By David Henkel
Marketers have heard the call to build brand loyalty and engage customers with their direct mail activities through the use of multiple media channels. Combining traditional direct mail tactics with new, interactive capabilities is a cost-effective way for every business—particularly small and midsize businesses without large marketing departments—to produce a higher return on their investment and generate business leads. Employing a multi-touch direct marketing program also offers the opportunity to gain a closed-loop system that tracks, analyzes, and measures the value of a campaign.
The scenario used to go like this: John Smith receives a piece in the mail speaking to the masses who might be interested in the product or service being sold. There is, of course, a call to action with a phone number in the hopes that John is one out the many mailed to who is interested enough to make a call to get more information. This is often called “spray and pray” direct mail marketing, and rightly so. A prayer is the only thing that might spur action unless John really wants your product or service.
But let’s fast-forward. Today John Smith receives a piece via traditional mail, or another initial communication such as an e-mail, with a personalized URL (PURL) or a QR code he can scan with his smartphone leading him to a microsite that houses the information he is most interested in receiving. Once on his microsite, John may find anything from an invitation to sign up to receive monthly e-newsletters to an embedded video to downloadable coupons for a chance to win a relevant prize.
Shortly after visiting the microsite, John will receive an e-mail response thanking him for visiting the site. Based on information John chose to share while there, he may receive an additional letter, text, or social media notification as a follow-up to the product or service he expressed interest in. Now we have created a totally different experience for him—and for the business employing a direct mail campaign to engage him.
Integrating interactive technologies into traditional direct mail campaigns allows you to receive demographic information and data on consumer behavior in real time. Additionally, using intelligent mail tracking (such as USPS’s Confirm service) enables you to receive e-mail from the Postal Service confirming the drop date of your direct mail piece. Delivery alerts make it possible for you to notify customers via e-mail or SMS to expect a personalized package in the mail, sparking curiosity.
Another component involves PURLs, QR codes, and microsites designed to let customers choose how involved they want to become in the campaign and how much of their contact information they are willing to share. Providing the option to opt in or opt out of communications creates a stronger database of engaged customers for future campaigns.
This sort of permission-based marketing can, of course, also be a source for referrals. Customers may forward links to videos and articles on their personalized landing page to their family and friends, expanding a campaign’s reach and effectiveness.
Combining direct mail and interactive strategies also saves time and money. Rather than having to pay 47 cents for a business reply card and waiting for the post office to return the information, you can direct customers to respond online, through social media outlets, or via mail depending on their preference. With so many choices to efficiently communicate and participate in a campaign, customers are more likely to say yes to the offer.
More good news is that smart direct mail campaigns just keep getting smarter. An integrated marketing program also provides the ability to populate CRM systems with information collected throughout the campaign. This intelligence indicates which calls to action and packaging drew the greatest response, information that is vital for refining future campaigns as well as helping to educate sales teams on business leads and development.
Direct mail has always been an effective form of influencing consumer behaviors and strengthening brand identity. But times have changed, and consumer behavior has definitely changed with them. Now, with the advent of easy-to-implement, affordable interactive technologies—and the intelligence we can gain from them—your direct mail campaign can be more powerful and influential than ever before.