Direct mail marketing has played a huge role in promoting businesses over the years, but many feel it’s a now a dying art, making way for the digital age. But this couldn’t be further from the mark: to this day direct mail is still a cost effective marketing channel and is capable of reaching audiences that would otherwise remain untouched.
There are also a few unique qualities of direct mail that aren’t usually present with other methods. It’s claimed that a piece of direct mail marketing will be kept on average, for 17 days after receipt with many people having a designated area to store it! A significantly higher average compared to email marketing and social media marketing for example.
The return on investment is also purported to be higher than other marketing methods; 2017 saw a return of £3.22 for every £1 spent on direct mail. Online marketing methods on the other hand, peaked at £3.12 for every £1. Finding a nice even keel between the two can provide your business with huge return potential and reach a much wider range of potential clients.
We’re going to take a look at just how beneficial direct mail can be for your business, as well as how it works and what to do to maximise your cross channel marketing efforts.
What is Direct Mail and How Does it Work?
Those not familiar with the broader direct mail marketing channel would be forgiven for thinking that it was just all about those spammy bits of mail that come through the post advertising special offers for a business to make a quick sale, but it’s not.
While the concept of sending out notifications about special offers is a good one, it needs to be researched, developed and curated correctly, and this includes the mailing list. Sending out generic letters to everyone in a certain location isn’t necessarily going to give you the return you’d like. Much like with other forms of marketing, direct mail can be targeted; this could be to a specific age range or demographic or target a particular set of previous/current customers if the piece you’re creating is quite specific.
Direct mail campaigns work best when combined with sales objectives as part of a growth strategy. A successful campaign is all about getting the science right. A well-balanced strategy that includes crossovers between marketing channels will offer the recipient more flexibility, maximising the chances of a positive response from your audience.
There are bonuses when using a physical piece of mail for marketing too. Unlike email for example where a person has to consciously share it, there’s a good chance there’s going to be more than one person in the household that sees it, expanding your audience beyond expectations.
How effective is Direct Mail?
Simple answer… extremely effective when done right. The key elements for a successful direct mail campaign are as follows:
- Identify your target market: It’s important to know exactly where you’re going to be sending your pieces and why. Analyse your customer base and plan accordingly with relevant content.
- Create an easy but direct call to action: One of the biggest marketing mistakes that’s made is not including a call to action. It’s important your (potential) customer knows what it is that you want them to do. If there’s no direction, they’re unlikely to be proactive or motivated to take action. Be careful though, over-complicating the call to action can leave your audience confused and frustrated.
- Add value: Direct mail should have added value for the receiver, what are they going to get out of it if they respond to your call to action? Incentive and benefits should be included.
- Use clean data: It’s easy to work with a database that you’ve been building over a long period of time, but is it up to date? It’s estimated that UK business spend on average £18 million each year sending direct mail to deceased people. Using clean data can have a huge impact on your return.
- Personalise: While it’s cheaper to send out generic mail, personalisation can help build better relationships and brand loyalty, impacting the return on investment.
- Test your campaign: No one can predict just how successful a campaign will be until it’s out there, and investing a large amount of money can be daunting. Use a small portion of your database to test out the campaign first. You could also split test to see if variables in the campaign make a difference to the response rate. This will allow you to make any minor adjustments before rolling it out to your whole database.
Once you’re happy with the finished product and your campaign is live, it’s important to analyse the results. Set yourself a realistic time limit, goals and expectations before measuring the results. These results will allow you to develop further campaigns going forward, develop your business and give you a clearer picture of your target audience.
Direct Mail and the Marketing Mix
Wrongly, direct mail can be seen as a waste of time and “old hat”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Research conducted by Royal Mail found that a staggering 57% of those studied believe direct mail creates a more genuine relationship and makes them feel more valued, while 38% said that it influenced how they felt about the sender and reinforced the brand. Royal Mail also learned that marketing campaigns which included direct mail were 40% more likely to result in top acquisition levels compared to those campaigns without. Significant figures that can have a dramatic effect on campaign success rates.
