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Tips to make direct mail work smarter

Randy Spurrier
Tips to make direct mail work smarter Randy Spurrier

Direct mail is a critical component of most marketers' programs. The U.S. direct mail industry accounted for $60B in 2008, continuing to be one of the largest portions of many marketers' budgets.


That doesn't mean marketers can just blast out the generic postcards of years past and hope for decent response rates. Today, with the advent of new automated marketing platforms, direct mail is more sophisticated and is capable of delivering much higher results. Smart direct marketers are transitioning away from "batch-blast" campaigns and are moving toward highly integrated, direct mail-meets-online formats that combine relevant mailers, personal URLs (PURLs), triggered and targeted email, variable video content, and more.


Creating a relevant dialogue with customers is crucial in all marketing today. That's evidenced by response rates for relevant mailers, which are typically 2-4 times higher than non-relevant ones. And when customized direct mail is combined with interactive elements such as PURLs that host relevant variable video, triggered follow-up emails, and additional relevant communications timed at just the right intervals, response rates can climb to 10 times that of batch-blast mailers.


The good news is, it's fairly easy to transition from an "old school" un-targeted direct mail program to a next-generation, relevance-based one. Most marketers have all the data they need to create fully automated, relevant direct mail-meets-online programs today; it's sitting in their CRM system. The way to fully leverage this data painlessly is to implement a marketing engine -- which will also automate the entire end-to-end process. These technology solutions allow marketers to set up, run, and optimize one-to-one marketing programs automatically based on the data in their CRM systems.


So you want to move your direct mail program into the next era of relevance and effectiveness? Here are a few strategies to get you started.


Automate from the get-go
One-to-one marketing programs, of course, would be out of reach from a cost and time perspective if you had to manually change messaging and set delivery parameters for each individual person. To get started with next-generation direct mail, you need a hosted marketing engine that makes it simpler to create, manage, and automate integrated direct mail campaigns based on your existing CRM data. The engine should enable you to automatically and cost-effectively send millions of customized print mailers and/or corresponding emails (each with a link to a PURL with relevant offers and recommendations), and then, depending on the customer's actions, automatically send timely follow-ups via targeted emails, print, or outbound sales calls all throughout the purchase process.


Get the message right
The segmentation modeling used to determine whom to mail to does not determine what to say to those people. So how do you know what they want to hear? While most CRM marketers have scored their data with RFM analysis to select who is worth mailing to, a marketing engine makes it simple to leverage that data to guide a relevant message and individualized offer for each prospect. A marketing engine engages in propensity-to-buy modeling and purchase analysis to identify topics of interest that will form the basis of your relevant messaging. You can use this type of modeling to deliver extremely relevant and personalized messages.


For example, an apparel company that knows a customer has a propensity for running can send that person timed communications and special product offers based on seasonal running topics or current race events in that customer's community.


Maintain the dialogue
Guiding your customer through the purchase process at every step is key to boosting conversions, especially when it comes to considered purchases. Communicate at timed intervals with automated print and email touches, PURLs with engaging advice and recommendations, and even outbound sales calls. Make sure your marketing engine is rule-based, allowing you to deliver data-driven messages and automatically "trigger" new touches based on customers' interactive feedback.


For example, your marketing engine should be able to trigger timely touches based on customer responses, inquiries, or purchases. Say you send a customized mailer with a link to a PURL to a prospect. If they don't visit the PURL after one week, your marketing engine would automatically send a follow-up mailing. If they visit the PURL or phone the call-center but don't close within five days, the engine would send a second follow-up print touch offering an alternative video recommendation or a more compelling promotion. The PURL will update to reflect the new offer or product recommendation communicated in each follow-up touch.


Abandon the batch blasts. If you send your prospects relevant and fully-customized mailers -- integrating email, PURLs, and engaging customized video content -- they'll not only keep your mailer out of the recycling bin, they'll reward your efforts by making more purchases.


Randy Spurrier is CEO of Nimblefish.


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Comments

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Commenter: Tasha Verma

2010, November 18

Nice tips! With the help of variable printing and Personalized URL the direct mail message reach to right audience at right time, instead of "spraying and praying" your message to people who may or may not be interested or even qualified to take advantage of your offer. Direct mail allows you to pinpoint the people who fit your psycho graphic, demographic, and geographic profile.