Sure, it's true that direct mail volume has declined with the growth of paid and organic search, email marketing and social media channels. But mail can still play a crucial role in generating quality leads, converting prospects and past buyers into lifelong customers.
Too many marketers still look at mail as a single-channel communication tool and neglect its unique ability to play a key role in a well-executed, integrated multichannel communication plan.
Consider these examples:
Insurance: A health insurance company wanted to expand into a new area where it had no perceived experience. It was targeting 23,000 Wisconsin households; by its own admission, on any given year, 2% of those households will switch to a new carrier—and that could translate into 460 new insured households. The insurer set a goal of 500 new families moving to its plan.
Two direct mail pieces were used to drive prospects to a microsite and to attend events and health fairs. The plan also included PR, some targeted advertising, outdoor, radio, collateral development and, of course, messaging that leveraged the company's expertise and experience in another market segment, making sure it would translate well into this new niche.
The enrollment period was less than 30 days, so the marketing was compressed and aggressive. A 9-x-12 letter package was the first touch, followed by a self-mailer that looked like a manila file folder.
The results: Over 2,000 households switched to the company's health plan; the next year, an additional 6,000+ households switched to its plan, making the company the fourth biggest player in this new segment in just two short years, thanks largely to direct mail.
Nonprofit: A nonprofit needed to create credibility with a growing female prospect base that viewed the organization as out of touch and irrelevant for their needs. The goal was to change that perception and get these women to start joining the organization. A plan was developed, and social media was the driver in re-establishing the nonprofit as a group that cared about women. It was supported by email newsletters, PR and some limited advertising and PPC and SEO.
Once engagement occurred, a thought-through direct mail testing plan was implemented to convert these "fans" into paying members of the organization. The result: Female membership is now the fastest growing membership category for this group, growing 305% over three years.
Four Tips for 2013:
1.) It's still all about the data. If you have a good, accurate list, you are more likely to succeed. If your list is bad, it does not matter how great your communication is—it will fail to resonate and therefore not be relevant. Spend a disproportionate amount of time on your data/lists. It will pay you back handsomely.
2.) Think in terms of niches. Effective direct mail is rarely homogeneous. Thus, you have to vary your copy and design based on the segments that emerge from your database analysis.
3.) Test your offers and messaging. Most marketers ignore this directive, and their results suffer. Remember, direct mail is a copy-driven medium. Copy that the target audiences can relate to will be the most effective.
4.) Evaluate what your competitors are doing and take note. Again, many marketers seem to operate in a vacuum and ignore what is working and what is not from a competitive intelligence vantage point. Understand, to the best of your ability, what differentiates you from your competitors and then exploit your Unique Selling Proposition.
The role of direct mail is evolving. It's still viable in almost all vertical markets. It remains a great to reach prospects, and can be very effective in converting leads to paying customers. However, its new role as a key tactic used in an integrated marketing campaign is increasing.
Grant A. Johnson is the ambassador of fun at Johnson Direct LLC.