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Thinking About Direct Mail Automation? Not so fast…

Posted by Brian Jones on November 6, 2023

Direct mail automation has changed the way marketers communicate with their target audience.

Many marketers are now integrating technology with traditional direct mail strategies and streamlining the multi-step marketing process. It can be a quick and easy solution for them.

When it works...

When it works, it can help enhance customer engagement and improve efficiency. But, while direct mail automation does come with lots of surface advantages, it also presents its share of challenges you need to consider before flipping the switch.


So, let’s take a quick look at both the Pros and the Cons of automation.

The Pros:

  • More Personalization: Direct mail automation lets you personalize messages at scale, tailoring your content to specific customer segments based on their demographics, preferences, and purchasing behavior.

  • Better Targeting: With data-driven learnings and advanced analytics, you can target direct mail campaigns more effectively, and hit that holy grail of reaching the right person, with the right message, at the right time.

  • Better Production Costs: Putting your direct mail process on autopilot can streamline your marketing costs, which12_19-2 otherwise can be quite pricey with manual work, printing, and mailing. So you could see higher ROI on your programs.

  • Speed: Automation is fast. Yes. Speed is the name of the game. Getting a message to a target right after a trigger event is key. Plus, the added efficiency lets you focus on other critical tasks and tighten up your marketing operation.

  • Scalability: Direct mail automation also lets you send large-scale campaigns, so you can expand your reach and target a broader audience without compromising on the quality of your marketing materials.

Okay, so an impressive list of advantages. In an age where marketers are constantly being asked to do more… do it faster and cheaper and with more precision, well automation sounds like a match made in marketing heaven.

But what else should we know about this technology? Are there any drawbacks? Well, to make an informed decision, we must look at both sides.


The Cons:

  • Initial Investment: Launching a campaign using direct mail automation often means a sizable upfront investment in technology. The software, the infrastructure, the data, the programming… it adds up. That can be tough for small or even medium-sized businesses to swallow.

  • Data Quality Challenges: Having accurate data is a must for automated, personalized direct mail. But that, too can be a challenge when you automate. Any missteps in the data processing can end up making the campaign ineffective and, of course, tank your performance.

  • Technology Limitations: They say repetition is the death of art. And depending solely on automation can limit your creative flexibility and customization options. Your creative may not be as fresh or appealing, which could lessen the overall appeal and engagement levels among your audience.

    "Using automation without instilling that all-important human touch can make your marketing come across feeling “robotic” and impersonal, alienating customers and reducing the impact of your message"

  • Risk of Over-automation: Ever heard of “too much of a good thing.” Using automation without instilling that all-important human touch can make your marketing come across feeling “robotic” and impersonal, alienating customers and reducing the impact of your marketing message. Remember, direct mail is one-to-one, personal communication. That’s a big part of what makes it work. If you lose that, then all you have is the world’s most expensive mimeograph machine.

  • Potential Compliance Issues: Making sure you’re in line with privacy regulations and making sure you’re in compliance with direct mail laws in different jurisdictions can be complex, especially when handling sensitive customer information through automated systems. In other words, with additional speed comes additional risk.

  • Format Limitations: Direct mail automation requires you to adhere to certain specifications to run at scale. The downside of that is it could limit more creative thinking and innovative approaches from your team. The last thing you want is a campaign that appears to look “just like” your competition. Cookie cutters are great. But not when it comes to attention-getting formats and creative.


So, while direct mail automation has a number of excellent benefits in terms of efficiency, scalability, and personalization, marketers should be aware of the potential downsides like the cost, data issues, and the risk of “cookie cutter” creative.

"Cookie cutters are great... but not when it comes to attention-getting formats and creative."

The best way to approach it is to have a plan, consider your strategy, and consider both the advantages and disadvantages based on your particular objectives and goals. Then you can make a decision that works for your needs, your goals, and your budget.

How To Get Started

Are you looking to improve the results from your next campaign? Run a test? Or maybe you’re looking to increase 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 goals. Contact J&C today. That way, we can give you an honest assessment of how we can work with you to achieve better results. 

Topics: Direct Marketing, Direct Mail, Creative

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