Just a couple years ago, everyone thought direct mail was deader than the Dodo. That’s turned out to be very far from the truth, however, and a look into the future shows that the industry is going places we could never have expected back then. The road ahead looks exciting, for a few reasons:
One of the buzzwords on everyone’s lips these days is multi-channel marketing, and the assumption is that it refers only to digital channels. That’s not necessarily the case, and true multi-channel magic covers any mix of marketing options that the marketer wants it to—including direct mail. Just because it’s a physical medium doesn’t detract from the digital nature of direct mail campaigns. With the digital printing of mailers, packaging, labels and envelopes, you can achieve two very important aspects of effective multi-channel marketing:
- Personalization: Finding ways to personalize direct mail without creeping the recipient out can be difficult, but with the availability of big data these days it’s entirely possible. It’s not just about filling variable fields such as name and birth date; you can do so much more. Options such as special promotions on the user’s favorite item, recipes using a product purchased often, and opportunities to buy on sale items that they previously purchased or viewed. Just as retargeting displays electronic advertisements to users based on their browsing preferences, you can send direct mailers that offer the products they’ve recently been checking out.
- Automation: Marketing automation using CRM (customer relationship management) software to nurture prospects along is another area that isn’t exclusively digital in nature. Sure, you gather your prospects’ contact information, including postal addresses. You get permission to send them information about special offers and discounts. You feed that into your CRM system, plan, develop and schedule your mailings. Many of the CRM packages available these days synchronize seamlessly with digital printing programs to populate variable fields. All you need to do is project manage the setup of the automated campaign, and the production, inserting and mailing of your personalized offers will go out as planned.
Faster Response Mechanisms
It’s not just sending your direct mail campaigns out that works better with a digital component. The response options for prospects to reply are so much more exciting, too. From the use of scannable, unique QR codes through near field communications (NFC), Bluetooth and personalized URLs, it’s no longer necessary for your customer to pick up the phone and call you or come into your business to take up an offer.
Measuring the performance of direct mail campaigns has only recently begun to be more of an exact science, but by incorporating digital technology you can enjoy much more valuable analytics. With a bit of creativity you can get your recipient to scan a QR code even without wanting to make a purchase, which provides intelligence on issues such as whether they even opened the envelope.
The future of direct mail is as bright as it has ever been, and the ROI will be significant for companies that invest the time and energy in making it work for them.