3 Tips for Modern, Effective Direct Mail Campaigns

In the age of iPads, smart phones and social media, are more traditional means of marketing, such as direct mail, still effective? While the role of traditional print marketing has undoubtedly become more supplemental in nature, recent studies have shown that marketers are rediscovering direct mail as a means of marketing products, services and other unique offers to their customers and prospects.

“Everything you hear in the media is basically counter to what the consumers are actually telling us, which is that direct mail is still the preferred channel.” (Warren Storey, VP of product marketing, ICOM)

Direct mail spending is on the rise. In 2011, direct mail spending totaled nearly $45 billion dollars, representing a 2.3 percent increase over 2010 (Winterberry Group, Outlook 2011). Response rates of postcards (3.99 percent) and letter-sized direct mail pieces (3.42 percent) has remained high enough for marketers to consider using direct mail as a larger part of their marketing mix (2011 DMA Statistical Fact Book). This growth in direct mail spending is due at least in part to two simple facts: consumers get much more e-mail they are able to read and that they question the trust-worthiness of e-mail.

“More than 64 percent of consumers still attach a high value to messages communicated through the mail, but many marketers have turned away from the mail in favor of communicating through digital channels.” (U.S. Postal Service)

According to the 2011 Channel Preferences Study, direct mail is preferred over e-mail when it comes to receiving brand or product information in nearly every category. Based on the findings of nearly 5,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers, this study also found that 50 percent of U.S. consumers pay more attention to postal mail than e-mail. Even tech-savvy Millennials (those born between 1985 and 2004), see the value in the mail they receive. According to one study, 73 percent of Millennials have used the coupons/offers they have received in the mail.

So what does it take for a direct mail piece to truly stand out nowadays? Here are some tips:

Appeal to the Senses

Despite how flashy your website or e-mail marketing campaigns may be, direct mail is able to provide the emotional and personal elements that these digital avenues simply can’t replicate. Direct mail that appeals to the senses can create memorable experiences for recipients that lead to an increase in your direct mail response rates. Of the five senses available to us, appealing to one’s sense of smell and taste are among the most powerful way to stimulate a memory.

One example of using sensory mail to engage an emotional response can be seen in a recent TruGreen campaign. TruGreen used a portion of their mail piece to mimic the scent of freshly cut grass. Customers who received the mail piece commented that the smell was enjoyable and made them want to be outside. While there really aren’t any hard numbers or facts to go off of, direct mail campaigns that appeal to the senses can etch their products and services indelibly into customers’ minds through sensory association.

Use QR Codes

Nowadays, QR Codes are popping up everywhere; on posters, billboards, magazine advertisements and even on product packaging. Scanned using a smart phone, QR Codes can be used to direct customers to online sources of additional information about a specific product, service or offer. In recent years, QR Code scanning has seen a 1,200% increase. Studies show that 87 percent of people use QR codes to get additional information about products. As a huge segment of U.S. consumers – including Millennials – currently own smart phones, integrating QR Codes into your campaign provides these individuals with the ability to take advantage of your offers while they’re on the go.

The recent Nielsen 2011 third quarter survey of mobile users reveals that over 40% of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smart phone. In addition, over 60% of mobile phone users aged 25-34 own smart phones. QR codes serve the marketer with an effective, economical and measurable way of supporting direct marketing initiatives. When used effectively, QR Codes can serve as an immediate call-to-action at the moment of consumer engagement. Marketers can view measurable results of QR Codes provide marketers with measurable results to gauge how enticing an offer, product or service might be. These include statistics such as the number of scans, the time of the scans and what/which mobile devices are doing the scanning.

To maximize your QR code initiatives, start by ensuring that your QR codes link to the proper web pages and that these pages are optimized for mobile devices. Also be sure that the online content you’re providing access to via the QR code has perceived value to your customer; serve them only with content, offers, surveys, etc. that matter to them. The QR code should also be prominently displayed on the mail piece and provide a brief description of what the customer will get if they scan the code.

Go Big

The average person receives 23 pieces of mail per week. In addition, 87 percent of all standard mail sent to households in the U.S. contains at least one advertising message (DMA Statistical Fact Book). With this information in mind, marketers should be doing whatever they can to make a direct mail piece stand out; going big is just one way of doing that.

Large format direct mail represents only one-quarter of all mail that consumers receive, so opting for a larger direct mail piece, such as a 6 x 9″ or 9 x 12″ has a great chance of standing out amidst other, more regularly sized pieces. If you want to go really big, the largest direct mail postcard allowed by the U.S. Postal Service today is a piece measuring 11.5 x 15″. Although ultimately more expensive, marketers can use the additional “real-estate” a larger format allows to the emphasize copy, images, QR Codes and coupons/offers that are integral to the success of their direct mail campaign.

Tips or tricks that you would like to share?