The Comeback Kid

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How direct mail will fit into the new landscape

How many emails do you get in a single day? Twenty? Fifty? One hundred? And how many do you open? According to a 2019 survey by Hubspot, the average email open rate is 20.94%. Direct mail, on the other hand, has an open rate somewhere between 80-90%, according to the “2018 DMA Response Rate Report.” The best campaigns combine print and digital for maximum effect. We sat down with Summer Gould, president at Eye/Comm, and Katherine Versteegh, senior vice president at A.B. Data, to get their take on the future of direct mail.

How do you see direct mail fitting into the new landscape?

Summer Gould: Direct mail is a great way to reach people in their homes with specific and targeted offers. Response rates are climbing. People enjoy getting mail pieces that are relevant to them.

Katherine Versteegh: Direct mail will continue to be an important marketing and communication channel. Print is tactile, and it offers a level of legitimacy that you do not get from email, targeted ads and other forms of digital marketing alone. We touch, feel and hold direct mail. We even smell it. Direct mail uses more senses than any other marketing channel, and direct mail is a driver that can work in a campaign alone or in harmony with other digital marketing channels. It will continue to be used to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, provoke action and build loyalty for many years to come.

What don’t marketers realize about direct marketing?

Gould: That when it is targeted correctly, with personalized offers and messaging, it has a very high response rate. You can also have a lot of fun with it. Direct mail is not what it was 10 years ago—it is better.

“Direct mail is not what it was 10 years ago—it is better.”
— Summer Gould, President, Eye/Comm Inc.

Versteegh: Several marketing channels can be used in a direct marketing campaign: email, social media, direct selling, SMS, experiential or event marketing, website landing pages…even TV, Google and other forms of print that are not direct mail. What marketers do not realize is that direct mail can outperform them all. It can outperform email by 10 to even 30 times. Alone or combined with other channels, direct mail offers the greatest ROI.

Amidst the noise of the digital world, can you talk about the power of direct marketing and how print interacts with digital?

Gould: When you combine direct mail with digital you can boost response rates between 23-46%! The real, tangible direct mail piece is viewed as more trustworthy by consumers and is recalled better. Adding direct mail to your marketing mix is extremely effective.

Versteegh: In direct marketing, there is nothing more powerful than when the right call to action is sent to the right person at the right time. More than ever before, there are huge opportunities for a beneficial symbiotic relationship between print and digital, but it is essential to have a balanced approach that includes print.

What are the critical steps to creating a direct marketing campaign?

Gould: There are three key areas: list, design, and offer. You need to target the right people with your list that is current (old lists are not good), you need to design a piece that intrigues people to read it, and you need to provide an offer that is compelling to the recipient. When you get all three of these things right, you create an effective and profitable direct mail campaign.

Versteegh: One of the most critical steps in creating a direct marketing campaign is knowing your audience—analyzing and leveraging your data, using segmentation, targeting and testing strategies to home in on the right approach. More important than that, however, is setting your goals and the objectives for the campaign. Answer the question, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Then, determine what metrics will be required to reach those goals. How will you measure results? Decide on your response vehicle and choose your direct marketing channels. Create a campaign plan that includes scheduling, copy writing, design, testing and deliverables. Execute the plan, measure the results, make the necessary adjustments, test again if necessary, and reinvest your returns.

As people and businesses socially distance, what is your take on the future?

Gould: Now more than ever we hunger for a stronger connection to humans. Brands who are able to connect and communicate as human will benefit from more business. People like to do business with other people who care about them and their needs. The stronger you build relationships with your customers, the more loyal they are to you and refer others they know to you.

Versteegh: During these times of uncertainty, businesses are forced to embrace change and leverage technology in ways they never have before. Adaptability will be our most valuable skill. Businesses must plan for the unexpected and be prepared with an operations continuity plan that includes systems of prevention and recovery, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Three things are required: smart people, advanced technology and strong partnerships. Without people, you cannot analyze your business needs or design an effective operations continuity solution. Without the right technology, you cannot implement it, test it or maintain it. Without business partners, you may never be able to fill every gap in your plan. Businesses that can adapt quickly and embrace change will have the brightest futures.

What other advice or inspiration can you offer for moving forward?

Gould: Take the time to plan out direct mail campaigns. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it. Especially now, people need and want to laugh. Direct mail is not going to go away. It is changing for the better. Think about how we can now add technology to direct mail to bring it to life! You can use augmented reality, sound chips and video screens in your mail pieces. These are still kind of expensive, but they are coming down in cost. If your client is selling a high-end item, these types of pieces can be really effective in driving responses. We just need to think outside of the box to find ways to create direct mail that engages prospects and customers to drive response. When ROI is high, the higher cost of direct mail compared to digital does not matter, because in the long run they made more money even though they spent more money.

“During these times of uncertainty, businesses are forced to embrace change and leverage technology in ways they never have before.”
— Katherine Versteegh, Senior Vice President, A.B. Data, Ltd.

Versteegh: Trust has always been a huge factor in marketing a business or nonprofit cause. Consumers are concerned that brands are not always being truthful. Today, many are worried their data is being misused. When we layer in a general feeling of consumer anxiety during these times of uncertainty, transparency and accountability become just as important. Businesses must be transparent about how we are using consumer data, but also about what we are doing to protect it. We must be forthcoming when we make a mistake and demonstrate clearly what is being done to correct things going forward. From a community standpoint, we need to operate responsibly, incorporate strategies that promote sustainability, support our communities, and treat employees with respect and equity. Now and into the future, gaining the trust of your customers will be key. When businesses are transparent and credible, consumer trust and loyalty will grow.