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Taking Direct Mail to the Digital Age

Posted by Brian Berg Google+

Direct mail whether a consumer, business or automobile mailing list, has been inseparable from technology since the days of the earliest database-driven campaigns.  The marketing mix has changed dramatically since then, with an explosion of digital channels, but direct mail remains one of the most effective hands-on tools to reach customers and spur prompt action.  When you want someone to attend an event, make a phone call, or do anything with higher touch, you still see people go back to physical mail.

Looking to refresh your direct mail strategy? These five tech trends can do more than put a new gloss on old messaging.  They can turn your campaigns into omnichannel experiences that last long after the delivery date.

Triggered digital content:  Mailers can do more than deliver messages on a page.  A quick scan, swipe, or tap of a smartphone can turn a mailer into a gateway to personalized content, promotions, and experiences.

Smartphone video is a common payload for direct mail activation, because mobile video bandwidth and display resolution aren't the challenges they were just a few years ago.  Augmented reality (AR) plays well in this space because a video can be overlaid on the mailer's content, providing more context and connection with the material.  You want the video to feel like a key link in the conversation, so you can present content and messaging that aligns with what the customer learned from the mailing.

Delivery-triggered campaigns:  Digital channels allow marketers to use direct mail as just one piece in a multi-pronged campaign, which can be triggered to contact the customer through multiple channels, including text, email, and app inboxes.  The key is to trigger the action based on delivery, which is possible through conventional tracking systems for parcel and letter delivery, or with a high degree of accuracy based on USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode reporting.  Seeing the mail piece the same day you get the email creates a nice one-two punch.

Retargeting:  Marketers' customer insights don't have to hit a dead end if an offer lands in the recycle bin.  You need to start modeling behavior of customers who didn't purchase, because you can still learn if they visited the website, followed the personalized URL (pURL), scanned the QR code, or did some searching.

Instead of simply measuring response and conversion rates from direct mail campaigns, it's time to get more sophisticated about working direct mail responses into the retargeting matrix.  Particularly when a mailer invites trackable behavior through a pURL, barcode, or other unique gateway, marketers should consider the visits, searches, and calls that follow that direct mail delivery when shaping the next steps in a customer relationship.  Even without a trackable call-to-action, a sophisticated attribution formula can assign probabilities to customer activity that occurs near the known delivery date of a mail drop.

Enhanced personalization:  The recent variable printing revolution changed the way marketers think about personalized mailing, but progress doesn't have to stop there.  When building trackable calls-to-action into a campaign, make sure the pURL or barcode takes the prospect to genuinely valuable and personalized content, or it will quickly be disregarded.

Marketers can promote customized content and enhance the perceived value of a campaign by using unique, one-time codes and landing pages that cannot be shared.  Or they can go the other direction and provide incentives to share a pURL with others.

Marketing automation and CRM:  Marketers of all stripes have done tremendous work wringing value out of individual campaigns and channels with the help of marketing automation and CRM systems.  Now it's time to take a more holistic approach and demand more from those systems.  Particularly on the B2C side, marketers have done a good job optimizing within each channel, and delivering customized offers.  But if you stand back and look at the whole of it, it doesn't look so good.  The promotions and experiences don't sync up.  That means using frequency, recency, and other retargeting characteristics to generate a better understanding of an individual customer's response patterns and timing preferences.

Regardless of the tools marketers bring to bear, 2015 is no different from past years: No technology can beat the success of messages that are relevant and appealing through a targeted consumer, business or automobile mailing list