Postal direct mail – in the era of Facebook, Google, and Amazon – may seem to the digital marketing enthusiast to be a remnant of the past. There’s nothing “cool” about direct mail: no IPOs, APIs, or the kind of “hacker marketing culture” we find in SEO and social media.
At the same time, however, it’s clear that the digital marketing ecosystem has its share of problems, some of which can be alleviated by a smart use of postal mail. Bot traffic is rising (56% in 2014, according to anti-spam vendor LavaSoft). Ad viewability remains an issue. Response rates from e-mail remain in decline, thanks to the efforts of Gmail and other email providers’ to auto-route commercial emails to hidden areas behind the “promotional” tabs. Even content marketing – a sound strategy for many – remains an uphill battle in an environment in which the supply of content exceeds the supply of human readers.
No, postal direct mail isn’t cool. But even as its macro influence declines (standard mail volumes are declining at the rate of about 1% per year), it can still work. Here are five reasons why you should invest some budget – even if it’s R&D chump change – in a tech-enabled direct mail campaign:
1. Postal Mail Gives You a True Opt-in
I recently wrote in ClickZ about how new ad technologies are increasing the value of a true opt-in in the form of an e-mail address. Such an opt-in unlocks the power of custom audiences. Using direct mail to entice recipients to visit a custom URL (PURL) or activate an app through NFC or QR code is an excellent way to assemble lists of truly engaged customers. Integration of postal mail campaigns with marketing automation suites and standard analytics packages is easier than ever.
2. The Physical Mailbox is Becoming Less Crowded
As aggregate direct mail volume declines, falling about 1% per year, there’s more opportunity for creative mail marketers to make noise. This situation is the obverse of the digital mailbox, which grows more crowded each year. As large incumbents move budgets away from direct mail, challengers will have more of a chance to stand out.
3. Pricing Advantages
In May, 2015, the U.S. Postal Service Commission announced that it was authorizing the USPS to raise Standard Mail prices by just under 2%. But it also announced a 2% discounts for users of its “Mail Drives Mobile Engagement” program. The Postal Service will offer a 2% discount on mailpieces that include mobile print technology and direct recipients to a mobile shopping experience. Additionally, the USPS’ Advanced and Emerging Technology promotion “aims to continue encouraging mailers to integrate direct mail with mobile technology or new advances in print.” This means mailings equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and AR (augmented reality) elements will receive favorable pricing treatment.
4. Millennials and Digital Natives Like Mail
Maybe it’s just the novelty factor or retro-cool, but young people rely on newspapers, fliers, catalogs, and printed matter for purchase-related information. A well designed mailer can cut through the digital noise, and the UK’s Royal Mail found evidence that physical mailers engage a different (and presumably more retentive) part of the brain.
The USPS’ new “Every Door Direct Mail” program provides an affordable way to “saturation bomb” distinct localities. EDDM campaigns, when combined with NFC, QR, and PURLs, provide an ideal way to identify locally engaged prospects and customers, drive them online, and track them across channels.
6. The Envelope
Email subject lines in a cluttered inbox and display ad creative lost in a cluttered page aren’t that interesting in comparison with an envelope. Admit it, you take the time before even deciding to open an envelope to determine who it is from and guess to what’s inside. With Digital printing your creativity isn’t limited to what goes inside the envelope. You can personalize a whole lot more than just the address.
When you mail to a postal list where you also have their digital touchpoints (CRM / email and Social CRM / Twitter, etc) you can increase the effectiveness of communications by referencing the postal mail they received. An orchestrated strategy beats an ad-hock strategy.
Marketers with developed digital infrastructures can easily bolt on a direct mail component to their mix of channels. While direct postal mail isn’t a “shiny object” like the latest app or niche social network, being able to reach real people at real addresses and be able to track back real response can deliver real results. So if you’re not experimenting with direct postal mail, you may be missing out the chance to connect with customers in a powerful, authentic way.
B2B, where the value of a new relationship or incremental business tends to be quite high, can prove out significant ROI with a well executed direct mail plan, particularly one that also engages the prospects digitally.