How can direct mail be used effectively?

See the words ‘Direct Mail’ and you might be tempted to ignore it, just like in real life. This blog explores how businesses can use direct mail for effective marketing strategies considering the changes of the 21st Century.

Direct mail is less used today than it has probably ever been since it was established with Royal Mail 500 years ago (seriously – RM was founded in 1516!). Today, businesses have e-mail. And why not? E-mail is quick. It’s incredibly cheap. You can track the opening rates of your messages. And if your business is online, your customers will be looking there too.

But we must not forget a guiding law of business – competition. The age of e-mail is an opportunity for businesses. Twenty, even ten years ago, most postal mail would have been briefly looked at or ignored because there was tons of it. Our e-mails receive the junk/delete/move-to-for-maybe-later treatment just like they did with direct mail.

The result is the idea that if we receive high-quality direct mail, we are now more likely to open and read it.

Why are we sending it?

To start, think about the desired outcome of this mail; why are we sending it when an e-mail could suffice? What are our customers not doing and can we help them with that?

After figuring that out, the mail needs a clear call to action. There needs to be encouragement to at least explore your idea. You can have more success with this by making the mail specific to your offers rather than broad – a takeaway business, for example, may find more success by placing its best offer on the front of its menu, with the brand or restaurant name taking less space. Customers are more interested in what you can offer, not who you are.

We can make this mail even more successful by targeting it at customers who need it. This is something that takes time to build and may well require the use of e-mail as an information gathering tool.

The physicality of direct mail

Another guideline to work with is remembering that the effectiveness of direct mail will depend on how long it is kept on the desk. Direct mail can be discarded just like e-mails, but the difference between the two is that the customer has something physical with direct mail. You cannot force or encourage an e-mail to stay on screen any longer than the recipient wants – often just a couple of seconds. Direct mail can tackle this briefness head-on.

First though, we have to re-define what we imagine direct mail to be. Is it simply a letter, outlining services? Is it a biscuit-sized business card, easy to carry, hard to spot on the porch floor? Lumpy mail, so-called because too often our mail is in two dimensions, is the practice of giving your customers something to touch.

Go lumpy

Lumpy mail is much more likely to stay on the desk if developed right. There is no doubt that it will be more expensive to produce than standard mail, but there’s little benefit to forking out for a box of print that goes straight back to recycling. Lumpy mail doesn’t go in recycling – it gets looked at, and if it’s good, it gets kept.

Targeting here is important. Your costs can be kept down by ensuring you send your lumpy mail to the people most interested in it. Customers who have a history with you or businesses likely to need your services are prime targets. Could a gardening business send a mini cactus with the company name and brand on the pot? Most offices could do with more greenery, cactuses survive post very well, and the recipients are not going to throw it away without some considerable thought. This is just one of the creative ways to get your brand out there.

If we know our consumers well, we can target not just because they have spent money or intend to, but because of something unique about them. Do we know their birthday? Even their anniversary? This highly personal targeting is effective with existing clients. Creating a sense of theatre is a great way of being remembered.

Yes, e-mail is very beneficial. It is unthinkable that we could run marketing without it. But where appropriate, direct mail has a strong place. It may be more valuable than it ever has been today because it’s less used – there is a gap in the letterbox, so to speak – and we’ve learned lessons from e-mail about how consumers treat unsolicited and even solicited mail.

At Digital Glue, this is what we do. Effective marketing and a great ROI even if it is initially expensive like lumpy mail. We are Birmingham based and offer a wide range of services that assess current problems within your marketing mix and the potential improvements we could deliver.

Where is your next breakthrough coming from?

Spaces, 156 Great Charles Street Queensway,


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