Back in May last year my blog, The Resurrection of Direct Mail? looked at the growing evidence direct mail is resurging and on its way back as the most effective channel for direct marketing. In the last year the UK economy has finally emerged from recession, business confidence has been restored and marketing budgets increased. This trend to direct mail has clearly accelerated.
If you are a small or medium sized Company (which collectively are known as SMEs) then the decision to take up direct mail, often for the first time, is not quite as clear cut as it should be. We see growing evidence that the return of investment (ROI) is often far greater than the equivalent emailing. However, when it comes to making the decision to proceed with that first direct mail campaign, there is no doubt the costs of undertaking campaign (postage, print, fulfilment) can use up a significant chunk of what are often limited annual marketing budgets. And when compared with the significantly lower cost of emailing combined with no firm guarantee that the eventual ROI will justify this significant investment, it is easy to see why Clients can baulk at this decision.
Clients new to direct mail without fail ask me as part of this decision “what percentage response will we get?”. There is no simple answer. At the end of the day response is affected by:-
- The product or service being marketed. If you have a product nobody wants then it won’t sell however you market it. And of course the converse is true.
- Who will receive the mailing. You should be mailing to recipients who may well have an interest in your product. Getting the data right is fundamental to a successful mailing and too often overlooked.
- The mailing piece. When it lands in the customer’s letterbox or on their desk does it do enough to attract attention of the recipient.
- Timing. The mailing should ideally arrive at a time when the recipient may be considering your product or service. This is the hardest aspect of getting a mailing right and often little can be done. Some products are seasonal or tied to known events (Christmas, Valentines Day). However your existing customer data may hold the key to other timing information you can use.
So what do you do to reduce the risk that the mailing will not provide an ROI that justifies the cost?
- Before you start get the data correct. If you are using your own data whether customer or prospect, make sure the data is cleaned and free of duplicates, gone-aways and mortalities (see Data Cleaning – An Integral Part of Direct Marketing? ). Have your customer data profiled to understand who your best customers are. It always surprises me how often the view of the Client as to who are the best customers varies from the evidence held within their customer data. This customer knowledge held within the data can also be utilised to identify and select data for customer acquisition.
- Think carefully about the design and appearance of your mailing piece. This relates to a key reason why mailing works better than emailing. Today, if emails actually get through to your inbox, rather than being filtered off as spam, most of us get to see one line of the email and press delete. We can spot the marketing email and we dispose of it accordingly. If we take the same somewhat cynical view about mailing, the key difference is that it takes time to take the mailing from the letterbox to the bin but the whole of the mailing piece is visible to the recipient. Hence the title of this blog, 15 seconds to make a connection. The mailing piece needs to do enough to get it looked at in more detail Increasingly personalisation is the key this. Not just personalisation of the name and address but something more that relates to the recipient. Imagery works well, be creative. Direct mail is not about giving out a message, it is about starting or continuing a communication process that will eventually lead to conversion and hopefully a long term relationship.
- Importantly direct mail gives you the ability to test. You don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket. You can test a smaller quantity, you can test a few different mailing pieces and monitor which works the best. What we do know about direct mail response rates is that if you repeat a mailing then the response rates are likely to be similar. In this way you can test if mailing is for you without risking spending all that chunk of marketing budget that is causing you to think twice. And you can learn from the test mailing, always looking to improve the next time around. Once you have that initial response benchmark then it should only improve and turn into what will be a long term relationship with mailing.
Mailing does work. Use the knowledge held within your customer data to target the right recipients with the right message. Be creative to ensure you capture the recipients attention in the “15 second window”, test ideas and target audiences, And if all of this is managed properly it will become a valued part of your marketing mix.