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It's been a hell of a couple years.
Supply chain issues... political nonsense... inflation worries... not to mention a never-ending pandemic.
It's no wonder a lot of companies are tightening their belts and bringing some marketing work in-house. After all, it’s cost-effective, it gives you total control, and you know exactly how and where your money is being spent.
DIY marketing has ONE BIG downside.
Your results (the most important part of your marketing campaign) are often not what they could be. Especially when you go out in a tough economy to a market that’s full of COVID-weary consumers.
Some in-house teams are finding modest success with the direct response channel — but they wrestle with the finer points of direct. That’s why clients turn to J&C. They know a direct agency will help them improve their response rates and get a better return on their marketing investment (ROMI).
And if you dabble in direct and would like to get better, you’re in luck. Because in this blog, we’re going to discuss some of the most effective ways you can use direct mail to get immediate, measurable, and improved results.
1. Put Some Serious Effort into Targeting
As the old adage goes, about 40% of your direct mail campaign’s success is based on your list.
Whether you’re trying to re-activate existing customers or generate new customers through an acquisition campaign – your list – the people you want to talk to – will play a BIG role in your success.
In the planning stage, it's important to think about different ways of segmenting your audience. Because the more specific you can get with your targeting, the more specific you can get with your messaging. Likewise, the more relevant your message and offer will be to the needs of each segment. And that translates to higher response and conversion rates.
This may sound like common sense (because it is). Yet some companies still get it wrong. So to help shed some light on this important topic, we’ve listed out a few key concepts here:
Ways to Segment Your Lists
Inactive vs. Active Customers:
While active customers may be your best revenue producers, inactive customers can be an additional source of sales you shouldn’t overlook. But this dormant group often needs some TLC — and a little extra special motivation — to come back. You know these folks (at least you should), and you know what they bought from you before, so you should know what you can do to excite them and get them active again.
Recency is simply how much time has passed since the customer's most recent transaction. You want to speak to your most recent customers much differently than you do to those who haven’t been active in a while.
This refers to the number of purchases the customer has made in the previous year, and how frequently these folks visit/shop? Once you know this, you can message your “slower” customers and entice them with offers to increase their purchase frequency. Likewise, you can thank and/or reward your more frequent shoppers.
Simply segmenting your customers according to their sales volume is an easy way to find out who your best customers are — and which ones need more attention.
The Best Prospects Look Like Your Best Customers:
A great place to start prospecting is by looking at your best customers. From this “profile,” you can clearly see the demographics and get a better idea of what each segment looks like. Once you have those profiles defined, you can run tests between groups to find out which segment performs best. This takes a bit of time and will be an iterative process, so along the way, you'll want to continue to test, learn, and refine.
While demographics may be a great way to segment prospects, behavioral data gives you an even clearer picture of your prospect. And a great way to see what matters most to your target audience is to leverage life-stage data. This is data generated when people get married, move into a new house or apartment, or have kids. These sorts of “life” events almost always lead to new purchasing behaviors. Take the time to understand how your product or service fits into one of these life-stage events. And if there's a good fit, congratulations, that's one more way to segment your prospects.
2. Improve Direct Mail by Changing Your Mail Package
There are a lot of ways to improve direct mail, not least of which is changing up your creative. J&C recently talked with a client in the health/wellness vertical and they told us that #10 envelope mailers have worked the best in that space for the past 15 years. But they also said every couple of years they try something fresh and new.
This is a great example of continually striving for better results. Even though direct mail was working well from a response rate and ROAS standpoint, they still periodically tried different creative to see if they could improve performance. Hearing that the #10 was working well is not surprising because envelope mailers tend to perform better within healthcare, finance, and insurance verticals. But it’s still best practice to test a fresh creative when possible. You never know when a different approach will be a home run.
There are a lot of ways
to improve direct mail,
not least of which is changing up
That’s exactly what another client of ours in the retail space did. They’d historically sent catalogs, which seemed to perform well as it allowed ample room to showcase different products. However, recently, thanks to the paper shortage, we narrowed the focus of the campaign and executed a multi-panel postcard and the results nearly doubled their last campaign.
