Direct mail marketing campaigns continue to generate higher response rates, greater brand awareness, and higher levels of customer engagement than digital mail campaigns. So why does direct mail continue to get such a bad rap in 2019?
Just as letter mail once usurped the carrier pigeon as the most popular form of long-distance written communication, today email is the undisputed ruler in the world of marketing communication. Globally, 320.4 billion pieces of letter mail are sent each year according to the Universal Postal Union. As impressive as this figure is, it pales in comparison to the 74 trillion emails sent globally each year. In volume alone, email is the clear winner.
However, easy communication does not always equate to impactful communication. For this reason, many small and medium-sized businesses are re-discovering the power of reaching markets through direct mail marketing.
This blog post will offer you 5 tips on how best to execute a direct mail marketing campaign. In combination with digital assets, direct mail can be a highly effective tool in your brand’s marketing toolbox for 2019 and moving forward.
“Digital Killed the Lettermail-Star”?
In 1897 during a speaking tour in London, a rumor began circulating that the great American novelist Mark Twain had died after a bout of illness. Twain was asked about this by a reporter, and he famously remarked: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Much like the doomsayers of Twain’s age, many have heralded the “death of physical mail” for quite some time. But the fact of the matter is that direct mail is not only alive, it’s thriving! In an age of overwhelming digital communication, a physical piece of mail stands out from the crowd.
Recall the figure I referenced earlier about the volume of email vs. letter mail. Despite receiving far more emails per year, a 2015 study sponsored by Canada Post found that only 44% of people could recall a brand from a digital ad, while more than 75% could recall a brand from a direct mail ad. Because we receive less direct mail, the pieces we do interact with are more memorable and thus more impactful.
The impactfulness of direct mail is further demonstrated by the fact that roughly 79% of consumers act immediately on a piece of direct mail vs. only 45% who act immediately on an email, and by the fact that direct mail has an average response rate of 4.4% vs. email’s 0.12% (according to this study from the Direct Marketing Association).
The human brain is wired to respond more strongly to tangible advertisements, which is what makes direct mail marketing such a powerful tool.
Designing a Direct Mail Campaign Like a Pro
Now that I’ve convinced you of the merits of physical mail, let’s review some best practices for conducting a direct mail campaign in 2019. The following list is far from exhaustive, but if you stick to these tips you should be well on your way to launching a successful direct mail marketing campaign.
1. Integrate with Digital
While direct mail might be more impactful than digital communication, this doesn’t mean you should abandon digital entirely. Instead, find ways to incorporate digital assets and direct mail pieces into one seamless buyer’s journey. For example, your direct mail piece could include a QR code which, once scanned, directs recipients to a landing page or company website. Or better yet, incorporate augmented reality into a printed piece (see gif). This way you’re able to catch the reader’s attention with a direct mail piece before moving them to a digital medium for more information, to become a member, place an order, etc.
The other thing to keep in mind is the concept of “multi-channel marketing.” Customers are more likely to respond to a campaign if they see the same messaging through multiple channels. So, even if your direct mail piece doesn’t immediately spur a recipient to action, just the fact that they have seen your direct mail piece will make them more likely to later click on a digital advertisement that has the same messaging.
This is perhaps the most essential tip in this list – do not rely only on digital, or only on direct. These two methods of communication are most effective when they are used together.
2. Personalize and Use Magnet Words in the Copy
In an age of Variable Data Printing (VDP), there is really no excuse to not personalize direct mail pieces anymore. By adding a recipient’s name to the opening lines of a piece, or references to their industry and/or company, you make your piece far more memorable and likely to be read all the way through. This makes the piece far more impactful to the reader and makes them feel as though the piece of mail may have an offer directed specifically at them and their interests.
Another aspect to consider when writing copy is the use of magnet words. Magnet words are those which have been shown to grab a reader’s attention and draw their eye to a specific part of the page. A number of words have been shown to have this effect, including announcing, introducing, new, now, free, easy, quick, and improved. You can learn more about high-converting words and phrases here.
3. Experiment with Creative and Dimensional Mail
We all love coming home to find a letter in our mailbox, but we love coming home to a package or parcel even more. More and more companies are experimenting with what’s been called dimensional or creative mail. Dimensional mail simply refers to any piece or direct mail which has three dimensions, as opposed to your traditional flat letter.
Dimensional mail pieces are more expensive to create and ship than flat mail, but when you consider the fact that dimensional mail has been found to outperform flat pieces by 200-300% in measured responses that additional cost may just be worth it. With a targeted, pre-defined list, dimensional mail can have a huge impact on recipients and ultimately make up for the additional costs through an increase in conversions.
4. Measure and Refine; Measure and Refine; Measure and…
Throughout the course of your direct mail campaign, you should be constantly measuring and refining your campaign strategy. You may find that certain magnet words aren’t as popular as you once thought, or that the added cost of dimensional mail pieces isn’t worth the response rate. Don’t be afraid of your findings, and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong and make a change!
An easy way to go about this is to A/B test a number of direct mail campaign methods. For example, try testing personalized direct mail pieces against anonymous pieces to see which garners a higher response rate. Similarly, test just providing a URL to a landing page on a direct mail piece vs. providing a scannable QR code – you may find that the QR code, though easier to access on the surface, might dissuade older demographics from taking the next step of going to your website.
5. Stick to the 40/40/20 Rule
Going back to Marketing 101 for a moment, always remember the 40/40/20 rule: 40% of a direct mail campaign’s success comes from the mailing list, 40% from the offer attached to it, and only 20% from design. And on which component do most marketers spend 80% or more of their time on? You guessed it – the design.
You can integrate nifty digital assets with your direct mail piece, you can personalize the copy, send the piece in a beautifully-designed 3-dimensional box and A/B test every aspect of the campaign, but if you’re starting with a weak mailing list and/or a weak call to action, then your campaign is doomed. Be sure to have a handle on the fundamentals of your direct mail campaign before you start designing.
The science doesn’t lie – on a piece-by-piece basis, direct mail is more memorable and more impactful than digital mail. If you follow the 5 tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to executing a successful direct mail marketing campaign.