- Even in today’s digital age, direct mail remains one of the most popular forms of customer communications.
- A well-executed direct mail campaign can break through the digital noise and engage the recipient, particularly if it is personalized to their needs and interests.
- Today’s technologies enable a quick and easy connection from a direct mail piece to a website, informational video, or phone conversation.
By Eve Padula
Today’s marketers have a wide variety of options to choose from when it comes to reaching their desired audience members. Although direct mail is certainly not the only way to deliver a message, it can be a great way to get noticed—even in a digital world. Unfortunately, the process of standing out with direct mail communications is more complicated now than it was in the past. Merely sending a generic letter, package, brochure, or postcard to a large audience will not be enough to generate interest in your brand. Businesses that don’t understand how to create compelling pieces of direct mail are unlikely to reap the benefits that they can offer. This article explores how marketers can develop direct mail pieces that truly make an impact and encourage consumer engagement.
Making a Difference with Direct Mail
One of the most critical elements of a successful direct mail program is starting with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. The obvious goal of any marketing campaign is to achieve brand awareness and gain market share, but there’s more to the equation. To be effective with direct mail, you must:
- Develop a solid understanding of who your ideal customers are.
- Identify their communication preferences.
- Meet your customers where they are.
- Understand the things that influence their buying habits.
Even in today’s digital age, direct mail remains one of the most popular forms of customer communications. When business respondents to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent transactional communications research were asked about how important various channels would likely be to their future critical communications strategy, over 70% expected traditional direct mail to be moderately or extremely important.
Figure 1. importance of Direct Mail to Critical Communications Strategy
N = 364 Enterprise Respondents
Source: Annual State of Transactional Communications Business Survey; Keypoint Intelligence 2021
There is no question that direct mail’s response rates have declined over the past few years, but it still gets noticed. In fact, data from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4%—compared to a mere 0.12% for email. This is likely because in addition to being trusted, direct mail is the less cluttered channel. A well-executed direct mail campaign can break through the digital noise and engage the recipient, particularly if it is personalized to their needs and interests.
Segmenting for Success
By identifying subgroups within your targeted audience, you can deliver specially tailored direct mail messages that are more meaningful to recipients. Some popular categories for segmentation include age, gender, income, geographic location, and marital/parental status.
In the past, it might have been acceptable to use one message and one design for everyone on your mailing list. To be sure, this was the cheapest and most efficient option. In today’s world, though, a “one size fits all” approach simply won’t cut it. Consumers expect the companies that they do business with to treat them as individuals, so marketers must respond in kind when developing their direct mail. Fortunately, the digital and inkjet presses on the market make it easy to create targeted direct mail pieces that are truly relevant to the recipient.
It should come as no surprise that personalized and relevant content can be a huge influence in prompting consumers to read their direct mail. For example, a mailer promoting a serene and relaxing vacation will likely fall flat for an active family that is seeking excitement and entertainment. This is why it’s so important for marketers to understand their customers’ and prospects’ individual preferences.
With the proper foundation, print enhancements can also breathe new life into what might otherwise be a rather stagnant format. By incorporating unique colors or metallic elements, interesting paper textures, and creative finishing processes into their direct mail communications, marketers can generate a tactile and tangible experience that solidifies the bond between the brand and customer.
Effective direct mail must also include response mechanisms that are easy to use. Even the most beautifully designed marketing piece will come up short if it takes too much effort for the recipient to engage and respond. Today’s technologies enable a quick and easy connection from a direct mail piece to a website, informational video, or phone conversation. In addition, quick response (QR) codes can really nudge your audience to perform a desired call to action.
The Bottom Line
Developing an effective and engaging direct mail campaign points directly back to strategy. A solid strategy requires an understanding of what your target audience wants, as well as the acknowledgement that different recipients will likely want different things. As a result, one of the first steps should be segmenting your audience based on known preferences. A personalized message will feel more authentic and is therefore more likely to resonate with the recipient.
Even if your direct mail piece is a true work of art, it will fail to pay dividends if you haven’t already established an understanding of your ideal audience. Once you have developed this level of understanding, segment your images, messages, and approach to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. With today’s production inkjet presses, marketers have more opportunities than ever to reach their customers where they are and foster that all-important connection between the consumer and a brand.
Eve Padula is a Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating many types of content, including forecasts, industry analyses, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing, editing, and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables.
By Pete Basiliere on Jul 14, 2022
I agree that production inkjet presses enable companies to reach customers where they are and foster a connection to the brand. However, printing personalized direct mail with inkjet technology is a given.
The keys to successful personalized direct mail are (a) software that compiles the data acquired from physical and digital channels into one resource and (b) astute marketers and analysts who know how to micro-segment data direct mail and digital communications.
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