The point is, people and industries evolve over time. Things change (for Pete's sake, just take a look around...) So it’s good to test your creative often to see what performs best in current market conditions.
3. Improve Direct Mail by Making It Interactive
People like a nice surprise. So if you can turn your direct mail piece into one that’s interactive and offers a pleasant surprise, it will get the reader’s attention (the first step in the classic AIDA approach). And it will likely lead to better response rates. Historically, many marketers would send a small booklet to make the mail piece more interactive, but that’s less effective (and expensive) these days.
By the same token, QR codes flopped when they first came out because 1.) You needed to have a special app that could read them, and 2.) The user experience was really poor, glitchy, or just plain boring.
Now that most websites are responsive the user should have a more rewarding experience, even if you do nothing more than send them to a product-specific landing page or even your home page. To enhance the user experience, you really should have a designated landing page that seamlessly ties into the mail piece.
Regardless of how you set up the landing page, what’s great about QR codes is that they create an instant bridge from offline physical direct mail to your online efforts. That turns a static mail piece into a real-time digital experience that can lead your prospects down the funnel.
Now if you want to get really creative with QR codes, check out the new advancements around augmented reality effects that can turn the physical space around your mailer into a 3-D, full-motion world.
The point is, you can create an interactive experience that transforms your mailer into something of value or interest to your recipients. It makes for a very powerful direct mail campaign.
4. Personalize Your Mail Pieces
Personalization is the art of individualizing each recipient’s mailer. By definition, this is done when the piece is addressed with the recipient’s name. However, that’s table stakes now. What we’re talking about is personalizing your mail piece within – and throughout – the actual design. This can be as simple as using the recipient’s actual name but done so with an eye-catching font and in places they wouldn't expect.
When done really well this can include other variable text fields incorporated throughout the piece, or even with unique graphics embedded into the design. For example, a major retail store generated a custom map for each recipient on their list. It drew a line that showed the best route from the person's home to the store’s location.
The more relevant data points you can incorporate into the piece, the more it will improve your direct mail performance. Each unique data point helps build a deeper connection with your recipients because it shows that you put effort into the piece and that you “know” them. It also shows that your company is trying to do something “special” for them instead of blindly sending bulk mail.
5. Stay Consistent
Marketing efforts are kinda like the last diet you tried. If you only do it for a limited time, then you’re only going to get limited results. If you’re going to use direct mail you need to be consistent. That’s not to say you can’t try different strategies, creative, offers, etc., it just means that you need to maintain a consistent presence in your market. A steady cadence. Because, as they say, as soon as you're "out of sight," you're "out of mind."
6. Focus on Benefits, Not Attributes
Too many businesses focus on the product or service they sell and not the end result – the benefits people get. This is a fairly lazy approach that, if you’re lucky, will get a few yawns or “hmmm’s” but will more likely lead to your mail piece being tossed in the trash. It’s not that you shouldn’t include some attributes and features, but these should be supporting points, not selling points.
Look at car ads. You can say your new model gets 45mpg, or you could say it saves you $50 a month at the gas pump so you can take your sweetheart out for dinner (what it DOES for the reader). Depending on your targeting you might also tell people that this car is more environmentally friendly (if you know that's what appeals to them). This was the approach Kia took at the Super Bowl a few years back.
Remember, people are motivated by emotion, and clearly describing the benefits allows them to literally “feel” or "sense" how those benefits could impact their life. This improves your direct mail by making it more memorable, which leads to higher conversion rates.
7. Define Your Tracking Campaign
Unique promo codes, bar codes, phone numbers, landing pages, and QR codes are all ways you can ensure accurate campaign tracking, but you have to make sure that the code you use is unique and only for that specific campaign.
Another method that you can use is called match-back analysis. With this method, you get all the response and conversion data generated during the campaign. Then you cross-reference that data against the original mail file to find out which responses and conversions were directly tied to the direct mail campaign.
How To Get Started
Are you looking to use direct mail in your next campaign? Or maybe you’re looking to improve the performance of a program you’re already running. Well, J&C has over 40 years of experience and would be happy to learn more about your company and your objectives. Contact J&C today. That way, we can give you an honest assessment of how direct mail can work for you.