to indoor toilets,” and then explained in two bullet points that this leads to the spread of diseases and safety issues for women.

I was intrigued. After all, conventional wisdom is that postcards, lacking a response means other than going online, are not the best fundraising tool. They also offer limited space to make a case for support. Yet they are relatively inexpensive and lack the barrier of the envelope that one needs to open before seeing the contents. So, was this enough to drive people to the website to give a $130 toilet to a family in India?

I spoke to Tejal Parekh, the senior operations manager at Share and Care Foundation, and asked her, “So, did it work?” The short answer is “yes.” The foundation’s goal for the mailer was to raise enough money to build 750 toilets in 2016; it already has completed more than 500 toilets as a result of donations it’s received from the postcard and a follow-up email.

That’s worth a second look, so let’s unpack this postcard just a bit.

Measuring 8×6″, the mailer folded to 4×6″ and was double tabbed. The address panel had a live, presorted, standard-rate stamp. There was no teaser on that panel, but it did invite the recipient to sign up for updates; call or email with questions, comments or concerns; or “Please let us know if you receive duplicate mailings.” In other words, this panel was hardworking, albeit functional.

BardenPostcard1
The exterior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

The front panel was pretty much a rule-breaker when it comes to direct response. It had artwork—a doorway that might represent the entrance to a house, but it’s not really clear because it is stylized. The headline was in all caps with a drop shadow and never mentioned “you,” the donor. Added to that, it referred to one of the least sexy of all programs: indoor toilets, and sanitation and hygiene education.

But once you opened the postcard, the story unfolded, beginning with the headline noted earlier.

Parekh explained that the young person on the marketing team who put this together for Share and Care Foundation “told the story in a few simple lines. People don’t want to see too much misery, so photos were more positive images, and there was also a simple drawing of a family. It was short, yet it told a story.”

The interior of Share & Care Foundation's postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.
The interior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

I agree. The postcard caught my attention and apparently that of others on its U.S. database—donors and prospects. As mentioned, the response was excellent. Why? According to Parekh, the offer made sense, and the price point was reasonable.

The response mechanism was to drive people to a webpage that reiterated the offer (and added more information). When one clicked the “Donate Today” button at the bottom of the page, he or she went directly to a donation page that quickly summed up the offer and asked for $130 for a toilet. There were also lower amounts, but $130 was the focus. (One change I would make would be to add the “Donate Today” button to the top of the page, as well; right now, there is a “Donate Now” button as part of the header, but when you click that, it goes to a generic donation page. That could discourage someone who just wants to give a toilet.)

One of the surprises for the foundation was that a lot of lapsed donors responded. Again, it was a clear, compelling offer (reduce disease and improve women’s safety) at an affordable price point ($130). Plus, the only barrier to reading about the offer was two tabs. The copy was minimal, the story was easily understood, and the focus was on the beneficiaries, not the organization. Plus, it offered proof—the foundation already built 350 toilets in four villages and wanted to do more.

Yes, there are some things I would l want to change on this mailer (that’s an occupational hazard), but that’s not the point; the point is that Share and Care Foundation took a risk and sent out a lowly postcard that some would argue lacks what it takes to be a serious fundraiser—and made it work. It told a story briefly and in terms “Average Pat Donor” could understand. It made it relatively easy to respond by providing a simple URL and a specific landing page. It kept its costs low.

The foundation took a risk—and it paid off. So kudos to Share and Care Foundation. And for all the rest of us, maybe it’s time to rethink the postcard. It’s worth a test, but remember Parekh’s advice: The offer and the price point need to make sense, and the story has to be simple.

13 Ways Direct Mail Works Best

Direct mail can be a very powerful marketing tool. When executed correctly you can see a great return on your investment. Usually we focus on what not to do since there are so many pitfalls with direct mail.

Direct mail testDirect mail can be a very powerful marketing tool. When executed correctly you can see a great return on your investment. Usually we focus on what not to do since there are so many pitfalls with direct mail.

However, this time we will show you how and when direct mail works best. This is not a guide on what format your direct mail should be in, such as postcards versus letters, but instead about ways to use direct mail that work best.

Here are the best ways to use direct mail:

  1. Generate traffic to a location, a website or event: When you want to direct customers/prospects to a store, event or online location, direct mail is a great way to do that.
  2. Generate sales leads: You can target and reach qualified and interested leads easily with direct mail.
  3. Counter a competitive offer: Reaching out to customers and prospects that have received an offer from a competitor with and even better offer through direct mail gives you a chance to acquire the sale without the competitor knowing about your offer. Unlike online offers direct mail has some secrecy to it.
  4. Customer loyalty: Reaching out with direct mail to customers with special offers and giveaways is a great way to reward your customers.
  5. Customer acquisition or referrals: Include these in your direct mail as a way for your message to be passed on to friends and colleagues. Providing a recommendation to others is a powerful selling tool.
  6. Improve customer service: Sending a thank you note to your customers is a great way to make people feel appreciated.
  7. Cross sell or upsell: With variable data printing you can mention other things you offer that they may be interested in based on what they have already purchased. This can give you a great ROI boost.
  8. Announcements: Since direct mail it taken seriously it is a great way to get important information out to people quickly.
  9. Augmenting other media efforts: Direct mail ties in with so many other channels like email, web, social media, mobile, and so much more…
  10. Improving sales efficiency: Sending out direct mail that helps to qualify and clarify people before you sell to them is extremely important.
  11. Catalog, custom publications or newsletters: Each of these types of direct mail give you the ability to showcase new information or offers to the people most likely to buy from them.
  12. Combining mailings with other companies: Think value added or coupons for this option. Co-branded mailings work well when each brand has the same target audience.
  13. Building brand awareness: Direct mail is the most trusted form of marketing so using it to strengthen your brand is important. Remember the more they know your brand the more they buy from you.

Direct mail is more effective now than ever before. With less volume in mail boxes and ways to integrate direct mail with online and mobile content, there is now a bigger ROI for you to go after. When used as part of a multichannel campaign direct mail can significantly enhance your response.

Out of the 13 methods listed above what two could you start to use better right away? When you take the time to focus on what your customers and prospects need, you can better target your offers to meet them. Be the offer in their mail box that they could not wait to respond to!