The Future of Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns

What is the future of Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns? What does future direct mail marketing look like? What does this mean for marketers and business owners?  Does direct mail marketing even have a future? And if it does have a future, how can Marketers and Business Owners exploit direct mail marketing to its fullest without breaking their marketing budgets?

Does direct mail marketing have a future?

Let’s be clear…  yes, Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns does have a future, but it isn’t a return to the mass marketing volumes of the past, or the small volume / high price tag niche marketing of recent years.

Today, the future of Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns is niche at volume.

When email marketing was introduced it rapidly became the mainstay of every marketer’s campaign strategy, usually at the expense of direct mail.  It was new… it was cheap… it was more easily budgeted for… it had instant seller gratification because it was measurable, could be easily A/B tested, and it circumvented gatekeepers.

In short it was everything that direct mail marketing was not.  But at the very height of its triumph email marketing had already sown the seeds of its own failure.

Its very cheapness and speed encouraged more and more marketers to use it, and an awful lot of them used it really badly, effectively substituting real-life junk mail for its digital version.  Huge volumes of mass email marketing saw engagement rates diminishing and digital marketers sending out more and more emails to receive less and less response.

So began the curious after-life of direct mail marketing.

By culling the worst of the physical junk mail marketers, switching to digitally printed direct mail, and integrating it with other digital channels-to-market, the perfect conditions were created for a direct mail come-back.

What does future direct mail marketing campaigning look like?

Well, to start with, the future is now!  This is already happening.  But to understand what’s happening we need to understand how direct mail marketing was able to make a come-back in the first place.

Again, this is directly related to improvements in technology… printing technology in this case.

The printing industry, realising that it needed to compete with personalised email marketing, moved away from the traditional Lithographic, or Litho, presses that it was using.  Litho printing is designed to print huge volumes of the same items – think letterhead, or compliment slips – without any individualisation.  With the advent of digital marketing this became practically redundant overnight. Over the course of a decade printers rebuilt their businesses using new digital printing presses linked directly to customer data files, and capable of printing hundreds of thousands of completely individualised direct mail pieces.

Today, the most successful direct mail marketing campaigns are almost always data driven.  They access both text and image data records for the target individual and merge this with a design to create a personalised message to that specific person.

Put simply, today’s campaigns are a very much more complex version of a Microsoft Word merge, pulling in tailored offers, images, product and service recommendations, all based on an individual’s past interactions with the company.

And due to the advances in digital printing press technology, these marketing campaigns are not shackled by volume. Even if you were to have a million-strong direct mail campaign, every single marketing piece could be unique and individual.

What does this mean for marketers and business owners?

It’s a fantastic opportunity.

Imagine being able to create a direct mail marketing campaign that treats each person on your customer database as an individual… that talks to them in their own way… that recommends the most suitable products to them… that makes them the most suitable offer… and that suggests the most appropriate methods of contact and of making the sale.

But does it really work?

Boy oh boy does it work!  And chances are you will already have seen it work and have bought something through the same process already… through Amazon.

Yes… Amazon uses the same thought process.  When you go on Amazon you see recommendations and suggestions and options that are completely tailored to you based on your previous choices and interactions.

All digitally printed direct mail marketing campaigns are doing is using a different format and channel-to-market.

Is it affordable?

Yes it is.  The beauty of personalised or variable digital printing is that there are no set-up fees.  You simply pay ‘by the click’.  So if you want thirty marketing pieces, you only pay for thirty.  If you want 100,000… you only pay for 100,000.

Now, marketers and business owners are truly in control of their campaigns.

So how can Marketers and Business Owners exploit direct mail marketing to its fullest without breaking their marketing budgets?

In this new age of Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns the key to success lies not in understanding the printing issues – we’ve already established that it’s basically a mail merge – but in understanding your data.

Whether you have a few dozen contacts or hundreds of thousands, marketers and business owners need to create a set of rules about how they will deal with them and apply those rules to the data.

Let’s take a real-life example taken from our records.  In this case, we’ve excluded the name.

Example Direct Mail Marketing Campaign Process

A multi-site regional car dealership wants to announce a Sale and would like to invite anyone on their database who has either visited their website, made a digital enquiry or who has looked around the showrooms and had left their details.

Although limited, the car dealership still knows quite a bit about each potential individual.

  • Salutation

  • Name

  • Location

  • Models of cars they have been looking at in the past

  • Potential spending power

  • Nearest showroom

Here’s what they do…

1) Clean their data, filtering out all the records that are incomplete or unsuitable in some way.  This reduces their printing, postage and sales management overheads, ensuring they get the maximum possible Return on Investment for the campaign.

2) Choose the most suitable promotion they can for each person, and using their knowledge of the individual’s interactions they decide to offer them a test drive of the type of cars they had been looking at previously on the website and in the showrooms.  They also choose the most appropriate financing option based on additional socio-economic open data. As an added bonus, they partner with another business to offer a luxury setting for the test drive, off-setting some of their campaign costs.

3) Pull together an image database and align each individual data record with pictures of the cars, maps, financing and location of the nearest showroom.

4) Work with a designer and a Mailing House to create a variable printing template that has merge fields for the data.

5) Merge the data with the variable printing template, proof it, then once approved, go to digital print.

6) Automatically fulfil the campaign at the Mailing House, matching up all the components using weights and OCR technology to ensure each person gets the correct pieces, then mail them.

That’s it!  It’s not hard and the benefits are obvious.

It’s not expensive and each potential customer gets a personalised marketing piece, with a tailored offer, using tailored imagery, tailored calls-to-action, and because people are receiving much more junk email these days, the impact is enormous, making them much more likely to respond.

And that’s what every marketer and business owner wants isn’t it?

So, if there’s one thing I would want you to take away from this article it would be this… the time is definitely right for you to take another look at direct mail.  Digital advertising and email campaigns are losing ground year on year and marketers and business owners are beginning to integrate direct mail back it into their marketing strategies.  Those that make the switch early will be those that are more likely to prosper.

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