What Happens When Digital Technology and Direct Mail Marry?

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October 26, 2011

They live happily ever after because they both work at it.

Direct mail is like the mayo on a sandwich. The sandwich isn’t as good without it. Direct mail delivers the ROI zing while online marketing helps whet the palette.

However, direct mail often gets a bad wrap. The irony is that large scale marketers, high-tech, as well as consumer marketers, are mailing hundreds of millions—if not billions—of pieces because it’s one of the highest ROI channels out there.

Direct mail has the fundamentals that marketers need, especially direct marketers, to generate results. It is targetable so “you’re able to tell a lot, you’re able to sell a lot, you’re able to control its costs and most importantly you’re able to scale it,” according to the Kern Organization.

When it comes to new customer acquisition tactics, marrying traditional direct marketing with digital technology is highly effective. A neat trick that National Geographic Magazine employs in its pre- and post-emails is including an image of the physical mailing that will arrive in the consumer’s mail. Tests proved that emails with the image of the mailing boosted response rates. National Geographic Magazine has tested this over several mail cycles.

The pre- and post-emails focus on the offer, what you get, and the excitement of the brand. Everything you need to respond is above the fold (meaning you don’t have to scroll down a screen).

The pre-email’s subject line is, “Look for our Preferred Member Package in the mail!” The recipient immediately sees the price, the deal, the terms, and the image of the mailing. The recepient can order directly from their email.

As in a marriage, opposites attract. Research reveals that email and traditional direct mail have different strengths and weaknesses. That makes them most effective when used together. As you can tell by the graph below, direct mail is best at:

  • Making a better impression of the company
  • Being more professional means of communications
  • Grabbing prospects’ or customers’ attention (and hold attention)
  • Making customers feel more valued

While emails fall short in the above areas, they rate high in the areas below:

  • Better for sending reminders
  • Better for confirmation or follow-up messages
  • Easier to respond to
  • Better for communicating brief messages

Source: Quadrangles: Direct Mail & Email 2007, Direct Mail & Online 2007

Unfortunately, many marketers force the person to view their message through only one of the two most important channels: direct mail vs. email. That one-size-fits-all approach that leads to marketing oblivion can be avoided by direct mail in concert with email.

Response increases across the board when direct mail and email are combined in a multichannel campaign. If executed well, it should more than double! This two-ply marketing will strengthen your brand, especially if your marketing campaigns maintain a consistent look or theme across channels. You’ll gain mindshare, and that will lead to greater ROI.

So consider direct mail and digital marketing the perfect power couple. Let direct mail do the attention grabbing and complex communications and digital communications do the retention and closing. Putting print and electronic media together is greater than the sum of their parts.


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