How to Deliver Responsive, Real-Time Marketing in the Mail
Philosopher Marshall McLuhan once famously stated, "The medium is the message." In today's world of responsive marketing, with its customized messages tailored to be consumed on everything from smartphones to Kindles, McLuhan's axiom has never been more the case.
In this fast-paced, "always on" world, where customer preferences can be used to hone and target advertising like never before, there seems to be little space left for traditional, direct mail marketing. Or is there?
Direct Mail: This Dinosaur Is Still Roaring
Although it may appear counterintuitive with all the technology buzzing around our heads, we would do well to recall that direct mail still maintains, by far, the highest hit ratio of all marketing channels. A full 95 percent or more of all consumers will receive direct mail messages, as opposed to 40 percent with digital ads and only about 20 percent for email and telemarketing, due to spam filters and do-not-call lists. And in survey after survey, customers in a number of different age brackets also have indicated their preference for the less-intrusive, more-tangible direct mail approach.
Of course, there is a downside: Direct mail is slow. It can take anywhere from three to 14 days for a piece of direct mail to reach its intended recipient, a glacial amount of time when compared to its electronic counterparts. But just as the tortoise beats the hare in Aesop's fable, the slower delivery time of direct mail is not necessarily a hindrance to its marketing effectiveness. Here's how to make direct mail win the race for you.
Staggering Your Mailings
The inelastic nature of direct mail can be remedied by staggering your mailings: Rather than dumping all your mail into the post box in a once-a-month megablast, you can break your mailing into segments and send them out with greater frequency, say once a week instead of once a month. There are multiple advantages to staggered mailings:
- Current Events: Say a serious global event occurs, the government makes a surprise economic announcement or a competitor brings a new product announcement. If you have already sent out one mass mailing, there's nothing you can do but wait until the next month rolls around, when it may very well be too late. But with staggered mailings, you're at liberty to adjust your message accordingly — in real time.
- Analyzing Trends: Staggered mailings allow you to analyze their effectiveness and respond with greater frequency. Are under 35s responding well to a certain mailing? Send out more to that age bracket! Are over 65s not responding so well? You can either reduce mailings to them, or revise your message to make it more senior-friendly. Remember, diversified messaging is the heart of responsive marketing. And the same goes for customers in different income brackets or who live in different regions of the country.
- Workflow: Staggered mailings also allow for a more manageable workflow. Once-a-month mail blasts generate their own form of blowback — a period of several days where your office is swamped by phone calls, followed by three or so weeks of unproductive down time. And during the crunch days, you risk losing customers by failing to respond quickly enough or to provide quality customer service. With staggered mailings, the response rate is more even, allowing for fresher staff, more satisfied customers, a higher conversion rate and increased office morale.
- Cost Savings: Simply put, staggered mailings give you more bang for the buck. Mailings which have suddenly become dated due to an important world event, or which are sent en masse to an unresponsive age or economic bracket, equate to money down the drain. When every dollar counts, it is important that every piece of mail count, as well.
Respond and Win
A staggered, direct mail approach to marketing combines the long reach of direct mail with the flexibility and responsiveness of more modern tools. This is not to say, of course, that direct mail can do it all. In fact, a multiple touch-point strategy of direct mail, combined with electronic or telephone communication, is most often the best way to go.
Your strategy depends on your customer's preferred channel preference. But maintaining the direct mail dinosaur as an important part of your marketing repertoire, and staggering your mailings to heighten their effectiveness, is an effective way to reach the finish line first.
Kesna Lawrence is the SVP, Client Strategy of Datamyx, a provider of data-driven technology solutions for direct marketing in the financial services, automotive, and insurance industries.