Here's a perhaps surprising tip for getting customer attention in an age when everyone is glued to their cell phones: direct mail marketing. Even in the digital era, sending printed offers and ads by mail can still be a remarkably effective way to reach eyeballs.
Direct mail marketing startup PebblePost vice president Elke Wong says it takes six to 10 interactions with a brand on average to drive a purchase. She cites a 2016 U.S. Postal Service finding that 84 percent of millenials take time to look through their mail, and 64 percent would rather scan for useful information in the mail than in email. (This was based on the responses of 1,545 consumers.)
“Like Instagram, direct mail is very visual," Wong says. "It really resonates with them. They don't want that interrupted experience when they're on their device."
Direct mail marketing is “probably even more important in the digital age," says Bob McCarthy, president of marketing consultancy McCarthy & King. "When the mail shows up, there really isn't much competition" for the reader's attention."
Direct Mail Marketing Rule #1: The 40-40-20 Rule
There's one big principle you have to understand before launching your direct mail marketing campaign. According to McCarthy, there's a very simple rule that has “worked forever": the 40-40-20 rule.
The 40-40-20 rule states that 40 percent of your success depends on finding the right people for your mailing list, while the other 40 percent is the right offer.
The final 20 percent? It's everything else.
—Elke Wong, vice president, PebblePost
“A lot of people will want to spend hours worrying about whether this typeface is working versus first-class or standard-class mail or the right color or the right photograph. They spend a lot of time on that, but that's part of the 20 percent—that's a small factor to the overall success of the campaign," McCarthy says. “They should be focusing on their list and their offer."
Here's the three-step process that'll help you build a direct mail marketing campaign that cuts through the digital noise and lands your audience's attention with the right focus on that critical 80 percent:
Step #1: Define Who Your Customers Are
There are millions of addresses on direct mail marketing lists that you can purchase based on demographic, income, family size and so on. But when you're building your campaign, it's best to pinpoint exactly who you're looking for. What's your target demographic? Consider:
- age range
- household size
For B2B, you might look at:
- type of company
- size by number of employees
- sales volume
- job title of the person targeted
“Hone in on who it is," McCarthy says. "You don't want to waste money. If you send it out to everybody who sort of fits the profile, you're going to waste a lot of money."
Step #2: Develop Your Direct Mail Marketing House List
The best way to focus your direct mail marketing is to use what's called a house list—that's your internal list of people who've bought from you before or perhaps made an inquiry but didn't buy.
Try building your house list with what McCarthy calls “lead magnets." Consider offering promotions or white papers in return for the customer giving their address. It could be asking them to send a reply card back in the mail to receive a free gift. This can help generate warmer leads.
Step #3: Personalize Your Mail Pieces
So now you've nailed down who you're mailing and why. It's time to design the campaign. Remember, don't worry too much about the 20 percent. It's time to focus on the offer now. Consider including a link or coupon—say 50 percent off a meal or a buy one, get one free. Give every zip code a different bar code or link, which allows you to track who's engaging with your direct mail marketing.
“Pick something that's a strong incentive that will really capture the customer's attention or get them to want to keep the piece of mail," says Shrav Mehta, a marketer and software engineer.
PebblePost's service allows businesses to target, for example, a customer who filled an online shopping cart but abandoned it. You could send that person a piece of direct mail that gives the customer, say, 30 percent off their unfinished purchase, Wong says.
“Sending out personalized mail pieces with applicable discount codes and applicable messaging helps drive higher performance than just spraying and praying," Wong says.
Step #4: Experiment, And Tweak As You Go
Finally, it's time to launch your campaign. At this point, you've given serious thought to the list, the offer and the rest of the 20 percent that goes into a successful direct mail marketing campaign. Don't get discouraged if your direct mail marketing campaign isn't successful early on. That's normal. The point is to test strategically until you figure out the best approach. Here are some tips to get started:
- Start expensively. “Use high stock paper, good-quality materials. Really spend some money on an actual mailer. Don't send a 5x7 postcard that won't really get noticed," Mehta says. Once you get your first results, you can start experimenting with other formats and rework your approach based on the response you get.
- Test different types of addresses. Run A/B tests based on your theories about which demographics would be most interested in your product — it could be zip codes, age ranges, average income and the like.
- Use test quantities of 5,000-10,000. “If you're testing an A/B split on two different items, do 5,000 on one and 5,000 on the other," McCarthy says. Costs of mailers scale depending on quantity, too, so keep that in mind.
At the end of the day, direct mail marketing remains a relevant and important channel for businesses looking to advertise their products and services.
“There's just so much coming at you [online]," Mehta says. “It's hard to get the customer's focus or the attention on your ad. That's where direct mail shines. You only receive so many pieces of mail a day."
Read more articles on getting customers.