Making Mail More Personal Is Critical For Brands
As much as direct mail is making a resurgence among brands, I recently came across this article on the consumer lifestyle website Lifehacker that makes it very clear that just sending out mail isn’t going to be enough. In fact, just increasing volume might be doing more harm than good.
The piece focuses on reducing the amount of “junk mail” people receive in their mailboxes and goes on to include pretty much every type of direct mail you can think of, along with tips and resources for ways to opt out on a large scale. For brands, this is a sign that the recent increase in attention to direct mail as part of the omnichannel approach to marketing might actually backfire in the long term, driving more people away from those companies and products.
So, what can be done?
First and foremost, printers need to take more time to truly educate brands about direct mail, what works, and what doesn’t. It's important they understand that cost per piece might get the overall campaign budget down right now, but it’s not going to get them the results they want. In fact, it could alienate the very consumers they are trying so hard to attract.
This is where data, personalization, and creativity all come into play.
- To have a successful direct mail campaign that gets people excited to receive mail instead of searching Google for ways to opt out, first and foremost you need to know what types of mail they want to receive. Who is the target audience? Where do they live? What types of products and services do they buy? What types of mail do they like to receive — or not? The more you know about the audience as a whole, as well as the individuals, the more targeted and specific the campaign will be. Sure, it might cost more in time and money to collect and then parse that data in the beginning, but the odds are good your customers already have at least some of that information already, and just aren’t using it effectively. This is where you, as their communications partner, can step in and help them shape that data to craft more meaningful messages.
- Which brings us to the second point: personalization. Creating a glossy postcard with a great message that goes to everyone in the neighborhood but just gets tossed right into the recycling bin by 95% of recipients isn’t particularly useful. If you want to make people stop and look, you must catch their attention, and that often means making it personal. And not just by adding their name — while it is better to have that than no personalization at all, it’s not going to be an effective attention grabber anymore. Instead, put that data to use. Choose images for each person carefully crafted to play to their interests. Include personalized offers or discounts around the products or services they are most likely to be interested in. In other words — it’s not just a variable data campaign with one or two elements but looking at the entire direct mail piece as just opportunities to personalize the message.
- Creativity is critical to getting your direct mail campaigns from the “junk mail” pile to the “did you see this cool thing I got in the mail today” pile. Think outside the traditional mailings, such as postcards or catalogs. Or at the very least, consider trying different shapes or other elements that will make people stop and pay attention. Creativity means taking all that data and personalizing direct mail in new and interesting ways to keep consumers engaged.
The reason direct mail was looked down on by so many marketers for so long — despite the response rates that are consistently higher than digital platforms — is the perception that unsolicited mail is “junk.” But as an industry, we are in a unique position to help brands and marketers realize the difference and help them craft better messages. If not, the pushback from consumers over ridding their mailboxes of “clutter” will only gain ground and relegate mail back to trying to justify its place in the marketing mix once again.