While some recipients aren’t digitally minded at all, a large portion will likely head to the internet to find out more. What with the advent of technology and the increasingly digital bias of marketing it is important to make sure a direct mail campaign can translate into other methods of marketing too.
Including easy to follow instructions about how to connect via other means is vital. This could include email addresses, social media pages and digital newsletter sign ups.
Direct Mail vs Email
To all intents and purposes, email marketing can be seen as direct mail’s digital counterpart but how do they really compare?
It’s noted that emails have a lifespan of just 2 seconds compared to direct mail’s 17 days. So if you’re looking for longevity with a campaign, direct mail should definitely be included. The longer lifespan may also be the reason for the increased average response rate; direct mail sits at 4.4% compared to just 0.12% for email.
That doesn’t mean email doesn’t have its place though. Email marketing can be extremely cost effective and due to the lower costs, the return on investment can be much higher; averaging around £30 for every £1 spent.
Direct Mail vs Social Media
With the vast majority of people now having a social media presence of some kind, it would be foolish too rule it out of a marketing campaign. But where does social media sit when compared to direct mail?
It seems that targeting the younger generations with social media campaigns isn’t always going to be as effective as you might think. An International Communications Research survey found that 73% of respondents trust direct mail adverts over social media ones but found it easier when building real time relationships with brands and organisations.
Social media is however very useful for communicating messages that require a fast response. Using social media to encourage mail list sign ups is also a great way to broaden your audience and build brand loyalty through personalised direct mail.
Direct Mail vs Pay per Click
If you’re new to marketing, there’s a chance you’re not totally familiar with how pay per click works but when it comes to driving traffic to your business, how does it compare to direct mail?
While paid online advertising is a great way to build awareness online, it does however have its downfalls. PPC (as it’s often called) can be expensive, especially for certain industries. The concept is that you pay a certain amount of money every time someone clicks on your advert. The cost of PPC is ongoing so it’s important to set limits. Not doing so could result in overspending. Much like direct mail, it’s important to make sure you’re targeting the correct people so as not to waste money. This can be done via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, search engines such as Google and via advertising affiliates.
If the goal of your campaign is to increase footfall at your premises, then PPC may not be the best option. PPC may however be a better option when you wish to encourage people to visit your website as all it takes is a simple click.
One key element of pay per click is how measurable the success rate of a campaign is. Analytically, PPC can be monitored from the outset and amendments can be made in real time if something isn’t working. This can’t be done with direct mail but then much like other forms of online advertising, the shelf life of a PPC advert can be short.
Direct Mail Best Practices in 2017
2017 saw a real upturn in businesses including direct mail in their marketing campaigns, but what have they been doing to keep things fresh and exciting?
Design: With the majority of direct mail campaigns created digitally these days, there’s been greater call for personalisation to play a big role in the content. This could be including the name of the recipient in the title of the piece or including imagery of local landmarks, both of which makes the piece more relatable. Much like the written content, design must be relevant too.
QR Codes and PURLS: Another great way to make the crossover easier is to include QR codes that can be scanned using a mobile phone or a simple, personalised URL. Both of these things with invite the recipient to visit your website with minimal fuss.
Dimensional mail: This can be very costly so it’s important to make sure you’ve got a sustainable budget to make the change from conventional mail. However, creating a piece that’s 3D or interactive is far more memorable than the standard envelope and letter format.
Keep things simple: These days, recipients aren’t overly convinced by gimmicky, fussy content. Simple language that’s informative, educational and relevant wins the day.
Tell a story: It’s important to make sure when directing the recipient away from the mail piece, you give them reason to do so. If your direction to a website, for example, doesn’t give them further insight or reason to continue, the journey to conversion will be cut short. Maintain interest by offering something different at each stage.
Direct mail has been a key part of marketing for decades and despite the significant rise of online marketing in recent years, it still maintains a firm standing. The key to success when it comes to direct mail is keeping it relevant, doing your research and realising the crossovers that are needed to cover all bases. Good luck and we hope our guide helps you get the best out of your campaign!