During the pandemic my daily trip to the mailbox became a bright spot in a life of Zoom calls, lockdowns, socially distanced conversations, and shelter-in-place orders. It was a physical connection with the outside world and I had more time to read my mail.
It seems I’m not alone. The 2020 Valassis Consumer Study found that 49% of the affluent segment (those with household income of $100K+) are more excited about receiving mail than they were pre-pandemic. The same survey revealed that 44% percent of millennials are spending more time reading direct mail marketing or promotions than they were before.
Our blog Direct Mail is Having a Moment goes into more detail about the current trends and how they’re building on those from 2020.
Marketers need to harness this momentum and engagement, and keep it going long after brands are circled by the kids and coupons are clipped. There’s a new premium on relevance and empathy, and simply dropping deals through the mailbox won’t cut it.
In this article I’m going to lay out the best practices for creating effective, engaging direct mail campaigns.
Here are some of the key direct mail stats from our 2020 survey:
- 67% of respondents said they read print ads or inserts from advertisers.
- 72% of households with a combined income of $100K or more said they’d read or looked through direct mail ads in the past 30 days.
- 67% millennials had read or looked through direct mail ads in the past 30 days
Of those who’d looked through direct mail in the past 30 days:
- 58% of millennials, 62% of Gen X, and 65% of the affluent segment said they’d made a purchase in the past 30 days as a result of direct mail advertising.
Build on momentum
Direct mail, by its nature, has a lot of potential momentum baked into the medium. The connection is instant on delivery — it’s a captive audience primed to engage, which has been substantiated by numerous studies, including ours.
The average lifespan of direct mail inserts is 17 days and during this time it’ll be interacted with from opening, to reading, putting it on display, and sharing it among the household.
When you consider that 88% of key purchase decisions are discussed at home, and households are getting bigger with millennials living at home for longer, the impact of that reach and longevity compounds.
By comparison, to engage every member of a household with a digital campaign you may need up to five or six email addresses. Direct mail has the potential to get the same reach with one physical address.
Capitalizing on the momentum of this reach and engagement — and fueling it beyond the mailbox — starts at inception, when you get the ball rolling with audience segmentation and targeting.
- Understand intent to purchase. Know where in the buying journey your target audience is and build your campaign around that. For example, if the intent is low you might want to include an aggressive offer.
- Leverage digital campaigns. Use CRM data to build look-alike audiences from successful digital campaigns, getting as close to a 1-to-1 match as possible.
- Create an omnichannel experience. Align your direct mail campaign with your digital efforts to create a complete journey.
- Get granular with households. Understand the generational breakdown of the households you’re targeting. If mail is being shared, it can’t just talk to one person.
Taking these steps at the beginning of the campaign will ensure an already primed audience is motivated to take the desired action and keep the momentum of the campaign rolling.
Prepare for misinformed resistance
Given that marketing budgets are under scrutiny, there might be some objections to a direct mail campaign. But most of these will be based on misconceptions and I’m going to tackle a few of them.
- It’s seen as a way to target old people. Our survey demonstrates this is not the case. Millennials engage with direct mail. And Gen Z are looking for alternatives to digital.
- It’s thought of as junk mail. Well let’s be honest, anything done badly is junk. With better targeting and more accurate data about the audience, you can create relevant pieces that won’t get tossed aside.
- It’s considered expensive by budget owners. Especially when compared to digital campaigns. We’ve already discussed the sticking power and reach of direct mail compared to email. But it’s also a broad solution so you can find an effective format that matches your budget.
- It’s seen as ineffective by internal stakeholders. Well, we’ve given plenty of evidence that it is effective, but to satisfy a CFO you might need to demonstrate how well your campaign is working.
Measurability is crucial for demonstrating ROI and helping you maintain the campaign’s momentum. Seeing what works, and understanding why it works, helps you replicate and build on success.
Measure your effectiveness
Digital campaigns have the upper hand when it comes to measurability. It’s a simple fact that you won’t get the granular metrics you get from digital. But direct mail is measurable, and you should be understanding performance and engagement.
Including QR codes on the direct mail prompts the reader to take action and helps you track conversions. You can create unique QR codes for households, neighborhoods, different CTAs, or offers to test and track numerous metrics. QR codes have enjoyed widespread adoption, particularly among millennials.
Unique URLs offer similar functionality. If you’re targeting households with a mix of generations it’s worth including the unique URL and/or QR code.
Driving the conversation online not only improves the campaign’s measurability, it also connects the paper to the brand’s digital presence. This means you’re building a path for two-way engagement that allows you to prompt consumers to check their mailboxes in the future.
If you’re running an offer with coupons, use unique codes for different cohorts and track redemptions to gauge which are performing best. You could also use this as an opportunity to test creative executions.
Surveys are a simple way to track where and how a campaign is performing. You can gain deep engagement insight by asking for feedback on the creative to discover what will spark action.
Direct mail delivers great ROI but to prove that you need to measure it properly. A call to action that takes consumers onto the second step of a journey in an integrated campaign lets you measure its impact and success while extending the brand conversation.
Don’t let it die on the hallway table
Direct mail is having a moment. The current environment has exposed new opportunities and amplified what has always made it such a great format.
You need to seize this moment and build on direct mail’s momentum but perhaps you’re up against shrinking budgets and tight reins on the marketing department. Or, even worse, you’re battling outdated ideas of what direct mail means.
A sustainable direct mail campaign with the momentum to take consumers on a journey must be measurable with demonstrable ROI. To get that right, you need an integrated omnichannel campaign that motivates consumers to engage beyond the piece.
The tips in this post will help you create highly engaging campaigns. But there’s more. Take a deep dive into the direct mail moment and see what else you can be doing to capitalize on it.
We’ve created an ebook that summarizes and explains the key stats and consolidates all the resources we have on the topic. Read it here.
Karen Law has more than two decades of experience in data-driven, customer-centric, and multi-channel solutions for some of the world’s largest advertisers. She contributes to sales coaching, and development. Today, she helps develop strategic go-to-market strategies for the consumer packaged goods, grocery, mass, ecommerce, and drug industries for Valassis accounts totaling more than $150 million.