‘Direct’ physical mail has become eye-wateringly expensive over the years, but the consequent decrease in its use may have made it more effective. If done well, it can still deliver a competitive RoI, and there are plenty of examples around to demonstrate this. The Direct Marketing Association claims that direct mail achieves response rates which can be 10-30x higher than online equivalents, but for the cost, that’s what it needs to do.
What we don’t have as much scope for, however, is experimenting with it. Direct mail needs to be right first time …and here’s where our online capabilities come in. We can use much lower cost online methods – such as email – to test messages and gauge responses before committing to much more expensive direct mail. We can also use them to research and refine our direct mail audience before hitting ‘go’.
One sensible move is for our online signup forms to contain a link for customers to indicate whether they want print materials. Just knowing who doesn’t want direct physical mail can save us a lot of money. Also, ensure a good consistency of messaging between online and physical marketing materials, and make the link between the two as easy as possible. I’m not a fan of QR codes as a response mechanism, but if the natural route from direct mail is to go online to sign up for something specific, that’s one place where they can play a role.
Finally, be clever with direct mail design. Postage rates can be fiendishly complicated, so work out what’s most cost-effective. If you can put a folded four- or eight-page fulfilment piece in an envelope for the same cost as an unfolded two-page one, it may make sense to do so. Too many campaigns don’t consider this up front.